Sunday, November 02, 2003
Why the EU is (becoming) a modern state

Whenever I read a Robert Cooper article, I think back to his tripartite categorisation of international states: premodern, modern and postmodern, referring to respectively examples such as Somalia, China and the EU. They are either emergent and savage, states that pursue their national interests or collectivities that privilege the rule of international law over sovereignty and democratic legitimacy.

Given Cooper's New Labour antecedents, foreign policy is one area that he would not support the mantra of modernisation: a reactionary return to national sovereignty with all the severing of ties that such an endeavour would entail.

In his recent article in the Guardian, Cooper has assimilated the lessons of the terrorist atrocities since 2001 and now argues more vociferously that postmodern collectivities should employ modernist methods (ie force) to defend their interests. This theme was always emergent in his thought and events have forced a particular reading upon his work. However, in his role as Javier Solana's assistant, Cooper is here arguing that the European Union should adopt military and security positions in order to defend itself. Cloaked within his postmodern sensibilities is an argument for the EU to acquire military capabilities in order to enhance its security. This is lnked to New Labour's own thinking upon the matter and also demonstrates the ideological cement between Blair's hawkish stance and his pro-European sentiments.

Cooper's vision of an EU that monitors its Near Abroad and ensures that the Middle East is unable to threaten continental security strikes chords with the cultural and political aims of the neoconservatives and the Bush administration. Empire and containment are impractical for ideological and political reasons, leaving judicious intervention as the only alternative.

The domestic governance of foreign countries has now become a matter of our own security.

Cooper does not state that preemptive action is required and supports preventive structures to head off war:

This is not to say that the only way to deal with terrorism is to extend the EU into the Middle East. Can we imagine a regional structure in the Middle East with security guarantees from the US or Nato, and assistance and market access in the EU, traded against guarantees of good governance? There are a thousand objections: suspicion of the west in general and the US in particular is such that no one in the region would take the idea seriously. But what else might stop the conflict in Palestine for good? Would anyone have the vision to try?

However, once you have accepted that your interests involve the governance of other states, can intervention, if it is deemed necessary, be far behind? this article shows that, whilst it is still not politic to mention force as a tool of foreign policy in the EU, the gap between certain elements within the EU shaping foreign policy and US sentiment is far less that would first appear.

More worrying is that the drive to provide the EU with greater capabilities for securing its interests is promoted by Blair and involves greater integration amongst certain Member States. Neoconservatives are not opposed to the EU, just to a structure that fuses defence integration with anti-Americanism. Nevertheless, they are aware that these policies turn on the electoral cycle and that the US/EU face the same threats. It is not difficult to see a Bush administration promoting deeper British membership of the EU, if it meant a European security structure more sympathetic to the United States.

This article demonstrates that the EU is adopting a similar model to the Russian Federation in its policies. Both take the view that they have a primary interest in stabilising the Near Abroad and wish to stabilise these areas to secure their objectives. Russia's enfeebled and savage defence of the former Soviet Union against the other great powers is not a good example to follow but, Cooper's postmodernism aside, his arguments sound like an old-fashioned defence of a nascent sphere of interest in the Middle East and North Africa, even if the tools of diplomacy have been modified by globalisation.

The last error and omission is, of course, oil - the unspoken commodity that drives all policy and is kept hidden to spare electorates the painful truth that people die so that they can drive their cars. The EU wishes to secure the Middle East because its dependence upon Arabic oil is even greater than America's. An article on EU security policy that does not state this is looking out upon the world with one eye.

It is clear that the result of Cooper's plan would be a stagnant hegemony, where the present interest of the state would be perpetuated and geographically extended under the guise of 'good governance'. Here is where Cooper's loyalties lie:

Put these two trends together - access for individuals to powerful weapons and the liberation of the individual from loyalty to church, state or tradition - and we have the possibility that the state's monopoly on force may be under threat. This will not (I hope) come within our lifetime, but eventually the logic of technology and society will assert itself. We must ask ourselves what we should do.

My sympathies lie with the liberated. Faster please!

(2nd November 2003, 20.57)


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