SEGAL; The west
shrugs off the rest
global security looking as volatile as world markets, Nato members are
battening down the hatches
financial markets, we are currently seeing a "flight to quality", with
all its disturbing implications for the world economy. Something similar
is going on in defence and foreign policy. There, we are seeing a flight
to "quality security". The global implications are no less worrying.
as nervous investors feel more comfortable in American and European markets,
so the political instabilities in Asia, the Middle East and Russia are
beginning to clarify the importance of core political and security relations
between the US and Europe. The result is a "fortress Atlantic" mentality,
with important squabbles taking place within the castle walls.
the most obvious manifestation of this is that more attention is being
paid to modernising the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Less is being
paid to the United Nations as a security instrument or to international
law as a way to manage conflict.
is also likely to be far greater focus on stemming arms proliferation,
in the expectation that longer-range ballistic missiles such as those recently
tested by North Korea will be available to countries with weapons of mass
destruction. Iraq, India and Pakistan demonstrate a stubborn desire to
acquire a range of such weapons.
used to be far more confidence in America and Europe that the UN could
play a useful role in coping with rogue states. But the failure to force
Iraq to comply with the UN's inspection programme has naturally led to
demands that the West should consider acting unilaterally.
Russia's travails have led the US and western Europe to concentrate more
on NATO. With even the most positive outcome in Russia likely to produce
a regime more hostile to the West, it is hard to think why NATO states
should give Moscow a veto over international security. But neither do Russian
events make a rapid wider expansion of NATO very likely. The focus instead
will be on integrating the important ("quality") central European states
- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary - and on building higher walls against
the spreading chaos outside. The cries from those left on the other side
will grow louder, but NATO states will increasingly understand that the
risk posed by Russia is more from implosion than from external aggression.
this flight to quality and away from grandiose dreams about comprehensive
security, Atlantic powers will be ever more disinclined to intervene militarily
in the world's hot spots. Africans will be left to battle their way to
local solutions, as now seems to be occurring in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. No one will intervene in Cambodia, let alone Burma. Malaysia
or Indonesia can tear themselves apart, those inside the Atlantic fortress
will sit by. Neither will the West intervene to stop conflicts between
states which are beyond its radar screen. Regional powers, such as Iran
and Afghanistan's Taliban, will feel free to go to war. If India and Pakistan
want to use their new nuclear weapons, it is possible that no one will
seek to stop them. Should ethnic Chinese in Indonesia or Malaysia find
themselves in dire straits, who will stop China "demonstrating its concern
for compatriots"? be
power vacuums will be filled by the privatisation of security. In Africa
and the former Yugoslavia, we see already private security firms such as
Sandline and Executive Outcomes providing the military punch that used
to be the preserve of states. Russia's meltdown will put more soldiers
of fortune on the market, perhaps even with weapons of mass destruction.
A bevy of non-governmental organisations trying to provide humanitarian
aid and political advice are already stepping into the breach. This flight
to quality security will be difficult to sustain. Terrorism - that classic
instrument of the weak against the strong - will be an increasing threat.
As NATO members come to appreciate that the "war against terrorism" is
as meaningless as the "war against drugs", and as long-range missile strikes
are seen only to make the distant rubble bounce more vigorously, the Atlantic
fortress will seem less secure. Outliers such as Japan, Australia and Israel
will feel particularly vulnerable.
are spearheading the argument that the fortress can be defended with high
tech weaponry: the so-called "Revolution in Military Affairs", in which
computers will be the vital instruments of modern warfare, not men and
machinery. Adherents argue that the modern version of gunboat diplomacy
may not provide absolute security, but the world outside the fortress can
be kept at bay.Europeans, on the other hand, tend to see matters in terms
of a "Revolution in Strategic Affairs", in which the poor and weak will
use terror, weapons of mass destruction and information warfare to breach
the defences of the rich and powerful. Using smart weapons at a distance
will only encourage opponents to believe the West is morally weak and unprepared
for a real struggle. Those who post Taleban.com on the Internet
are also capable of crashing California's banking system through hard-to-trace
information warfare. As the West takes on the rest, the flight to quality
security may prove as bumpy as the flight to economic quality currently
is for world stockmarkets.
author is director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic