By Vexen Crabtree 2008
By looking at the way present international military conflicts are resolved we arrive at critical conclusions about the international status quo. Ad hoc coalitions have not been working well and national armies have continued to drain the resources in developing regions, and are highly inefficient in developed countries. I argue for the creation of a permanent international military force and examine the roles and possibilities of some existing regional military organisations, concluding that there are many advantages in forming such a Uniforce, but that the work required to found it is great.
The creation of a permanent international army under the auspices of the United Nations, along the lines of the peacekeepers (but representing hard power, rather than soft), has been suggested many times in history and the pros and cons have been hotly debated by political theorists. Smaller continental military unions exist, such as the African Union's forces, or have been proposed, such as Mr Lamers suggestion that France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Austria build a "common core" of a European army. An argument against this was proposed by a French military head, who said that military integration without political integration will not work1. But the sometimes-success of the African Union's troops proves him wrong in principal. NATO is a hardly a political union, yet its forces have acted effectively in many parts of the globe. Continental military forces can be effective, and we will see that a worldwide force has not only the potential to be more effective than the UN's Blue Helmets, but is necessary for world peace.
“The justification of such proposals [...] to safeguard individual countries through the establishment of international institutions should be explained. In order to obtain this security, international treaties are needed for common defense against an aggressor. These treaties are necessary, but are not in themselves sufficient. One more step should be taken. Military means of defence should be internationalized, merging and exchanging forces on such a broad scale that military forces stationed in any one country are not withheld for that country's exclusive goals.”
Einstein's unique contribution to this discussion is his deliberation that an international military force cannot be used unilaterally, because of its nature. To divide such a force for nationalistic purposes cannot work, the same as you cannot wield a portion of a weapon.
Sam Harris explains that in cases of intervention for humanitarian ends such as in Iraq, an authorized international force is essential.
“We should, I think, look upon modern despotisms as hostage crises. Kim Jong II has thirty million hostages. Saddam Hussein had twenty-five million. The clerics in Iran have seventy million more. It does not matter that many hostages have been so brainwashed that they will fight their would-be liberators to the death. They are held prisoner twice over - by tyranny and by their own ignorance. The developed world must, somehow, come to their rescue. Jonathan Glover seems right to suggest that we need "something along the lines of a strong and properly funded permanent UN force, together with clear criteria for intervention and an international court to authorize it." We can say it more simply: we need a world government. How else will a war between the United States and China ever become as unlikely as a war between Texas and Vermont?”
"The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris (2006)3
After fifty years of the EU, war between ancient rivals such as France and the UK does seem "as unlikely as a war between Texas as Vermont", and this is because the political and economic identities of European states has been brought closer together by the union. A European-wide military force would make sense, and, as Harris points out, an international one would make even more sense in preventing war between individual nations. If the Blue Helmets were permanent with a mandate to intervene against any illegal war, rapidly, such wars would not be practically possible and would end quicker. But more than this, perhaps Harris' point is that if any country develops religious beliefs that are more likely to lead it into war, then, such a country would be contained by the international will of the rest of the world with more clarity than at present.
“We are living in a world of confrontations and conflicts rather than of war and peace”
"The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World" by Gen. Sir Rupert Smith (2005)4
We have passed into an era where there are few wars and many conflicts. The British Chief of the General Staff (2007)5 explains that there are no longer clear-cut ends of conflicts. The ebb and flow of opinion has become part of extended wars of attrition, which has replaced the idea of clear 'winning or losing' or 'victory or defeat', he says.
“There is an acceptance in many circles that we now conduct operations rather than wars. [...] We live in a condition of continuous confrontation and conflict [and] even if military action is successful the confrontation will remain. [...] It is no longer practical for the politicians and diplomats to expect the military to solve the problem by force, nor is it practical for the military to plan and execute a purely military campaign, or in many cases take tactical action, without placing it within the political context, with both politicians and the military adjusting context and plan accordingly throughout the operation as the situation evolves. There is no longer industrial war: the enemies are no longer the Third Reich or Japan, who posed absolute and clear threats in recognizable groupings.”
