Is There a Distinctive ‘European’ Approach to Stability and Reconstruction Operations?

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Is There a Distinctive ‘European’ Approach to Stability and Reconstruction Operations?
Joanna Spear1

George Washington University2

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a vast increase in the number of failing states, humanitarian interventions, military interventions, and United Nations and other types of peacekeeping operations. This trend has been paralleled by progress on creating a European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI), one of whose interests will be the so-called ‘Petersberg tasks’, which include elements of stability and reconstruction operations. Other elements of the emerging ESDI suggest that Europe is consolidating a distinctive ‘strategic personality’. It is therefore interesting to investigate whether there is a distinctive ‘European’ approach to stability and reconstruction operations and if so, how it connects to the wider ‘strategic personality’ of Europe.

In order to examine this question, this paper will consider:

  1. What constitute stability and reconstruction operations and how have they become the prominent form of post-conflict activity of late?

  2. European Union progress towards consolidating an approach towards peacekeeping and stability and reconstruction operations.

  3. Individual European states’ experiences of counter-insurgency and imperial policing and how that has affected doctrine, training and tactical approaches to peacekeeping and stability operations.

  4. How do these experiences add to the emergence of a European Union ‘strategic culture’?

The central argument of this paper concerns the European Union’s ability to conduct stability and reconstruction operations. Much of the recent discussion over the ESDI has focused on the inability of the Union – despite its intentions - to undertake high-end military operations such as interventions, involvement in major regional conflicts etc. As many analysts have rightly pointed out, the European Union faces a severe capabilities gap inhibiting its ability to undertake such operations.

However, as this paper will show, when looking at the track record of individual states and the European Union as a whole in undertaking peacekeeping and stability and reconstruction operations, it is possible to see that the United States suffers a skills gap when compared to the EU. The way that individual European states approach stability and reconstruction missions, and the way that the EU is developing make it uniquely suited to undertaking the types of multidimensional stability and reconstruction operations that the West is currently undertaking in Afghanistan and Iraq. This emerging ‘European’ way of doing things has led to doctrinal and practical frictions between them and U.S. forces on the ground.

What Are Stability and Reconstruction Operations?

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a blizzard of terms used to describe operations that fall somewhere between traditional peacekeeping and warfare. Amongst the terms that have been employed are ‘operations other than war’, ‘second generation peacekeeping’, ‘muscular peacekeeping’, ‘strategic peacekeeping’, ‘peace enforcement’, ‘peace support operations’ and now ‘stability and reconstruction operations’. Many of these terms overlap in mission but reflect attempts to define what the international community was undertaking and to escape from labels that had become politically loaded.

Christopher Dandeker and James Gow have provided an interesting explanation of the differences between traditional peacekeeping and second generation (or as they refer to it, ‘strategic’) peacekeeping. For them, the latter involves “more muscular forms of peacekeeping focused on a wider and more ambitious range of tasks than hitherto, including the separation, disarming, and attempted restoration of peace between conflicting parties, the protection of safe havens and the rebuilding of failed states, and military-assisted delivery of humanitarian aid.” It is in second generation peacekeeping missions - many elements of which are also part of stability and reconstruction operations - where the danger of “mission creep” becomes acute.

Moreover, these contemporary operations require more than the mere application of military force. Rather they demand that “…a wide range of political, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian and other considerations are drawn down to the operational level and need to be coordinated and harmonized at that level into some form of strategic framework or mission plan…”.3 Thus, a signature of the variety of post-Cold War peacekeeping operations is their multidimensional nature.

In addition to crucial differences in tasks, the key contrast between traditional and second generation peacekeeping concerns whose strategic interests are being satisfied:

In the former, the parties have decided to settle a dispute and desire to use the UN as an international service in order to assist this process. In this case, the peacekeepers are following a strategic agenda defined by the parties to the conflict. In the latter, other powers in international society, operating through the UN regional arrangements…take the initiative in providing a force designed to limit the effects of a conflict and assisting in creating the conditions for its termination. In this case, peacekeepers are intended to alter the strategic environment as international actors take some strategic initiative.4

Thus, it is not primarily about satisfying the interests of the parties directly involved in combat, but about imposing a strategic solution. Subsequent to the writing of the Dandeker and Gow piece, the world has seen the re-introduction of the practice of raw military intervention; where a section of the international community steps in to change the complexion of a regime (Afghanistan, Iraq). This takes the notion of whose strategic interests are being served further away from the ideals enshrined in traditional peacekeeping and brings real politik back into international politics. This type of intervention brings particular dilemmas for subsequent stability and reconstruction operations.

Stability and reconstruction operations are expected to be carried out in the aftermath of an intervention – where levels of consent among local parties may be very low – even lower than in second-generation peacekeeping. This is likely to be both a reaction to the act of intervention and a response to the use of force by the intervening militaries. One of the problems of conducting S & R operations in the aftermath of a military intervention is that locals will not necessarily differentiate between the original intervention mission and what the military forces do subsequently. In both Afghanistan and Iraq this led to frustration amongst coalition soldiers involved in S & R operations who thought that locals should differentiate between them and the forces that initially intervened and that there should be more local recognition of the peaceful types of missions that they were undertaking, for example, restoring basic services. These subtleties have generally evaded the general populations of the states where missions are taking place.

