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A Frenchie travelling the world...

30 June 2007

Global dominance and military strategy

Dear readers,

I was struck today by a report on CNN about the current situation of military operations in Afghanistan. Amongst news of massive killings of civilians, due to indiscriminate air strikes in the Helmand province, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, warned the NATO forces that it was reaching an intolerable level. The analyst interviewed in this context explained that NATO commanders in Afghanistan have admitted that they have not enough troops on the ground to do the job. They have to call air strikes even when they suspect civilian death are likely to occur. They simply can't send soldiers to assault the place themselves.

On top of the humanitarian aspect, this calls a serious strategy issue. In the traditional American (and NATO) strategic thinking, global military dominance can only be reached if the USA are able to fight two medium intensity conflicts at the same time and still keep enough reserves to hold the national "sanctuary". Afghanistan and the Iraqi wars are medium intensity conflict, meaning that NATO or US forces there are fighting a guerrilla rather than classic forces. And despite this, it is pretty obvious for observers that NATO and US forces are unable to end these conflicts in a satisfactory manner. I am not even speaking about winning, as this word has little significance in guerrilla warfare. It seems that the USA especially (but most NATO countries have a similar or even worse problem) simply don't have enough men anymore to win two wars simultaneously. Or even to win only one of them.

This is not just a question of numbers, I believe, but also of the type of equipment used as well as the tactics on the ground. It is very difficult, if not simply impossible to win a guerrilla war without actually occupying the ground with infantry. The problem is of course also geographic. Sustaining important forces in countries such as Afghanistan or Iraq is a logistics nightmare. Afghanistan especially has extremely high mountains and an unforgiving climate. Both countries have large desert areas as well as relatively densely populated cities. The latter are also battlefields which actually demand very high concentration of infantry forces. All in all, it seems that if the Afghanistan conflict could probably have been dealt with alone by NATO, the insistence of the USA and UK to also attack Iraq have proved disastrous for both operations. Even a conflict were it would have been relatively easy to win hearts and minds such as Afghanistan (where NATO forces enjoyed a relatively high level of popular support) is now more and more difficult to win.

There might be a point in a not so far future where NATO and the USA will have to evacuate both places. It would have been the demonstration of the French proverb: "qui court après deux lièvres n'en attrape aucun". Or in English: "who hunts two hares catches none".

27 June 2007

Tony Blair

Dear readers,

This is just an extra note in reaction to Tony Blair's proposed nomination as head of the "Quartet" team for the Middle-East conflict. As noted in several Arab newspapers today, Tony Blair seems to be a very strange choice for such a function. Al Quds quotes his remorseless participation to the Iraqi disaster, and it is an obvious one. The Arab newspaper also claims that Tony Blair has a bias towards Israel, which is less obvious to me. But I see another serious problem in letting Blair head the Quartet team. Blair does can't decently represent the EU in the Quartet, considering he always favored the USA when he was Prime Minister. Worse, his obvious ideological proximity with Georges W. Bush makes him a marked man, not so much biased towards Israel than towards the USA. I strongly believe that if Russia and the EU vote him in the position, they will have to regret it dearly later on. He is just too unreliable.

The Eu and YouTube

Dear readers,

The European Union and its European Commission are making desperate attempts to appeal to more of its citizens. An important mission, more important in my eyes than the disastrous conference of last week. I don't know if most EU citizens will, like me, feel truly Europeans instead of only English, French, German, Polish or Dutch. But knowing why we are doing this together is an important step. A step the infamous Kaczynski brothers have probably forgotten (if they ever realized it). I guess their twin couple would be more at ease in an episode of Fawlty Towers than in EU negotiations they despise anyway.

But the point is that the EU has decided to use modern tools to do this. And what could be more trendy and modern than YouTube? At least, that is what the civil servants of the Communication DG have thought. So they put all kinds of EU related and EU promo videos on a YouTube site. It's worth a look, even if most of the videos are a bit lame. At least the series "If the EU didn't exist..." is quite a laugh. So, enjoy !

26 June 2007

An Amended Treaty for the the EU

Dear readers,

The conference presided by Germany and which was supposed to relaunch the EU construction, stalled by France and the Netherlands, has been presented by Angela Merkel as a success. My first reaction would be to say: we should be preserved from such success in the future, because I don't see what a failure would have had worse. But let's analyze a bit what happened.

