Bad Theatre

French soldier guarding the Eiffel Tower. Image: DerekKey/Flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 26 February, 2015. Republished with permission.

Pairs of Belgian soldiers have been standing guard at the entrance of NATO headquarters and other sensitive locations in Brussels since the Belgian security services successfully raided a terrorist cell in the Belgian city of Verviers on 15 January, just days after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. One rather hopes that NATO especially was already somewhat protected before; two foot soldiers will hardly make much difference in any case.

Indeed, why deploy the army in the streets of Brussels at all? What one seems to forget is that no terrorist attack took place. Unlike in May of last year, when a returned French ‘foreign fighter’ murdered four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, this time an attack was prevented, thanks to excellent police and intelligence work – and yet now the army was deployed whereas last year it was not. That does not mean that there is no more remaining threat, quite the contrary, but it does more than nuance the causal link between troops in the street and security at home. Khaki in the streets is mostly bad theatre, a feeble attempt to signal resolve in the face of a threat that can never be entirely prevented (although in this particular instance it actually was). » More

Jack Goldstone: “Migration, Islam and Security”

Refugees at Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, 2006. Image: Vito Manzari/Wikimedia

How secure is Europe? What is the future of the Muslim community in the West? What should be the nature of Europe’s relationship with the Islamic world? In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, these were some of the questions addressed by Dr. Jack Goldstone at a recent ISN-CIS roundtable held on 20 January 2015 at ETH Zurich.

After diagnosing Europe’s demographic situation, Dr. Goldstone’s message was a straightforward one: without continuing large-scale immigration, Europe will soon begin a rapid economic decline.  The continent therefore does not have an ‘immigration problem.’  It has an integration problem. » More

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Europe’s Global Power Potential: Locked in the EU28’s Defence Silos

A British sniper on the Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland. Image: Sgt Russ Nolan RLC/Flickr

This article was originally published by Friends of Europe on 16 December, 2014.

The European Space Agency’s recent bull’s eye shot at a comet shows Europe can be at the cutting edge of innovation when it pools its national efforts. If Europe were to do this for defence, it could regain the global power status it enjoyed before World War I.

Today the EU28 spend only half as much as the United States on defence, even though their combined population is larger. Several factors account for this. First, even if the larger European states were to significantly increase their defence spending, they lack the economies of scale to project power meaningfully. The same would be the case if the United States were divided into many entities with their own separate defence establishments. The smaller European states have even less incentive to increase defence spending since they believe that this would have little impact. » More

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Between Cohesion and Division: Reconciling the Faultines of Europe’s Past

European Union Colours by Tristam Sparks / Flickr.

This article was originally published by Democratic Audit UK on 14 January 2015.

For all our cherished empiricism, historians have a decidedly metaphysical task: to reject linear readings of the past, to warn against simplistic consequentiality, and yet – all the while – to impress a narrative onto history. Our discipline thrives on complexity and yet dreams of simplicity, employing ‘periodisation’, individualisation and causality as readily as it dismisses them. Should we beware, then, of the historian tempted by topical commentary? Maybe. Yet how can we be blamed, when History is exploited so effectively in politics, employed so callously in nation-building (and un-building), wheeled out so unscrupulously to justify just about everything? » More

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The US and Nuclear Weapons: A Turning of the Tide?

Peacekeeper missile after silo launch, Vandenberg AFB, CA.

USAF/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Strategist (ASPI) on 27 August, 2014.

Given the intensity of media focus on a series of crises this year—Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and the South China Sea to name just a few—readers may be forgiven for having failed to notice that another important, though more incremental, development has also occurred. With each passing month it becomes clearer that a mood of nuclear realism is unfolding in US strategic policy. While President Obama is still remembered most clearly in the public mind for the anti-nuclear language in his Prague speech of 2009, a string of events in 2013–14 suggest that a shift of emphasis is occurring in relation to nuclear weapons. » More

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