Amongst the missions associated with stability and reconstruction operations are the provision of policing, justice, basic utilities, education, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former warring factions etc. On occasion, S & R operations will include the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, as Wilkinson noted, “The military should only become directly involved in the provision of major humanitarian relief operations when there are no civilian agencies available or when conditions make their employment impractical and as a last resort.”5 This is the current situation in Afghanistan, where Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are being used to deliver aid because of the lack of security for humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations that would otherwise undertake such missions.6

Emerging European Union Approaches to Peacekeeping and Stability and Reconstruction Operations

During the early 1990s the discussion over the foreign and military policies to be adopted by first the Western European Union and later the European Union became intense. For an extended period discussions and decisions surrounded the structures and institutions within which foreign and military policies were to be formulated and situated, with the discussion over the content of policy taking place rather later and emerging piecemeal. In fact, it was only with Javier Solana’s draft security strategy of 2003 that the EU really began to move towards a coherent approach to security issues.7 Given that the debate over what should be in a security strategy is still taking place, the debate over how to implement the policies is necessarily ongoing.

Thus, European policies on peace and security have not emerged cleanly in the form of one document. Rather, policies and approaches to security have accrued over time - like coral - through decisions taken within the Western European Union, several articles in the Treaty on European Union (particularly setting out the “Petersberg tasks”, declarations of the European Council at a succession of meetings and interpretations and reinterpretations of those in light of then-current issues and interests.8 Moreover, European policy has also been propelled forward by the practices of various European states that have participated in (or even initiated) military activities in support of international peace and security.

One of the first documents to discuss a European role in tasks relating to the emerging wider security agenda (that encompassed failing states, complex political emergencies and other post-Cold war problems) emerged from the Western European Union (WEU) – an organization that for many years was the major focus of European defense planning – and was the WEU’s document “Emergency Responses to Humanitarian Crises: A Role for a WEU Humanitarian Task Force”. This was accepted by the WEU at the Lisbon meeting of May 1995. As Carlos Echeverria has pointed out, the significance of this document was that it presupposed a leading role for the European Union.9 Subsequently the WEU began work on planning for implementing humanitarian missions and emergency responses to humanitarian crises. However, this planning was overtake by events as decisions were made to prioritize the foreign and security policy pillar of the European Union and thus fold WEU operational planning into EU work.

A generally accepted starting point for consideration of the EU’s growing involvement with peace and security issues are the so-called “Petersberg tasks” identified in Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union, which include “…humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.”10 This definition of peacekeeping encompassed both traditional ‘interposition’ style peacekeeping and ‘second generation’ peacekeeping.11

An important practical spur to the EU to create a force able to undertake various sorts of security missions was the dismal performance of European forces in Kosovo in 1999. The United States dominated the military activities to protect Albanians in Kosovo and to force the Serbian regime to cease military activities in the Kosovo region. European Union states undertook only forty per cent of the air sorties, and made rather minor contributions to intelligence, logistics and communications. It was this experience that led – at the Helsinki European Council meeting in 1999- to agreement for the EU to set a ‘headline goal’; the creation of a Rapid Reaction Force capable of deploying 60,000 troops within 60 days to the field for one year.

The Rapid Reaction Forces are designed to be able to fulfill the Petersberg tasks. However, the ambiguity of the tasks has led to some debate over the scope of the tasks and the geographical area where the EU should be able to operate. The French have been particularly maximalist in their interpretation of the scope and geographical sway of the Petersberg missions and have been opposed by other states such as Britain who are concerned that the EU not conflict with the work of NATO. Regardless of this debate, however, what is clear is that achieving the military forces and equipment necessary to fulfill the ‘high end’ military missions of the Petersberg tasks is still a long way off. This force was to be ready by 2003, a goal that was not met and has yet to be achieved in 2004. There has been progress, but it has tended to be in the ability of the EU to carry out the lower-end military tasks and in planning and institutionalization for future developments.

With the European Union’s development of the capabilities necessary for fulfilling some of the ‘low-end’ Petersberg tasks and its abilities to undertake multidimensional operations, there has been discussion of transatlantic ‘division of labor’ emerging. This envisaged the United States undertaking all the military missions requiring major platforms (aircraft – both fighter/bombers and those with lift capabilities, carrier groups etc.) and advanced technologies (smart weapons etc.) whilst European forces would be use for various types of peace support operations.

This idea had been mooted during the mission to the Former Yugoslavia.12 There the U.S. undertook the majority of the airpower operations (sometimes to the chagrin of national capitals that had peacekeepers being held hostage on the ground whilst the U.S. undertook bombing raids from above), which facilitated the Dayton accords, but for an extended period refused to put troops on the ground. Various European states had provided peacekeeping and observer missions through the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 13 A similar scenario was played out in Kosovo, leading to unhappiness on both sides of the Atlantic.

As French analyst Dominique Moisi noted, the Europeans did not want to become “the cleaning lady to American intervention”.14 There was also discontent with this division of labor in the U.S. where there was a clear perception that the Europeans were not pulling their weight in terms of high-end military operations- and even less advanced military missions. That European peacekeepers could not be deployed out of theater without use of U.S. heavy lift capabilities rankled with both European and American leaderships.

With the operations undertaken by ‘coalitions of the willing’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the subsequent stability and reconstruction operations, the package of skills and forces the European Union is developing and deploying – albeit far too small – are welcome additions. Concerns about the division of labor remain, however, with the U.S. undertaking Special Forces missions on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan whilst British and German troops (amongst others) simultaneously attempt stability and reconstruction operations around Kabul.

A particular aspect of the emerging ESDI is that the European Union as a foreign policy and military actor is comfortable with combining different tools of policy together, into a coherent multidimensional response to an issue. In considering problems such as that of failing or failed states, the Helsinki Declaration of 1999 made clear:

With the enhancement and concentration of military and civilian crisis response tools, the Union will be able to resort to the whole range of

instruments from diplomatic activity, humanitarian assistance and economic measures to civilian policing and military crisis management operations.15

The ordering of those policy tools is not coincidental and is found through many EU documents.

As the European Union has begun to develop the institutional arrangements necessary to undertake the agreed military missions, the nature of the organization is changing. With ESDI the European Union is moving from being a purely civil organization to one that also has a military dimension. There is now a European Union Military Committee and a European Union Military Staff serves this. As Cornish and Edwards acknowledge, “It is difficult to ascertain precisely the political effect of all this activity, all these new posts and committees. But it would be safe to expect at least some effect on the institutions and culture of the EU, and on external perceptions of the EU.”16

That the EU was initially an economic/political organization that is only now (after nearly half a century) taking on a military/strategic dimension is important for the type of ‘strategic culture’ and ‘personality’ that is emerging. The fact that the military dimension is a late addition to the EU means that it the use of military power will necessarily be regarded as just that – a late addition – and used only after other political and economic options have been exhausted. The ‘strategic personality’ that is emerging within the EU is one that wields military power reluctantly, and as a last resort.17

Interestingly, the emerging EU approach to security issues, influenced by its institutional development, is a multifaceted one using a number of different policy tools; diplomatic, economic and military. This multidimensional approach is very suited to the types of security threats that have emerged in post-Cold War Europe and beyond.18 “The military perspective no longer offers a sufficient or exclusive understanding of European security; environmental, economic and human security must all now be taken into account.”19 This natural propensity to use a mix of tools is also useful for the demands of stability and reconstruction operations, the central focus of this paper.

An important but intangible element of the emerging European approach to Stability and Reconstruction operations is the temperament of the organization.20 As the European Union has begun to tackle issues of foreign and security policy, a number of propensities have emerged:

  • A preference for pre-emptive engagement to head off confrontations. As Cornish and Edwards noted, “the development of external responsibilities in terms of conflict prevention and management that has been quietly proceeding within the European Union.”21

  • A minimal use of force approach

  • A holistic approach to security that includes considerations such as trade and aid as contributing to human security. The link between security and development is “the orthodoxy” in EU policy statements.22

  • A commitment to upholding international law and support for the United Nations as an embodiment of that law. In creating its own military force the EU “will thereby increase its ability to contribute to international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter.”23

  • A willingness to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, particularly in countries where European states have previously been colonial powers (for example, Great Britain in Sierra Leone, France in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic). Indeed, the European Council meetings at Cologne and Feira stressed the concept of ‘responsibility’, that when the EU had developed its military forces it would be able to “assume their responsibilities across the full range of conflict prevention and crisis management tasks defined in the EU Treaty.”24

This means that the evolving norms and organizational temperament of the European Union as an international actor make it potentially more suited to undertake multidimensional operations than is the United States.

European Experiences of Counterinsurgency and Imperial Policing

Since the 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq there has been a flurry of interest in European experiences of counter-insurgency (COIN), imperial policing and urban warfare (for the French in Algeria and the British in Northern Ireland).25 The aim of analysts has been to discern what ‘lessons’ can be drawn from these experiences to be used in fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two particular operations have been reviewed, the British COIN operation in Malaya and the French COIN operation in Algeria.26 A crucial difference between these two operations was that in Algeria France won the battle but lost the war, eventually withdrawing from the country. In Malaya the British both won the battle and the psychological war, in part due to factors unique to that situation but also by taking away from the insurgents some of their strongest political claims.