"The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World" by Gen. Sir Rupert Smith (2005)4
Large national armies can no longer satisfy the needs of modern conflicts. Forces need to be multinational in order to win the political game that comes with continuous confrontation with non-governmental forces. Displays of international solidarity aids the cause of peace against troublemakers. Shows of strength by individual countries (unilateral power) is often the fuel that feeds rebellions' fires. For decades, most national armies have done very little but cause the trouble that international forces have been assembled to quell. History, like commerce, has moved beyond the idea of national army protecting national interests. Now, an international army must protect international interests. National armies have become a hindrance to the free development of peace.
The 'Uni' of Uniforce implies universality, unitedness and uniformity, and 'force' correctly differentiates it from the United Nations peacekeepers - who would no doubt remain in existence (along with the distinctive blue helmets) as an important part of Uniforce. Peace-keeping missions would see the blue helmet regiments deployed, where interventionist wars against despots would wear a green, military, helmet.
“The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven.”
Albert Einstein6 (1921)
A new globalised era has affected all walks of life, both social and political. Albert Einstein commented in 1921 on the way that now events could cascade throughout the continents, meaning no country was isolated from any other6. This global connectivity has continued to increase. Unfortunately, there has also been a globalizing of international security threats.
“New global politics [...] emerged after the Cold War. Today, terrorists born in Riyadh and trained in Kandahar hatch deadly plots in Hamburg to fly airplanes into buildings in New York. Such interconnection means that developments in one place affect the security, prosperity, and well-being of citizens everywhere. NATO has recognized that the best (and at times the only) defense against such remote dangers is to tackle them at their source. Such forward defense often requires a global military reach: helicopters to deliver supplies to disaster zones and evacuate the injured; command, control, and reconnaissance capabilities to sustain peacekeeping missions, and experienced military officers to train local security forces. [NATO is too limited, and] only a true global alliance can address the global challenges of the day.”
Daalder & Goldgeier (2006)7
The United Nations in 2004 explicitly accepted the facts of the new globalized paradigm in security. A recurring theme of the Our Shared Responsibility document "is the necessity for all members of the international community, developed and developing States alike, to be much more forthcoming in providing and supporting deployable military resources" for the countering of global threats8. These deployable resources are for international rather than national use.
International norms are emerging governing the role of multinational forces in world events, even where those events are subnational. For some time it has been increasingly clear and unilateralism is no longer an appropriate response, especially in any matter that effects security. The philosopher Bertrand Russell had already published an article in Atlantic Monthly in 1915, arguing against the general use of force, but permitting it "when it is ordered in accordance with law by a neutral authority, in the general interest and not primarily in the interest of one of the parties to the quarrel"9. This new paradigm, that of justified last-resort violence, has found its voice this decade. The Westphalia consensus, where countries are forbidden in interfering in other's internal affairs, has given way to a consensus that a 'responsibility to protect' ("R2P" in international nomenclature) exists to protect all citizens against mass abuse, even if it means insulting national sovereignties. "Sovereignty", says Thomas Franck, a Professor of Law, "is not what it used to be. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the global system began to take humanitarian crimes more seriously. The U.N. barely hesitated before telling even quite seriously sovereign states - Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and the United States - to emancipate their colonies. And they did" (2001)10. Multiple portions of international law and international precedents now work together to create a new global accountability.
Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), States have undertaken to prevent and punish any agents of genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, as it is a crime under international law. "The principal of non-intervention in internal affairs cannot be used to protect genocidal acts or other atrocities, such as large-scale violations of international humanitarian law or large-scale ethnic cleansing"8.
"There is a growing recognition [of] the "responsibility to protect" of every State when it comes to people suffering from avoidable catastrophe - mass murder and rape, ethnic cleansing by forcible expulsion and terror, and deliberate starvation and exposure to disease. [...] The primary focus should be on assisting the cessation of violence through mediation and other tools and [...] force, if it needs to be used, should be deployed as a last resort"8.
