James Rogers: 2-European Union – Grand strategy, normative power and military policy

Introducing James Rogers

James RogersJames Rogers is a PhD student at Cambridge University. In this second interview in a series of three, he defines the concept ‘Grand Strategy’ and applies it to the European Union. The first interview provides a theoretical introduction, the third interview deals with the foreign policy and global position of the European Union.

First, Mr Rogers explains how the idea of civilian power came into being, before losing momentum during the Yugoslav War. Then he throws light on the current construction of a grand strategy of the European Union, addressing the role of concepts such as global and normative power and human security. He concludes by giving his view on the nature of this constructive process.

Interview

Grand strategy

What is a grand strategy?

Grand Strategy has been seen, traditionally, as the broad approach taken by the government of a country – or indeed, an entire nation, including its civic and economic components – to sustain and improve that country, whether its internal system, or, more often, its relationship and position vis-à-vis other international powers. It often includes the identification of a number of challenges and threats, and the use of certain tools – political, economic, diplomatic, military, etc. – to address them.

This grand strategy can be diffusely articulated or officially documented, or a combination of the two. Perhaps the first modern grand strategy was that advanced by the British military officer General Sir Charles Paisley in 1811. Entitled “The Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire”, this work stimulated a wide debate at the time about the need to maintain British command over the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and execute an aggressive imperial policy to prevent the emergence of hostile mainland European powers.

What was the grand strategy of the EU in the 1970s and 1980s?

The European Community had its own grand strategy during this period: after the interventions from François Duchêne in 1972 and 1973, it came to be known as ‘civilian power’ or a ‘peace project’. This grand strategy’s aim was to prevent war between the Community’s Member States by locking them into deeper and deeper functional integration, particularly in the economic and industrial spheres. The opponent was chronopolitical: the return of Europe’s warlike past, along with all its associated horrors like human rights abuses, genocide and forced migrations.

What was the impact of the Yugoslav wars during the 1990s on this strategy?

‘Civilian power’ was dislocated by the wars in the former Yugoslavia. In his “Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction”,, Klaus Dodds provides a short and punchy snapshot for why: ‘The destruction of cities such as Mostar and Sarajevo in 1992 and the massacre of 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 was interpreted by many observers as a damning indictment of this European project to promote values such as integration, tolerance, peace, and democracy.’

What is more, modern telecommunications technology allowed colour images and video from the conflicts to be shown to Europeans, day after day, night after night. European diplomacy and functional integration could not arrest the conflicts; Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian expansionist project could only be stopped with armed force – primarily American armed force. This shocked many Europeans, especially in light of the euphoria after the Cold War.

What is the current grand strategy of the European Union?

The European Union’s current grand strategy is still in the making. But under Javier Solana’s tenure, it developed increasingly under the rubric of ‘global actor’ or ‘global power’. Many Europeans realised that the old ideas were no longer sufficient and that a new approach was needed. This meant that the European Union needed to acquire and maintain a military capability and engage in geopolitical engineering, especially around the European Neighbourhood.

But this approach is limited by the different interests of the Member States and various well-meaning but nevertheless mistaken individuals who would like the European Union to become a ‘normative power’ or focus on something known as ‘human security’. So the ‘global power’ grand strategy is by no means here to stay – it could itself be dislocated by unfavourable events.

Why do you think that the change in Europe’s grand strategy a ‘top down project’ rather than a ‘bottom-up process’?

What I mean by this is that the construction of the European Union’s new grand strategy has not been entirely the result of actions by the Member States (event though they still exert considerable influence). European Union foreign and military policy – viz. grand strategy – is not only a product of what has been called ‘strategic convergence’ between the Member States.

Rather, there are numerous people and groups, otherwise known as a discourse coalition, who have sought to articulate a distinctly European foreign and military policy, in its own right. Their focus is first and foremost the European Union as a geopolitical actor, not their own respective Member States. This strikes me as more of a ‘top-down project’, from Europe-down, rather than one beginning at the bottom, as in the Member States, and working up.

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