John O’Sullivan recently distilled a number of parallels from the British operation in Malaya. As he noted “It makes a particularly useful comparison with Iraq because, though the British eventually won, they started badly. For the first three years the Communists gained; it was only when the Brits remembered the jungle fighting techniques they had successfully employed against the Japanese in Burma that they recovered the initiative.”27 While this is true, British successes were really due to a sure combination of politics and economics with military tactics. Nevertheless, he draws a number of useful points of comparison:

  • The British exploited social divisions between the Communists (mostly ethnic Chinese) and the Malay. This was done in part by promising independence to Malaya, which in one move denied the Communists the role of liberators from Imperial rule. The promise of independence was popular with the Malay and led to “local allies and good intelligence”.28 The recent memoir of Chin Peng, who was then Secretary-General of the Malayan Communist party, acknowledged that it was a different proposition to wage war against an elected national government than to resist a colonial regime.29

  • The British were the initiators of the idea of a “hearts and minds” campaign (later transferred to Vietnam by the United States with considerably less success) and worked with the locals to improve the irrigation of land, build facilities and set up defenses against attack. As O’Sullivan notes this, “…undercut the ‘social justice’ arguments of the Communists…”. In addition, the British policy of bringing Chinese and Malay villagers into “strategic hamlets” that could be defended had both a strategic effect (cutting off the Communists from sources of food and intelligence) and gave to the relocated villagers land, money and food and created new infrastructure for them. As Harper has noted, this gave them a direct economic stake in their country’s future.30

  • The British were aided by the excellent leadership skills of Sir Gerald Templer, described as a “formidable soldier-diplomat”.31 He was trusted and respected and inspired confidence in the Malay that they could defeat the insurgency.

  • The British had excellent intelligence towards the end of the campaign in Malaya, although initially the Communists had better intelligence. “Once the villagers were separated out in protected villages, however, the balance of advantage switched sides and the British began to get better information.”32 In addition, the British used about 300 captured insurgents (“turncoats”) as paid scouts and after they had served the crown for eighteen months they were freed unconditionally. The Malay people were also offered large bounties for captured insurgents and useful information, which proved an effective incentive.33

In addition to the ‘lessons’ that John O’Sullivan has derived from the Malay experience, Steve Metz highlights another three:

At every level, from the local to the national, the British military, police, and intelligence services and government agencies concerned with economic development were seamlessly integrated. Military operations were low-key and limited, undertake with specific, narrow objectives and not used to intimidate insurgents or their potential supporters….In Malaya, the British also found that carrots - political and economic development – were more important tools of counterinsurgency than sticks.34

What is intriguing is that one can see these lessons being applied – unselfconsciously – by British forces on the ground in Iraq. As Michael Smith noted in reporting on British operations to take the city of Barsa from the regime of Saddam Hussein:

Much has been made of the fact that the British cordon appeared to leak refugees, inevitably given that the British were not even encircling the city. But a hearts and minds operation is intelligence-led and allows people to come in and out at will to take back supplies. It provided a stream of ready, and grateful, informants who could reveal what was going on and where Saddam Hussein’s men were hiding….Conditions were then improved. The people received aid: food, medical supplies, electricity and clean water …This made the ‘white’ sector attractive to its neighbours who in turn would provide the British with intelligence on their areas. The troops could then turn the neighbouring sectors ‘white’, further hemming in Saddam’s men.35

What is fascinating about this quotation is not just the description of what the British were doing, but the language in which Smith describes it. In the Malayan counterinsurgency operation the parlance was to talk about turning areas ‘white’ and this has obviously remained in British military lore and has been picked up by this defense correspondent embedded with British troops.

Practical manifestations of these counterinsurgency experiences can be seen in the way that individual European states have written doctrine, structured and trained their militaries, and in terms of the more nebulous ‘military cultures’ that are maintained over time.

  1. Doctrine

In this section the example of British doctrinal development is used, both because it illustrates the extent to which COIN was something that the Europeans ‘did’ – as opposed theorized about - and because it shows the lasting effects of those experiences.

As Rob Thornton has noted, despite the fact that Great Britain has historically been involved in various forms of peacekeeping – both colonial and for the United Nations – it was not until 1988 that this experience was first condensed into the “Peacekeeping Operations” doctrine. In part this reflects an anti-doctrine bias in the British armed forces, where there is a tradition of having a basic set of rules, the interpretation and implementation of which is left to commanders in the field. This is thought to give British counter-insurgency flexibility and to encourage initiative.36

The changing international environment was noted in Great Britain where there was recognition of the need – in places such as the Balkans - to go beyond traditional peacekeeping but undertake operations that nevertheless fell short of war. Such operations were generally defined within NATO as Peace Support Operations.37 In 1994 the British published the Army Field Manual “Wider Peacekeeping”, which recognized that operations such as enforcing sanctions (through patrolling, interdicting trans-shipments etc.) might be a part of peace enforcement.38

Subsequently “Wider Peacekeeping” was replaced by “Joint Warfare Publication, JWP 3-50, Peace Support Operations”. This document, authored by Philip Wilkinson recognized that the basic tenets of COIN warfare still applied to peace support operations.39

Another element of doctrine that is important are the ‘rules of engagement’ (RoE) that determine how a force acts in the field. Here we can see considerable differences between the RoE that govern the behavior of European states’ militaries and those of the U.S. military. In particular, there is a significant difference between the U.S. and the rest concerning the primary mission of the soldier; for the U.S. officer the primary mission is force protection. This is not necessarily the case for European officers, who may (and have) prioritize civilian protection over force protection.