Developed States "have particular responsibilities, and should do more to transform their existing force capacities into suitable contingents for peace operations"8. Most armies are still configured for cold-war duties, something which is now suitable for the hyper-mobile security affairs of a globalized world.
The political theorist David Chandler says that there has been a significant drift in international foreign policy towards altruistic intervention even in regions where there is no national self-interest. This "growing emphasis on ethical or moral duties" underlies R2P instincts11. Globalisation has meant that open governments now want to be seen as good moral agents and not just on their own turf. Military actions are, thankfully, only considered legal when endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. Otherwise rogue states could claim R2P rights and invade neighbours out of malice (thinly) disguised as altruism, and over-zealous do-gooders could cause more harm than good through a contrary militarisation of global good will.
Criticisms of R2P frequently allure to the fear that it is a new form of moral colonialism. Another is that it is an undemocratic principal11.
To deal with the first criticism it is probably enough to point out that from the point of the victims of genocide, etc, no moral argument can be great enough to prevent an attempt to save large numbers of lives and livelihoods. It may be that universal human rights result from Western morals that value individuals more than communities but, R2P applies to occasions when entire communities are being destroyed, so it seems pointless to invoke communal values in objection to intervention. Prof. Franck, already introduced, says that such values are rational conclusions that are not actually culturally specific10 and therefore are values that should be universal, even where they are not.
The second criticism may be fair enough, but we can note that in a globalized world, the citizens of countries whose governments deploy troops overseas are aware enough to organize themselves - as they do - into protest groups on behalf of the alien country's citizens. The wars against Iraq and Afghanistan saw massive protests outside Parliament in the UK, for example, including native representatives from both those countries. Globalized military intervention only occurs where globalisation has already become entrenched and in such places, democracy itself is already global. The criticism that R2P is undemocratic would only hold if there was no free press, and no freedom of association, but these are deeply entrenched values in all the European countries that commit forces globally.
The large national armies employed by modern developed states make little sense, especially in developed regions such as the EU. Stelzenmuller (2006) argues that European states cannot afford full-spectrum militaries, which is why they have fallen behind the USA en masse12. In small countries, he says, "independent defence posture makes little if any practical sense". It is hard to imagine what states like Luxembourg, Switzerland or even the Netherlands and Belgium, really gain from their military forces. It seems that national armies are no longer in the national interest; Europe as a whole needs combined defence. But why just Europe? If such a force can be created, it should be able to defend every country in every continent against attack. If an international military force is established, there will be less need overall for the massive offensive armies retained by today's powers. Much of the surplus can be changed into a defensive, mostly part-time home guard.
A study for the European Parliament in 2006 highlighted the fact that NATO Europe maintains several different models of tank and 11 types of frigate (whereas American only maintains one type of each), and sixteen types of armoured vehicle against 3 in America13. All these varieties require factories, contracts, research costs, warehouses, maintenance schedules and supply chains.
“Europeans have only been able to purchase between ten and 20 per cent of American capabilities even though Europeans spend between 50 and 60 per cent as much on defence as the Americans. This asymmetrical outcome is related to several factors. First, procurement decisions are made on a national basis. Second, Europeans defence expenditures are overwhelmingly devoted to personnel costs. Third, the unit costs of major weapons systems are higher for Europeans owing to the relatively large number of small-scale defence firms, fragmented markets and the desire to protect the national defence industrial base.”
James Sperling (2006)14
The pooling of European resources into an international military conglomerate on an open market would rectify Sperling's first and third points on European defense. If ten countries contribute to the costs of a single model of tank, then, it is as if research costs have become a tenth of what they were when those ten countries researched their own unilateral models. When such economies of scale apply across the full range of military equipment and training, the savings are staggering. For example, the massive costs of the Typhoon (Eurofighter) were shared by a collection of countries, who have now sold the aircraft to countries such as Greece, Austria and Saudi Arabia, completely eliminating the need for research and development, and construction, in those countries. Construction of the aircraft was also shared; with different companies specializing in the manufacture of different parts. For this reason the army chiefs of Norway, Sweden and Finland drew up a report that noted 140 areas of possible co-ordinations, largely based on the cost benefits and Sten Tolgfors, Sweden's defence minister, has suggested sharing airbases with Norway15.
It has been shown that in war-torn regions, local wars impact the economy of the whole neighbourhood. It is in everyone's interest that even remote regional wars are ended quickly. A knock-on effect of conflict is an immediate increase in military spending in all recovering countries, and such spending is inefficient. Paul Collier, Professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies, argues that international peace-keeping forces make much more economic sense and is beneficial to the entire region (and therefore to the world economy at large).
“Military spending by post-conflict governments is highly dysfunctional. This intervention is all costs and no benefits. By contrast, external military peace-keeping interventions appear to be highly cost effective.”
Prof. Paul Collier (2004)16
As poverty is a leading cause of civil unrest, it holds that rapid international military intervention benefits the world as a whole in the long term. Also, the curbing of national expenditure on military forces achieves the same aim.
Thankfully, in his political dystopia 1984, George Orwell's world's superstates are tired and exhausted and there appears to be no real military movement. In real life, however, the African Union, the Europe Union, Russia and China are all (gradually or quickly) developing potential world-class armies. Once, small countries were subsumed under Moscow's oversight. Now, smaller countries gravitate to the European Union. We might be seeing the coagulation of military forces into a few political blocs that are divided by ideology. Europe and the USA are heavily divided on foreign policy, Russia is divided from both those Western blocs by history. China is an unknown but seems certain to field, in the future, an army of superpower character. The African Union for now is purely inwards-looking, but we might find that one decade, it becomes assertive, just as NATO itself went global once the Iron Curtain fell. It only requires some imagination to imagine a superpower USA, a superpower Europe, a resurgent Russia, a fresh Chinese power, and an African Union force, populating George Orwell's world of permanent war.
For now, the consensus-building methods of the EU and AU is a good fortifier of peace. But when you have political blocs divided by ideology, with distinct military personalities, you run the risk of an arms race and war. Where there is such fuel, sparks will be found. Admitting the likelihood of continued problems in the Middle East, some political theorists (although pleased about current progress) are worried about the future. Carl Conetta and Charles Knight (1995) at the Project on Defense Alternatives say that risk of "the reemergence of hostile power blocks -- is one the world cannot afford", and proposed setting up a permanent United Nations standing Army17. Their logic of 1995 (developed, they say, in 1992, and proposed by others before then) still holds today. We have already seen Einstein in 1934 argue that only the creation of an international military can curb the potential nightmares of national war2, and Orwell, Conetta and Knight merely point out that fragmenting the world into alliances is hardly better, as history has shown.
If nation-states are leaning towards regional alliances, it stands to reason that the same earmarked troops might as well go towards a United Nations standing army; therefore sidestepping the future issue of armed regional blocs facing off.
Coalitions of the willing have replaced NATO. The phrase to describe this new paradigm was coined by the American former Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. He said that instead of NATO, the future centers around "coalitions of the willing"18. The USA's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review highlights the Pentagon's favouring of "dynamic partnerships" rather than static alliances like NATO19. A State Department official says "we 'ad hoc' our way through coalitions of the willing. That's the future"20. But this new status quo in international military affairs does not work well, and undermines international law in the long run.
When a conflict erupts, heads of states will meet, sometimes under NATO auspices, and agree on what forces to commit to any required military reaction. This process takes time, and most the time in recent decades, only a few countries will actively get involved. Reactions to international incidents has been slow and sometimes non-existent. This new American-led status quo hasn't been working so well. Although ISAF, in Afghanistan, consists of all 26 NATO members, it also involves 10 non-NATO members (why call this 'NATO'?), and the mission is still under-manned. Such coalitions are unpredictable and unreliable, even when they happen to involve all of NATO.
NATO allows for national vetoes for when some States wish to engage and others do not. These vetoes are the spanner-in-the-works of ad hoc coalitions, and always will be. NATO can no longer rely on any given member state to support any given action, and even those that do give troops frequently limit their involvement, for example Germany troops in Afghanistan (under ISAF, under NATO) are limited to Kabul, and these limitations also caused headaches in NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia19.
NATO's old-style "static alliance" paradigm submerged itself last decade and hasn't since returned. The new 'dynamic partnerships' and ad-hoc 'coalitions of the willing' are a broken and unreliable replacement. National caveats and unpredictable troop levels have undermined such temporary alliances. Whether we reform NATO or subsume it into a new global structure, the future must be to create a permanent force that is not subject to national interests, but to international ones. Such a force, under the United Nations, would grant both predictable military capability and political coherency to the international agenda.
'Blue Helmets' is the colloquial term give to United Nations peacekeeper forces, recognized by their distinctive light blue helmets. There have been over 60 UN peacekeeping missions since their first encounter in Israel, 1948. The Blue Helmets do not constitute a stable, permanent 'army': for every mission, countries volunteer new forces: "it can take the Secretary-General and the UN staff months to secure even the small contributions of forces and equipment needed to staff the mission - months in which the humanitarian disasters continue to claim victims"21. Sometimes this delays, or even forbids, the required action, and deployments have sometimes been too small to be effective. This has led to failures in such places as Bosnia, Central Africa, Sierra Leone and Somalia. This shortcoming has resulted in genocides continuing, despite the UN's conviction to stop them, whilst troops are gathered and deals made with governments. Clearly, there is scope to do much better, and the most rational, effective solution is to create a united democratic world army.
Tying together the themes laid out above, the economic advantages of pooled military resources and the peace-ensuring nature of a pan-continental force as opposed to nationalist armies, Timothy Murithi summarizes the position of the African Union (AU) on its continued establishment of an African-wide peacekeeping force:
“The AU intends to achieve much more in terms of integrating the African defence forces and reducing the overall costs that individual countries have to spend in financing their own military forces. This would in effect herald the creation of a Pan-African Armed Forces. This idea was championed by Kwame Nkrumah during the era of decolonization in Africa in the early 1960's. [...] The idea has gestated over the intervening forty odd years and now the sentiment is that an integrated continental armed force is necessary to conduct police action and peacekeeping operations across the continent. The obstacle of course is that many African governments, or rather the regimes of dubious legitimacy that control them, still retain egotistical state-centric attitudes. [...] The AU plans to have its own Pan-African Stand-by Rapid-Reaction force composed of 15,000 troops by the year 2010.”
"The African Union: Pan-Africanism, Peacebuilding and Development" by Timothy Murithi (2005)22
The infant AU forces are sometimes more symbolic than effective, such as the 300-strong deterrent force in Darfur (Sudan, 2004). But as the aim is to enact AU intervention before situations escalate23, its permanent-natured force has much potential about it; and indeed, it has already acted quickly and effectively in many African conflicts, contributing well to the struggle for African peace. 2007 saw the construction of a combined UN and AU force for Sudan (because its government does not trust the UN)24. Although some observers think that this is merely the United Nations "dressed up in the green helmets of the AU"24, it should hopefully be a sign of things to come when the UN does indeed assemble missions out of existing, permanent forces, sometimes being comprised of local continental forces if that is what is required. The enabling factor is the core provision of UN personnel, a provision that would be greatly enhanced if there was a harder permanent military force to draw upon, rather than just the Blue Helmets.
If only all continents housed such permanent reactionary forces for the United Nations in collaboration with such a force! Their effectiveness has been proven in the cases where the United Nations and/or the African Union have deployed forces; even when such forces fail the fact is that they sometimes succeed. The establishment of a permanent Uniforce is proven in principle. The Blue Helmets would form a Corps within Uniforce.
International journals and military forums have been full of talk of the irrelevance and anachronistic nature of NATO25. The same journals contain many essays and defences of NATO's invaluable nature, frequently filled with examples of successful NATO interventions. Clearly, the NATO structure continues to be useful, and its meetings are in-demand. There is no other practical way for modern, democratic states to meet and discuss military issues19. NATO has a string of camps and HQs where debates can be held. It acts as a military playground, and although some of the actors frequently fall out, the games still continue. I have been arguing for the creation of an international military force, and, it seems that NATO already has much of the political and physical assets required for such a force.
NATO was reformed in 2003, and went global. In its own parlance, it accepted that to continue to function in a globalised world, it had to cease to distinguish between 'in-area' and 'out-of-area' operations. It still limits its membership to American and European countries, however, and it still has no substantial standing forces. National vetoes mean that many NATO missions fall short of the required manpower19, and can lead to difficulty in planning for operations until it is known which countries will take part. It behaves erratically and inconsistently. The reforms fixed NATO's scope; now, more reforms need to fix its nature. As long as it remains USA-dominated instead of United Nations-dominated (with the former's adoption of dynamic alliances), it cannot evolve into a consistent army.
NATO also has the additional restriction that it will only work with democracies. If NATO is to become Uniforce, this needs to change. Any country should be able to grant troops to work under Uniforce. Take the African Union for example. According to Zweifel, the AU is the least democratic of all the major, regional and international supranational bodies (such as UN, EU, etc)26, yet, its military force has consistently been used as a force for good. There is no need for artificial limitations; telling dictatorial countries that they cannot participate in Uniforce will only mean their national forces continue to brew unilaterally. NATO must discard its history, otherwise it will cease to operate as a military alliance, and continue its slide into a 'mere' talking shop. In 2003 the NATO Supreme Commander James Jones said that "if the attempt at defense transformation fails, the alliance may lose its military value"27. The transformation is only half complete.
The European Union does not have any standing forces of its own; even its proposed reaction force, the ERRF, exists very much more on paper than in reality - the fact that its forces "remain under national control and may only be sent with the agreement of the national governments. The government decides on a case-by-case basis which forces, if any, they send from the pool they have pledged"28 means that the forces are subject to all the disadvantages of ad hoc "dynamic alliances", a system which has already proven to be dysfunctional and militarily unpredictable, which are limitations the article just quoted acknowledges even though it is offering a defence of present European progress in Defence (its ESDP). Such limitations are overcome through the national abdication of their forces to a unified force under a unified command.
Some political theorists hold that the dominance of NATO actively discourages the creation of intra-European capability, partially because everything that a European force would do, is already done by NATO29. Nonetheless, on 2003 Apr 29 four EU states; Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg, proposed to set up an EU operational HQ30.
“A fully-fledged EU operational HQ would offer all Member States, including those incapable of setting up a national structure, the chance to participate, stimulating the harmonization of doctrine, a sense of joint ownership, and the emergence of a European espirit de corps, while avoiding additional unnecessary intra-EU duplication. This solution does constitute duplication with NATO, in particular with SHAPE, but not an unnecessary one, in view of the need to safeguard EU autonomy.”
Sven Biscop (2006)30
Although some in NATO encourage European military self-help, it responded by offering an EU cell within SHAPE as an alternative to a EU Mil HQ30. SHAPE is NATO's second HQ, based in Brussels. Sven Biscop argues that there should be a EU-owned SHAPE that NATO can use, "providing of course for permanent involvement of the US", rather than the current situation, a NATO-owned SHAPE that EU can use under the Berlin Plus arrangement. There is not yet an idea that a European HQ should provide the hub for a United Nations universal force, instead of either the over-busy NATO or a fledgling EU force. But by setting a pace of change, an EU Mil HQ can only be encouraged.
We conclude at the end of this page that Uniforce will work with a free market system whereby Uniforce procurement contracts are placed on a competitive market. This is precisely what the European Defence Agency (EDA) was founded for in 2004.
