At the edge of Europe, in Ireland’s Shannon Airport, they conduct surveillance on the U.S. empire.
ShannonWatch, a group of a dozen or so peace activists led by a former Irish commandant and peacekeeper, scrutinizes the commercial and military planes that pass through Ireland to bring troops and hardware to Afghanistan. Such transports take place in other European countries, like Germany. But Ireland is a special case. It has a long tradition of neutrality. It is not a member of NATO. And Shannon is a civilian airport.
Ireland was once more scrupulous. Years ago, the Irish government wouldn’t let U.S. soldiers pass through the country’s airports if they’d been involved in military exercises much less a military conflict. Today, however, Shannon not only serves as a supply link for the Afghanistan war, transporting over 20,000 U.S. soldiers a week, but also facilitated the CIA’s rendition of terrorism suspects. Since 2003, two U.S. military officers have been permanently based at the airport, without parliamentary approval and even without public knowledge until news leaked out last week. Shannon Airport has essentially become an unofficial U.S. military base.
ShannonWatch is part of a larger Irish effort to oppose the growing militarization of Europe. As I write in Postcard from…Dublin, “In recent years, Europe has been building up its military capacities — within NATO and also as part of new pan-European institutions. Under the European Security and Defense Policy, the EU has conducted missions in more than 20 countries and has ongoing military deployments in Bosnia, Macedonia, Chad, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, and Sudan. In 2007, the EU formed rapid deployment battlegroups to have a standing capacity. The European Defense Agency, created in 2004, identifies gaps in military capabilities and promotes increased military expenditures. As major backers of this new agency, European military contractors are responsible for nearly one-third of global arms sales.”
The focus of the European peace movement right now, though, is Afghanistan. Many Germans are outraged over their military’s complicity in the recent NATO bombing of fuel tankers in Kunar that claimed an unknown number of civilian lives. Voters in Britain have turned against the war. European governments, despite their public show of support, have been reluctant to supply soldiers for what has now become Obama’s war.
Here in the United States, eight years after September 11, the tide of public opinion on the war is also shifting. Once considered by public and pundits alike as the “good war” in comparison to the Iraq conflict, the Afghan occupation is now rapidly losing support. In the United States, an all-time high of 57% of Americans now oppose the war according to a recent CNN poll. Key pundits have changed their mind, including conservative columnist George Will. (For an excellent rundown of the numbers on Afghanistan — cost, casualties, public opinion — check out Tom Engelhardt’s new analysis.)
During the Bush regime, several European leaders like Britain’s Tony Blair and Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar were more than happy to help out the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. These leaders suffered at the polls as a result of their enthusiasms. The transatlantic alliance, at least the one based on military cooperation, is in trouble. NATO, its fighting capabilities challenged on the ground in Afghanistan and its institutional solidarity challenged by dissenting European leaders, is increasingly looking like an organization without a mission. Will Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires, bury NATO as well?
Europe stands before three forking paths. Down one road is Europe 1.0, which involves a rejuvenated NATO and a continued junior partner status to the United States. Down the second path lies Europe 2.0, with a largely independent military structure that develops its own preemptive and intervention capabilities. And down the third path is Europe 3.0, a demilitarized Europe that leads the globe in reducing military expenditures, restraining the arms trade, and restricting its overseas deployments to UN peacekeeping missions. This third Europe is the one that ShannonWatch and the Irish peace movement envision.
What we need now is a new transatlantic alliance — a transatlantic alliance from below — that can bring us to this Europe 3.0.
Ireland was once the poster child for globalization. Shannon Airport is the center of a free-trade zone that bills itself as the gateway to Europe. Irish call centers, the rise of the Irish IT sector, rapid economic growth, and the country’s low corporate tax rate have all led to the Celtic Tiger becoming a center of global business. Indeed, the Heritage Foundation put Ireland at #4 in its latest Index of Economic Freedom, two slots ahead of the United States.
Today, however, Ireland faces an unemployment rate of 12.4%, double what it was a year ago. Its credit rating has been downgraded. And the government finance minister warns that the country’s recession, the worst on record, might only get worse next year.
Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) columnist Walden Bello is not surprised by this link between globalization and recession. “The current global downturn, the worst since the Great Depression 70 years ago, pounded the last nail into the coffin of globalization,” he writes in The Virtues of Deglobalization. “Already beleaguered by evidence that showed global poverty and inequality increasing, even as most poor countries experienced little or no economic growth, globalization has been terminally discredited in the last two years. As the much-heralded process of financial and trade interdependence went into reverse, it became the transmission belt not of prosperity but of economic crisis and collapse.”
The Virtues of Negotiation
What’s up with Jackson Diehl? The Washington Post editorial page editor has declared the Obama administration a failure in its attempts to reach out to “the world’s rogue leaders.” First of all, it’s been less than half a year and the administration is only now filling out some key foreign policy staff positions. Second of all, the administration hasn’t exactly invested a great deal of political capital in outreach. The proposed visit to North Korea by envoy Stephen Bosworth was in fact conditional — that it not launch its long-range rocket back in the spring — and North Korea didn’t like the condition. The lifting of some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba were very modest. Overtures to Venezuela and Syria have been minimal — a handshake, a visit. Rapprochement with Iran ran up against the recent elections. It’s not much to base a grand evaluation on.
For a useful corrective check out, of all things, a recent Foreign Affairs essay. Deepak Malhotra writes that a “wise foreign policy errs on the side of negotiation and removes as many impediments to diplomacy as possible. Carelessly conceived preconditions remain among the greatest barriers to achieving negotiated peace.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of peace and negotiations, the recent Japanese elections, which brought the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to power, are good news for the anti-nuclear movement. “Pointing to the nation’s ‘Three Non-Nuclear Principles’ — a 1967 government pledge not to possess, manufacture, or introduce nuclear weapons into Japan — Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama promised to work to codify these principles into law,” writes FPIF contributor Lawrence Wittner in Japan’s Election and Anti-Nuclear Momentum. “Nor is the party’s antinuclear vision limited to Japan. The DPJ endorses a regional nuclear-free zone. And as recently as this August, Hatoyama told a public gathering that ‘realizing a nuclear-free world as called for by U.S. President Barack Obama is exactly the moral mission of our country.’”
Chomsky v. Williams Part Two
In a final round of comments, FPIF contributors Noam Chomsky and Ian Williams debate U.S. actions in Kosovo and East Timor. At issue in Kosovo: Is NATO responsible in any way for the human rights violations that took place in Kosovo after its bombing of Serbia in 1999?
Williams, writes Chomsky, “pretends not to understand the difference between ‘perpetrate’ and ‘precipitate’ (my accurate paraphrase of Clark’s warning). He writes that the bombing provided ‘an opportunity’ for which Milosevic had been waiting. Perhaps true, but if so that clearly reinforces the conclusion of General Clark and the White House that the NATO bombing would precipitate these crimes, as it did.”
Williams responds that “I can indeed tell the difference between perpetrating and precipitating. His use of ‘precipitating’ in this context is an outstanding example of the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc: after this, so because of it. Hence, all the atrocities that followed the bombing are to be attributed to the bombing. Once again, he is faulty both in logic and in fact.”
FPIF, September 8, 2009