Such doctrinal differences have had a big impact on the way that the U.S. and European forces have undertaken stability operations in the same country. For example, in the case of Iraq, within days of President Bush declaring an end to major hostilities, the British had stopped using hardened helmets and were wearing berets on the streets. Further, the British forces refrained from wearing sunglasses (despite the terrible glare) as they understood that it was important that Iraqis be able to see their eyes. Importantly, drawing on their Northern Ireland experiences, they undertook foot patrols, but kept their weapons pointed at the ground to send a signal of readiness but not hostile intent.

By contrast, the primacy of the force protection mission for U.S. forces meant that patrolling was done in armor and helmets and guns were held upwards ready for action. There was certainly learning on the job, for example, one Marine group realized the negative effects of wearing sunglasses and stopped and many began to grow beards to look more like the citizens they were working amongst. These efforts were (rightly) lauded in the media, however, they did not last; the rotation of units meant that new forces came in with different ideas. Also, after a number of attacks on U.S. forces, many showed their anger by shaving their beards and paying less attention to fitting in. Wrap-around sunglasses also reappeared for a very practical reason; they could save a soldiers sight if he was traveling in a vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).

  1. Structure of forces – paramilitaries, gendarmerie etc.

The United States’ military activities in Afghanistan have involved the deployment of Special Forces units to deal with the threat of al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents that remain in the country and on the borders with Pakistan. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has lauded the performance and adaptability of the Special Forces.40 However, as Rachel Bronson has forcefully argued:

…it is also becoming evident that the U.S. military is not very well suited to the task of establishing security in precarious political environments. Because the United States has no paramilitary units and only poorly organized civilian policing tools, elite combat forces have ended up filling the void. This approach has been inefficient and expensive and has reduced Washington’s ability to project power.41

Indeed, a number of analysts have pointed to the advantages of the military structures of some European forces, particularly the French and the Italians, that have ‘constabulary’ or ‘gendarmerie’ elements better suited to what are essentially police enforcement operations.42

Just as the European Union has been criticized for its failure to develop a full-spectrum of military capabilities (thus far sticking to the lower-level Petersberg tasks), the United States has come in for criticism for concentrating too much on high-end military operations to the detriment of its ability to undertake policing and nation building tasks. As Bronson made clear, the U.S. has not been able to avoid these tasks and has had to re-deploy combat forces to undertake these missions.43

Another solution used by the United States has been the employment of Private Security Companies (PSCs) such as DynCorps and Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) to undertake low-level security duties. PSCs currently provide police, security guards, and protection units for politicians and facilities in theater and also perform a lot of the ‘nation building’ elements of stability and reconstruction operations. For example, Halliburton has major contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq, particularly in terms of infrastructure projects and restoring the Iraqi oil industry. DynCorp employees guard Afghanistan’s interim president Hamid Karzai, and U.S. embassies around the world are guarded by employees of PSCs. As Deborah Avant has shown, this use of PSCs brings its own issues in terms of questions over the legal status of their employees, the rules of engagement that they follow etc. Such issues have yet to be satisfactorily dealt with in the U.S. but rather than being a ‘stopgap’ measure to deal with a temporary problem, the privatization of security is likely to be a continuing element in U.S. security policy for some time to come. Despite this, there is recognition within the U.S. Army that a major mission in the future will be S & R operations and it is beginning to reorganize accordingly.

  1. Training

During the French colonial war in Algeria – seen by the French as a counter-terror operation but by the Algerians as a liberation struggle - the French government created an establishment, the Centre for Training and Preparation for Counter-Guerrilla Warfare (CIPCG) that was designed to provide French troops with an apprenticeship in counter-guerrilla warfare.44 Such a center was probably more necessary for the French as the use of conscription meant that there were more limited opportunities to build ‘institutional memory’ than with an all-volunteer army. As the Center developed, it came to focus less on tactical issues (its initial focus) and more on the difficult issue of psychological warfare and “hearts and minds” struggles. Given the close association between the Center and the French war in Algeria, failure in that counterinsurgency led to the closing of the center. Given that the Center had focused on psychological warfare, the failure of the French to win the battle for “hearts and minds” made the its demise inevitable. However, during the six years of its existence it trained more than 10,000 French officers many of whom remained in the military and applied these lessons in other French military operations across the francophone world.