“The first major achievement was the approval by Ministers of a voluntary Code of Conduct on defence procurement in November 2005. This decision marked a turning point: it changed the establish practice of exempting defence procurement from cross-border competition under art. 296 of the EC treaties. On 1 July 2006 the Code of Conduct became operational. The subscribing Member States now publish their contract opportunities on the Agency´s website.”
European Defence Agency website
The EDA's report for 2006 informs us that in the EU, 23% of procurement expenditure was done in liaison by at least two Ministries for Defence, totalling over €6 billion in value. Even if such schemes only ever exist on a regional level, the advantages of broadening defence markets in terms of efficiency and economic prudency are great, as we have seen in this text.
I have argued that an International Military Force should eradicate the need for expensive duplication as peaceful countries all maintain their own offensive forces. Territorial armies can be trained for defensive purposes only, with unimaginably vast saving accrued on a continent-by-continent basis. Non-globalised and non-willing countries will probably retain their offensive armies for decades if not centuries. And individual countries will want to retain some offensive assets. These will be used for rapid, emergency missions and small incursions into foreign soil for specific national aims (such as the rescue of nationals). Sometimes, a defensive force does need to operate abroad. Such special operations forces are likely to be comprised of a country's best and most elite forces, but, they could never wage an offensive war on their own due to their small numbers. It is unlikely any country will forego its access to its own most elite troops for a hundred years from the founding of a Uniforce. First, an international force would have to prove that its rapid reaction corps is capable, effective, impartial and stable over a timespan of many decades. Before then, no large country will completely de-boot its prized forces.
Some work is required to create the structure on which a Uniforce could sit. The following needs to happen:
The Uniforce Council, under the United Nations, needs to be chaired by countries with a proven track record of international co-operation. It should automatically accept any members of NATO. These Council Members are expected to provide a proportionate number of Units in accordance with their Country's geography and population size, taking into account historical details.
Troops, once committed to Uniforce, need to move to Uniforce military camps and train permanently with other Uniforce units, and serve time (i.e., 4 years) in Uniforce. During their time of service, these units do not respond to their own National command, and they cannot be withdrawn en mass.
My page "General Neophobia in Everyday Life: Humankind's Fear of Progress and Change" by Vexen Crabtree (2009) traces a few historical battles between progress (such as wearing camouflaged uniforms) and those who worried that changes in defence were too dangerous to contemplate. Experiments in pooled defence have so far proved successful and stabilizing, but, there are few attempts to explain this to the general public.
“Despite the advantages of pooled military defence, there is much public concern about things such as combined European defence, even though the advantages far outweigh the theoretical disadvantages. Because it is big, and new, there is much opposition to it even though the status-quos in international defence are widely acknowledged to be broken. [...]
Media coverage of the ESDP (common European defence policy) has been entirely negative, despite the commendation of senior military experts and diplomats in Europe. In the future, when a European or International military force exists, historians will look back and puzzle over what our problems were.”
There must be more effort to explain to the public the massive costs and disadvantages of having nearly every nation maintain world-faring military forces, to explain that some developed countries only have a defensive force (look at Switzerland) and have not been immediately invaded by their neighours, and that the African Union proves the principal of pooled defence. In practice, NATO and Europe are operating as if they had a unified worldwide force, and deploy it where is necessary. It makes sense to formalize this, so that it can be strengthened and made more dependable. But the public do not hear anything of these ideas or debates - they exist only in specialized military journals. While the mass media, which is inherently sensationalist and nationalist, is the main voice on international military issues, most people receive reactionary information that is biased against intra-national accords.
Uniforce Units will be populated by troops from any Sending Member of the Uniforce Council. Personnel are not linked with home units, and can be posted to any Uniforce camp in any location. This will provide Sending Members a massive scope for their soldier's career, with far more locations being available throughout the world that would ever be possible with regional-restricted or national-restricted forces.
