The marriage of Mars and Venus? Europe’s search for human security

Caspar Henderson
22 September 2004

When the four–star German general Klaus Reinhardt arrived in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in 1993 to enforce the peace with a contingent of several thousand German troops, he found there was no peace to enforce. American forces were fighting an all–out war with heavy weaponry against local warlords. “I called the [political leaders] at home, told them what was really happening, and asked what our mission should be. They said: ‘You just command your forces. Leave politics to the politicians’.”

The truth, says Reinhardt, was that “we had no idea what we were doing there”. The result (the general, a phlegmatic man, did not need to spell this out): disaster for the Somali people and confusion among the western powers that stopped them intervening to prevent genocide in Rwanda a year later.

General Reinhardt was speaking at the launch of a report that is intended to reduce the chances of a repeat of what happened in Somalia, Rwanda, Congo or Darfur. A Human Security Doctrine for Europe was published on 15 September 2004, towards the end of the Barcelona Forum, a 141–day festival in one of Europe’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities (and definitely home to some of its best food): “an international gathering based on three core themes: cultural diversity, sustainable development and conditions for peace” .

The report, authored by a dozen distinguished men and women from across Europe, including Turkey, and convened by Mary Kaldor of the London School of Economics, was presented at the conference to Javier Solana, the foreign policy chief of the European Union. It lays out what the authors say should be the principles for intervention in situations of dire humanitarian emergency, and calls for the creation of a new kind of force (starting with 15,000 personnel) that mixes military and civilian elements of crisis management. The report can be found in full here.

Europe needs military forces, say the authors, but they need to be configured and used in quite new ways in order to prevent and contain violence that are “quite different from classic defence and war fighting”. Traditional security policy is based on defence of borders and the containment of threats. But conditions of state collapse and “new wars” in Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus are “unlike either the international or civil wars of the past…They call into question the distinctions between human rights violations by state and non–state actors, and conflict between armed combatants. Battles are rare and most violence is inflicted on civilians”. In particular, population displacement is a typical feature of such wars. In these type of situations “the use of traditional forms of military power can often be counter–productive”.

The “primacy of human rights” is what distinguishes the human security approach from traditional state–based methods. It implies, among other things, that the those who commit gross human rights violations are treated as individual criminals rather than as collective enemies. (Such an approach is recommended by, among others, Gareth Evans of the International Crisis Group in his July interview with openDemocracy regarding the ongoing atrocities in Sudan).

Europe’s challenge

“I hope that this is a drop in the ocean that helps us to think properly after incidents like Atocha, to discuss new concepts of security” said Narcís Serra, the former mayor of Barcelona, former Spanish minister of defence and report co–author (as well as openDemocracy contributor), who was siting next to Reinhardt on the platform. “No state threatens to invade us, but non–state forces are killing our citizens”. Serra also stressed the democratic nature of the project: “Reports such as this one are for citizens to consider. It’s emphatically not necessary to be a military or security expert in order to debate the ideas we’re presenting here”.

Javier Solana received the report from Reinhardt, Kaldor, Serra and their colleagues in a shining new conference centre next door to a giant, purple–blue piece of collapsing cheesecake that is a new exhibition hall. In response, he said he agreed with almost everything in the report. Indeed, he said, the EU was “already trying to put many of the recommendations of the report into practice”, and was the leading international organisation that can make a decisive contribution to peacekeeping.

In Darfur, for example, European and civilian and military teams were learning valuable lessons. “Still”, Solana continued, “there are limits on what we can do…Peacekeeping is very difficult…and it is not cost free. It will be gross hypocrisy if we endorse the thinking here and don’t find money for it”.

Is Europe ready?

A glib summary of the report could be: “OK, just think of all the things the Americans have done in Iraq and do the opposite” (see, for example, analysis by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who argues that Iraq is not lost, but US strategy is ).

But Europeans should not take refuge is self–congratulation. Relatively successful small interventions such as Operation Artemis in eastern Congo in 2003 still live in the shadow of catastrophic mistakes over Rwanda, former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. And the challenges presented by international terrorism are immense: Europe and America will have to work together, casting aside the absurd Venus and Mars caricatures.

In this respect Anthony Zinni, the United States general who as commander of Centcom in the 1990s pioneered new uses of the military for humanitarian purposes, offers a wiser path than Grover Norquist, who advises anyone who doesn’t agree with the United States to keep their heads down and not stand next to those foolish enough to shoot at us.

On the third anniversary of 9/11, Fred Halliday argues on openDemocracy that armed conflict between established states and a hidden but global insurrectionary movement leaves the great mass of the people feeling there is nothing they can do. This, he said, is one of the most dangerous predicaments facing the world. The good news could be that A Human Security Doctrine for Europe may offer just the start of a way forward precisely because it suggests practical things that ordinary people – in Europe, the United States and all around the world – can do.

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