British military education and training, due to the Northern Ireland situation, consistently included considerations of urban policing, counterinsurgency and techniques for peacekeeping. The officer training conducted by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and other branches’ training schools – reflecting the anti-doctrine bias of the British military - focused less on ‘doctrine’ as such, than on a set of practical rules that could and should be applied in the field.45

  1. Military Ethos

The analyses that have been done on European counterinsurgency experience have tended to focus on concrete lessons that might be transferred and have ignored the organizational psychology of the military forces involved. This is to miss one of the positive elements of the European COIN experience, one that has been maintained and transferred into the way that these forces have undertaken various types of peace support operations. Lessons include using the minimum force possible in order to avoid creating more opposition, an emphasis on neutral policing, a determination to work well with local populations, understand their problems and attempt to help them (thus ‘draining the water from the fishes’ to build upon Chairman Mao’s analogy), on clearly signaling behavior in order to avoid unnecessary confrontations, on successfully moving around in dangerous urban areas etc. Lessons of counter-insurgency operations have adapted and applied in contemporary situations such as peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo and in NATO peace support operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
For many European militaries, peacekeeping operations are the major missions that they undertake and therefore a significant part of military training is taken up with planning and practice for various forms of peace support operations, humanitarian emergencies etc. Many of the European militaries take great pride in wearing the ‘blue helmet’ and this reflects a positive attitude to the role they can play in the field and the difference they can make. This obviously puts them in a different psychological place to American forces contemplating the same sorts of operations, for their major analogies are drawn to Vietnam and Somalia, where the U.S. military became bogged down.

In addition to formal training, many of the real elements of counterinsurgency were transferred informally. Rather than relying on formal training and doctrine, the British army “preferred to rely on the vast corpus of experience that it had gained in the small wars of imperial expansion and drawdown. Such experience, handed down orally within regiments…was felt to give officers and non-commissioned officers the ability to deal with conflicts at the lower end of the conflict spectrum without recourse to doctrinaire solutions.”46 Implicitly, what was reflected here was military confidence in the ability of their officers and men, and government confidence in the performance of the military.

As Graham Day and Christopher Freeman noted in their prescient article on what was likely to happen after a military intervention in Iraq, there is an institutional psychology explanation for the contrasting abilities of U.S. and British forces to establish security in precarious situations:
The ethos of the contemporary American military was largely shaped by its experience as an expeditionary war fighting force in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Somalia. By contrast, British forces are sometimes lauded for a robust but restrained approach in peacekeeping scenarios – a proficiency that is understandable, given that the vast majority of current operational experience was acquired during the low-intensity urban warfare of Northern Ireland.47

As this section has shown, British experience of urban warfare is actually part of a longer legacy of imperial policing and counter-insurgency operations.

Similarly positive organizational ethos have developed within the militaries of European states that lacked extensive colonial experience, but formed the backbone of United Nations peacekeeping forces during the Cold War, due to their perceived neutrality. Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries in particular developed skills in peacekeeping and a positive attitude towards the mission.48

Given that doctrines for peace support operations are only just beginning to be developed in the European Union how have these lessons and approaches derived from military history and Twentieth Century experience been shared between European states? Important ‘transmission belts’ for tactics and approaches have been joint training exercises during the Cold War under the aegis of NATO, WEU planning activities, cooperation in theater in peace support operations such as in the former Yugoslavia, and an increasing adoption of British doctrine on COIN and urban warfare into European military doctrine.

The Evolution of a European Union ‘Strategic Culture and Personality’

Paul Cornish and Geoffrey Edwards defined a ‘strategic culture’ as “the institutional confidence and processes to manage and deploy military force as part of the accepted range of legitimate and effective policy instruments, together with general recognition of the EU’s legitimacy as an international actor with military capabilities (albeit limited).”49 The term ‘strategic personality’ is wider however, and refers not just to preferences in war fighting behavior. As Caroline Ziemke, a pioneer of the ‘strategic personality’ approach, explained:

A state’s historical experience shapes how it sees itself, how it views the outside world, and how it makes it strategic decisions. To make use of their historical experience, nations tend to focus most on those aspects of their history that have the most meaning and tell them the most about who they are and what they aspire to be.50

Through the process of developing institutions for CFSP, of deciding what European policies and tool preferences are, through interactions with international events and key states, has come the outline of a European ‘strategic personality’. This personality is informed by a wider understanding of European history and the region’s place in the system.

Europe’s historical and cultural proclivities in dealing with threats and diplomatic problems, the issues it pays most attention to, the way it prioritizes and interprets international events, evolving military planning and the public statements of EU leaders all provide evidence of ‘personality traits’. In the case of the European Union we are dealing with a more diverse entity than a state, with short, intense, history. A number of key EU personality facets can nevertheless be identified:

  • The sweep of European history is seen as providing evidence that there are better ways to resolve differences than through the resort to force.

  • Through the short history of the European Union, member states have developed a very positive sense of the benefits of international cooperation, multilateralism and confidence building measures as the means to deal with potential threats.

  • The EU is an entity borne out of a positive experience of multilateral treaties. Even in key areas of potential insecurity such as nuclear programs, the Europeans created a multilateral confidence building institution, EURATOM, which allowed them to gradually overcome these fears.51

  • The EU personality is also informed by a tradition of compromise, of using diplomacy to solve problems. The EU has a ‘habit’ of seeking agreement and the search for consensus is the mode of operation in most areas of EU work.52

  • There is also particular respect for the rule of law, the institutions that enforce it and a desire to build global norms to expand international law. As High Representative Solana explained, “The development of a stronger international society, well functioning international institutions and a rule-based international order should be our objectives.”53

  • The EU is a proponent of ‘soft power’, of providing economic and political incentives to ensure good behavior, of considering issues holistically and of progress in one area ‘spilling over’ into progress in others.54 Political and economic engagement is favored over confrontation.

