CIAO DATE: 03/05

The International Spectator

Volume XXXVIII, No. 4 (October - December 2003)

Editorial Note

With the situation in the Middle East growing more uncertain with the passing of time, the core of this issue concentrates on a number of central questions for the future of the region. The first article of the core, by Marina Ottaway, gives a critical assessment of the US’ attempts at nation-building in Afghanistan and Iran. In both cases, the author points out, the main reason for the lack of progress is the failure to empower local government. In the case of Afghanistan, the government exists but does not receive the necessary funding whereas substantial financial means continue to be in the hands of warlords. In Iraq, the US is caught between the imperative to hand over real power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible and the need to maintain a forceful occupation to maximise the possibility of turning the country into a stable and reasonably democracy.

This is followed by a plea on the part of Jarat Chopra for a more comprehensive approach to third party monitoring of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To date, the plans to establish monitoring mechanisms have been characterised by minimalist incrementalism. This approach has proved totally inadequate, especially after the watershed operation launched by the Israeli Defence Forces on Good Friday 2002, which triggered an unprecedented deterioration in ground conditions. While the author reiterates that international intervention to any degree cannot replace resolution of the conflict, he underlines that the introduction of sound operational principles for monitoring can help stabilise the situation.

The third article in the core examines the prospects for cooperation between the European Union and the United States in pursuing reconstruction and reform in the Greater Middle East. Comparing the major initiatives of each, the EU's Barcelona Declaration framework and the US's Millenium Challenge and Middle East Peace Initiative, Tim Niblock writes that while the two approaches have much in common and are not ideologically contrasting, they are based on different views of the region. This makes it difficult to achieve effective coordination of Western policies. In particular the overall strategy pursued by the EU in the region could be undermined by the acceptance of US political priorities.

Jeffrey Bialos and Stuart Koehl come to quite a different conclusion in their “Opinion” article on European and US cooperation, this time in the field of US missile defence. Moving from the premise that, given the emerging threats to international security, it is irresponsible to be opposed to missile defence, they feel that the European Union has much to gain from participating in the US programme. Not only does it offer resource- and technology-short Europe a sensible and cost-effective way to address security risks posed by ballistic missile threats, but it would also provide an avenue for strengthening the currently weak transatlantic relationship and NATO. Nevertheless, Europe’s fear of being militarily dependent on the United States is one of the factors holding Europe back.

It is this very same fear that has provided a driving force for recent progress on armaments cooperation in Europe. In his article on the subject, Andrew James provides a thorough review of the reasons for and the history behind the proposal for the establishment of a European armaments agency set down in the draft Constitutional Treaty adopted by the Convention on the Future of Europe and later discussed at the Intergovernmental Conference. He ends with the reminder that even the unprecedented political will presently being manifested to provide Europe with the capabilities needed to support its security and defence policy will only achieve results if supported by greater procurement spending on defence.

The advantages and drawbacks of the “Convention method” used during the Convention on the Future of Europe are analysed by Flavia Zanon in the next article. In closely scrutinising the various phases of the Convention, she highlights the important objectives it achieved in trying to overcome the shortcomings of intergovernmental negotiations: transparency, legitimacy, democracy and accessability to the public. However, the Convention’s Praesidium was inclined to give more weight to the positions of the governments in the more advanced phases and especially the discussion of institutional questions, bringing the Convention back closer to the traditional intergovernmental negotiation model. This can only be avoided in the future by giving conventions on constitutional matters greater powers and making their work more binding for the subsequent IGC.

The last article is on the general state of EU-US relations as part of the broader international order. Weaknesses on both sides reveal that a balance between military power, diplomacy, international rules and economic influence in shaping international affairs has not yet been found. Reviewing the many areas involved, Nicole Renvert and Marcus von Essen stress that the many threads of international and transatlantic relations are so unseparably intertwined that the alliance may be subject to strain and finally change, but that it will hold together to sustain the international order.

The issue, as the last of the year, is completed by an index and a list of contributors of 2003.