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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Preventive war update: NATO edition

January 22, The Guardian newspaper ran a story about what they called "a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists."
General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK
What was their report about? According the The Guardian,
The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction...the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".
That's newsworthy, eh?

The document is now available on-line. This is the money quote from the newspaper, p. 97 of the report:
"Regrettably, nuclear weapons - and with them the option of first use - are indispensable, since there is simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world. On the contrary, the risk of further proliferation is imminent and with it, the danger that nuclear war-fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible. This development must be prevented. It should therefore be kept in mind that technology could produce options that go beyond the traditional role of nuclear weapons in preventing a nuclear armed opponent from using nuclear weapons. In sum, nuclear weapons remain indispensable, and nuclear escalation continues to remain an element of any modern strategy."
The report clearly states that nuclear proliferation poses such a great threat that it "must be prevented."

Interestingly, to justify their favored policies, the report authors use the language of deterrence. However, it is clear on pp. 95-6 that they are changing the traditional meaning of the term. It is now going to be the idea that enemies can never feel safe -- and the uncertainty/threat will be generated by proactive denial as well as reactive response to undesired action (like proliferation of WMD).

Orwellians should love these sentences:
"As deterrence might occasionally either be lost or fail, the ability to restore deterrence through escalation at any time is another element of a proactive strategy.

Escalation is intimately linked to the option of using an instrument first. A strategy that views escalation as an element can, therefore, neither rule out first use nor regard escalation as pre-programmed and inevitable."
The authors go on to use a phrase often used by Colin Gray and others 25 years ago: "escalation dominance."

The report also fairly clearly reserves the right for preemptive war -- and preventive war, arguably blurring the difference as the Bush administration has done. On p. 98, the authors go out of their way to say that force need not be a last resort. It "might very well be the first option to be used." Then, on p. 99, they note that "early decisive action" may be necessary and that a "coordinated media campaign" might pave the pathway for preferred action. Given the paragraphs prior to their discussion of media campaigns, it seems obvious that such an effort would apparently be needed to blur the lines between reactive preemption policies (which are clearly legal) versus proactive preventive action (the question of legality "remains unanswered").

Finally, on p. 106, they write that "
most democratic nations will consider enforcement as politically acceptable if

*no other option is left to achieve the agreed political objective, because the crucial interests of a nation or an alliance are at stake;

*an attack is imminent or has taken place by state or non-state actors launched from the country or region in which enforcement will be conducted;

*no other option exists to prevent or terminate genocide."
Given the third bullet point, it seems clear that the authors are not listing multiple requirements for enforcement actions. They do not include "and" in this section.

The following paragraphs, in fact, go on to describe threats that are not imminent, but that might nonetheless require action. A specific named possibility is acquisition of WMD -- even though that threat is "unlikely to lead to UN authorisation for a preventive military operation" (p. 107).

In the case of likely UN Security Council deadlock, they say that enforcement "action taken by an individual state or group of states might be the answer."

The Europeans have been moving toward the Bush Doctrine logic on preventive war for some years, the problem is they disagree with the US about agent of decision and action. This document hints that at least some Europeans might be willing to relent on these points.

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