  • European forces try to avoid the use of force. This means that they try to use other tools of crisis management first. However, on occasions the EU has endorsed the use of force in protection of core values, often focused on the protection of international institutions or upholding the rule of law.

  • The EU adopts a ‘root causes’ approach to understanding conflicts and uses a variety of policy tools to try and deal with base problems.

The emergence of a European ‘strategic personality’ is due to a mix of internal and external stimuli. In terms of the internal spur, writing in 2001 Cornish and Edwards suggested that:

There are, in any case, signs that a strategic culture is already developing through a socialization process considerably accelerated by the institutional arrangements put in place in the EU since the decisions of the Helsinki European Council in December 1999. Furthermore, there are areas of political-military activity, such as policing actions of various types on the external borders of the EU, and the limited application of military force in the context of post-conflict reconstruction, peace-building and development aid, where perhaps a unique ‘gendarmerie’-style EU strategic culture has been germinating.55

At the same time as the European Union has been developing its internal mechanisms, as Robert Kagan has pointed out, the United States has been moving towards a different position that leverages its current structural dominance to forsake the international compromises required of those with insufficient power.56 To be sure, the emergence of this new U.S. ‘strategic personality,’ has been an important element in pushing the EU to define itself and abandon ‘constructive ambiguity’.57 In playing to an American audience, however, Kagan understates the extent to which the EU has become more intentionally European through positive choices and not just weakness. What this paper suggests is that another element of this ‘strategic personality’ is falling into place; a sophisticated approach to stability and reconstruction operations that the U.S. would do well to emulate.


The reader needs to bear in mind the question of the political maturity and stability of the ESDI, as in its short life it has already undergone some revisions (and acronym changes!). Nevertheless, there does seem to be a degree of stability in the merging approach to stability and reconstruction operations, reflecting the European Union’s ability to undertake multidimensional operations, its preference for using military power in defense of international law and for securing peace and stability and because emerging practice builds on the military experiences and doctrines of key military powers within the EU.

1 Dr Spear previously was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Whilst she was based in London, she worked extensively for the BBC during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Acting as a defense analyst and ‘presenters friend’ she spent many hours a day observing live footage from the battlefields, working with embedded correspondents, monitoring Arabic TV stations, talking to British military officials in the field and broadcasting live for the BBC World Service Radio and BBC World Service TV. She also worked for Channel 4, ITN News and BBC Radio 5 Live.

2 The author would like to thank Michael Alpern for his excellent research assistance in the preparation of this paper.

Christopher Dandeker and James Gow, “The Future of Peace Support Operations: Strategic Peacekeeping and Success”, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 23, No. 3, p. 331.

3 Philip Wilkinson, “Sharpening the Weapons of Peace: Peace Support Operations and Complex Emergencies”, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring 2000), p. 66.

4 Christopher Dandeker and James Gow, “The Future of Peace Support Operations: Strategic Peacekeeping and Success”, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 23, No. 3, p. 331.

5 Philip Wilkinson, “Sharpening the Weapons of Peace” p. 75.

6 Refugees International, “Security on the Cheap: PRTs in Afghanistan”, at Accessed August 30, 2004.

7 Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, A Secure Europe In A Better World, European Council, Thessaloniki, June 20, 2003.

8 See Martin Ortega, “Military Intervention And The European Union”, Chaillot Papers No. 45, (Paris: Institute for Security Studies, March 2001), especially Chapter Six ‘The European Union, The Petersberg Missions and Interventions’.

9 Carlos Echeverria, “Cooperation in Peacekeeping Among the Euro-Mediterranean Armed Forces”, Chaillot Papers No. 35 (Paris: Institute for Security Studies, 1999), p. 4.

10 Article 17.2 of the Treaty on European Union. Cited in Ortega, “Military Intervention And The European Union”, p. 105.

11 On traditional peacekeeping see, Alan James, The Politics of Peacekeeping (London: 1991). On second generation peacekeeping see, John Mackinlay and Jarat Chopra, “Second Generation Multinational Peacekeeping”, The Washington Quarterly (Summer 1992); Mats Berdal, “Wither UN Peacekeeping”, Adelphi Paper No. 281 (1993).

12 Sophia Clément (ed.), “The Issues Raised by Bosnia, and the Transatlantic Debate”, Challiot Paper NO. 32 (Paris: Institute for Security Studies, 1998).

13 It is worth noting that even prior to becoming involved militarily, the U.S. was urging that the British army – already in the theater – ‘do something’ more aggressive in Bosnia. Rod Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations Doctrine in the British Army”, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2000), p. 49.

14 Cited in Bronson, “When Soldiers Become Cops”, p. 126.

15 European Council, Helsinki Declaration. Cited in Ortega, p. 108.

16 Cornish and Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy”, p. 595.

17 For more thoughts on the ‘strategic personality’ of the European Union see, Joanna Spear, “The Emergence of a European ‘Strategic Personality’ and the Implications for the Transatlantic Relationship”, Arms Control Today 33:9 (November 2003), pp. 13-18. At

18 Michael Clarke and Paul Cornish, “The European Defense Project and the Prague Summit”, International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 4 (October 2002), p. 778.