The intergovernmental conference in Brussels lasted a bit longer than foreseen, but that is a very usual feature with these negotiations. What actually happened behind the doors of the conference rooms was unfortunately not worth the time spent on it (paid, may I remind you, with our hard won euros). It was one of the worse pieces of haggling and bitter bickering that the EU has seen. Everyone was ready to take concessions from others but none was ready to offer something for the common good. The result is up to the lack of good will. Even Poland managed to get its way, despite its ridiculous claims (opposed by all the 26 other members). Somebody was so frightened to see them walk out that they actually managed to impose a point on the voting system that wasn't even in the list of items at the conference.

Thanks to the twin "jerk" brothers in Warsaw, the completely inefficient voting system from the Nice Treaty will be kept until 2014 and, for some areas deemed "important" by member states (understand Poland or future other jerks discretionary decision) until 2017. This is sad enough already, but it isn't the end of it. Most of the items in the Constitution project which were trying to put some spirit in the Union, some visibility (and by it some democracy) in its functioning, have been scrapped or badly damaged. Gone is the official adoption of its flag, anthem, motto and other symbols. Like such things could harm the petty nationalism of some member states? This is ridiculous, sad, but ridiculous. I don't know who asked for this, but you can bet the UK is behind. It's typically the type of decision which would (temporarily) please the readers of The Sun. Gone is also (and at the request of the same country) the EU Foreign Minister, replaced by a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. How can anyone take such a title seriously?

But more important maybe than the symbolic aspects, everybody has bitten chunks of a text which should have remained simple and readable. The only serious flaw of the late Constitution was its lack of readability, and that flaw has been actually made worse. On top of this, countries have won the right to opt out from the common justice and security policy. The UK have asked for this and obtained it. But it means again that they are not showing any kind of commitment to Europe. Everybody can see, even, I am sure, Her Majesty's police forces, that a common policy in this domain is vital to fight international crime, terrorism or illegal immigration. But the UK will prefer endanger its own citizens rather than bow to the EU. The stupidity of politicians, their lack of vision will be paid dearly in the future. But hey, they don't care, they will get reelected because they will have gotten a "victory" in Brussels last week-end.

Poor Europe and poor Europeans. Do we deserve this? I guess yes. After all, we have got the politicians we have voted for. And French and Dutch citizens bear even more responsibility. It's after all their fault if all this happened. By voting no, they have killed a great project and made all this possible. It is saddening but true. The two countries which were maybe the most willing builders of the European ideas have betrayed it in the most stupid way.

I don't see what the future will get us. But I am not optimistic (one used to say that I was a cynic and that one was right). The only way of rebuilding what's left of the EU, with all its opt-out clauses, temporary systems and impaired institutions, would be I think to go it alone with a group of countries whose citizens and politicians have a bit more vision than the others. I don't even know for sure that these countries exist. But I guess Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and Luxembourg are the most obvious ones. They should invite the historical ones to follow them (us French and Dutch, for instance) and hopefully we will see our mistakes. But I believe they should simply drop out (instead of opting out) the ones that don't really want to participate. Then we will see who owns the future. The old nation states like the UK or Poland or the new humanist European dream?

25 June 2007

I'll be back !

Dear readers,

I must apologize deeply for not having there for so long. So sorry... Well, I have good reasons for it too. I got a new job for a month, with a lot of work and a lot of training too. It was nice and interesting, but unfortunately, it didn't turn out as the job of my dreams. And where there is no motivation, there is also no results, I guess. Which means that they asked me to leave at the end of the trial period.

Okay, I have to admit, it is humiliating. But, hey, what does not kill you makes you stronger. So I guess I have learned my lesson. I will never ever again try to do something I am not qualified for. And I'll stop dreaming and get a real job which fits what I know I am good at.

So if you hear about something... You know what to do! ;-)

03 June 2007

Interviewed

Dear readers,

Sorry for not writing anything in the last days. But it is for a good reason: I have been working a lot for my new job. Apart from this, great news: I have been interviewed. You can look at my answers about the expatriate life here. You can even see my face... lol... Quite a scoop, I guess.

Unfortunately, the good news stop there. I am officially completely broke. The unemployment money for last month didn't arrive. Which means I am in a very dire situation, money wise. I guess I'll have to eat potatoes in the coming months before I can actually party again... :-(