To start off with, personnel and equipment would be highly incompatible. Two factors will overcome this. Uniforce units can overcome this firstly by having certain classes of equipment become a speciality of certain Sending Members. For example, 1 Inf Uniforce Battalion could use German rifles and weaponry, but might exclusively use British comms and Lithuanian logistics. Secondly, as the defence industry integrates, equipment will become subject to industrial standards. "There is nothing novel about multilingual and cross-border defence cooperation in Europe" says Merry Waye, "there has already been considerable progress [...] as in the creation of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space multinational conglomerate"29. Uniforce-wide research and development (either in-house or out-sourced on the market) will breed mass compatibility as multinational weapons systems are developed by defence conglomerates. These will reduce the requirement for each individual Member to indulge in their own research and supply chains, therefore achieving massive savings due to economies of scale and mass specialized production.
Sending Members will be able to assert that certain equipment will remain with their own specialist engineers if required. The equipment and such support personnel remain under Uniforce command and can be located anywhere as appropriate, according to military need.
Sending Members will provide assets equivalent to a specified level of Military Value Units (MVU) per year. A MVU will be a negotiable and measurable quantity of physical military assets. For example, providing an entire military camp or a certain number of infantry personnel or other equipment, or logistical support, will count as certain quantities of MVU. A 20-year lease of a camp would have a large MUV, for example. Such assets are not thereafter under the control of the Sending Member, and no National veto can restrict their use. The current system of ad-hoc vetoes has disabled military coalitions, and the creation of a permanent and predictable Force is necessary.
Countries can pool resources in order to reach their required level of MVU provision. For example the Baltic States could provide a single camp in (say) Latvia. Then, Estonia and Lithuania would reimburse Latvia for the costs incurred. That way, all three countries divide the costs of the provision, and all three can meet their combined MVU with a joint effort.
The final stages of the creation of Uniforce will see its structure become separate from the idea of National assets. Personnel in any country will be free to enlist directly into Uniforce, and will spend their military careers solely in Uniforce units. All equipment will be multinational, produced by contracts with civilian companies that are competed for on world markets. This will ensure that manufacturing remains at competitive prices, and markets will no longer be broken into smaller pieces due to National sensitivities over where military kit is produced. At this point, all Members of the United Nations will be providing MUVs per year, so that the Force no longer needs any States to maintain their own militaries (although Members can retain defensive forces, as discussed). Once this level of integration and ascension has been reached, large-scale war will no longer be possible. All missions will be interventionist, and rogue states will be deterred from military invasions.
Savings and efficiencies will accrue for multiple reasons:
Reduced requirement for each nation to indulge in their own research and supply chains.
Economies of scale resulting from equipment being provided for a larger consumer base than individual national militaries.
Specialized production instead of national duplication.
Market competition in a world free market will reduce international net contract costs.
Defense firms can adhere to an industrial standard body, therefore achieving not only compatibility between new inter-national assets, but between any successive replacement equipments.
A permanent international military force with its own international training camps, above the control of any particular government, can bring unprecedented world peace in the same way that fifty years of the European Community has ended war between its members: war between countries such as China and Japan will become as unlikely as a new war between France and the UK. It will be paid for by national governments who then need to spend much less on defence. Economies of scale also means that the world as a whole spends much less on defence. Uniforce would be answerable to a board of national defence politicians. The funding of Uniforce will be capped so that no particular nation can exert undue influence. An international force cannot be used for unilateral purposes because its men and officers would naturally refuse to perform such a role. National forces can concentrate solely on defence. If all countries concentrated on defence, warmongering would be much less successful because national assets would not be conducive to it. Rogue states would understand for all time that unilateral arms races are over; the international military force could not be matched by individual national armies.
The main issue not discussed on this page is the United Nation's Security Council, under which such a force would operate. At the moment, the UNSC is barely functional; vetoes are too powerful and the balance of power has changed too much since the five Permanent Members were selected. Academic studies into potential new forms of a UNSC have proliferated in the last ten years, and until its resolution is created, Uniforce will not have the political command it requires, although work can still be done to prepare the way.
Current edition: 2008 Aug 14
Originally published 2007 Jun 20
Parent page: The Responsibility to Defend the Developed World
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The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
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