19 Cornish and Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy”, p. 596.

20 Joanna Spear, “The Emergence of a European ‘Strategic Personality’.

21 Cornish and Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy”, p. 593.

22 Cornish and Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy”, p. 601.

23 European Council, Cologne Declaration. Cited in, Ortega, p. 108.

24 European Council, Feria Declaration. Cited in, Ortega, p. 108.

25 See for example, Steve Metz, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq”, The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Winter 2003); Frank Harper, “The Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960: Lessons in Counter-terrorism”, The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer 2003); Robert Harris, “It Isn’t Malaya All Over Again: This Time Its War”, The Daily Telegraph November 6, 2001; Philip Gourevitch, “Winning and Losing”, The New Yorker, December 22, 2003, p. 53; Uri Dromi, “The Algerian Parallel”, The Jerusalem Post, October 6, 2003, p. 46.

26 The ‘classic’ literature on these operations includes, Richard L. Clutterbuck, The Long War: Counterinsurgency in Malaya and Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1966); Julian Paget, Counter-Insurgency Operations: Techniques of Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Walker and Company, 1967); Richard Clutterbuck, Conflict and Violence in Singapore and Malaysia, 1945-83 (Boulder, CO: 1985).

27 John O’Sullivan, “The Malay Precedent: Lessons from the Brits”, National Review, Vol. LV, No. 22 (November 24, 2003).

28 John O’Sullivan, “The Malay Precedent”.

29 Cited in Janadas Devan, “Self-rule Will Not Bring Security”, The Straits Times (Singapore), June 30, 2004.

30 Frank Harper, “The Malayan Emergency”.

31 O’Sullivan, “The Malay Precedent”.

32 O’Sullivan, “The Malay Precedent”.

33 Frank Harper, “The Malay Emergency”.

34 Steve Metz, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq”.

35 Michael Smith, “British Blueprint Shows US How to Finish the Job”, The Daily Telegraph, April 7, 2003.

36 Rob Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations Doctrine in the British Army”, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2000), p. Rod Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations Doctrine in the British Army”, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2000), p. Rod Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations Doctrine in the British Army”, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2000), p. 41 & 44.

37 Laurence J. Baxter, “NATO and Regional Peace Support Operations”, Peacekeeping and International Relations, Vol. 25, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1996), pp. 6-8.

38 Wider Peacekeeping (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1994), pp. 1.1-1.7.

39 Rob Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations”, p. 56.

40 Donald Rumsfled, piece that is in IAFF290.12 booklist.

41 Rachel Bronson, “When Soldiers Become Cops”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81, No 6 (Nov/Dec 2002), p. 122.

42 See, for example, Robert Perito, Where is the Lone Ranger when You Need Him? (Washington DC: USIP, 2003).

43 Bronson, “When Soldiers Become Cops”, p. 124.

44 Lt.-Col. Frédéric Guelton, (Translated by Martin Alexander), “The French Army ‘Centre for Training and Preparation in Counter-Guerrilla Warfare’ (CIPCG) at Arzew”, Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (June 2002).

45 Rob Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations”, pp. 43-5.

46 Rob Thornton, “The Role of Peace Support Operations”, p. 44.

47 Graham Day and Christopher Freeman, “Policekeeping is the Key: Rebuilding the Internal Security Architecture of Postwar Iraq”, International Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 2 (March 2003), p. 304.

48 Lt.-Col. Charles Dobbie, “Wider Peacekeeping: An Approach to Peacekeeping Post Cold War”, Survival, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn 1994).

49 Paul Cornish and Geoffrey Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy: The Beginnings of a European Strategic Culture”, International Affairs Vol. 77, No. 3 (July 2001), p. 587.

50 Caroline F. Ziemke, “The National Myth and Strategic Personality of Iran: A Counterproliferation Perspective”, in Victor A. Utgoff (ed.), The Coming Crisis: Nuclear Proliferation, U.S. Interests, and World Order (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), p. 88.

51 Darryl A. Howlett, Euratom and Nuclear Safeguards (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990).

52 Helen Wallace, “Making Multilateral Negotiations Work”, in Helen Wallace (ed.), The Dynamics of European Integration (London: Royal Institute for International Affairs/Pinter, 1991).

53 Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, A Secure Europe In A Better World, European Council, Thessaloniki, June 20, 2003, p. 8.

54 The contrast here is to the use of ‘hard power’, that is, military force, by the United States. These terms were coined by Joseph Nye. See for example, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “The Decline of America’s Soft Power”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 3 (May/June 2004), pp. 16-20.

55 Cornish and Edwards, “Beyond the EU/NATO Dichotomy”, p. 588.

56 Robert Kagan, Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).

57 On this please see, Francoise Heisbourg, “Europe’s Strategic Ambitions: The Limits of Ambiguity”, Survival, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Summer 2000).

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