Diplomacy: Europe's zero doctrine
25 February 2011
During major crises, every major power has a clearly defined diplomatic doctrine which it applies according to its interests. As revolution spreads across the Arab world, it’s the EU found its own, argues columnist José Ignacio Torreblanca.
While the peoples across the Mediterranean are fighting to win back their dignity, we squander ours for small change. In foreign policy, a doctrine is defined as an attempt to draw up principles that will guide the actions of a state faced with a series of events that pose similar challenges. Regarding the principles of non-intervention and non-colonisation, U.S. President Monroe announced in 1823 that the United States would consider any attempt by any European power to increase its colonies in the Americas as a hostile act. In 1947, more than a century after the Monroe Doctrine, President Truman announced that his Government would support "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Flipped on its head in 1968, the Truman Doctrine turned into the Brezhnev Doctrine, which let the Soviet Union intervene militarily to restore the socialist order in the countries of central and eastern Europe. The death certificate of the Cold War came in 1989, also in the form of a doctrine, when Gorbachev's spokesman, questioned on the validity of the Brezhnev Doctrine in view of the democratic reforms going on in Hungary and Poland, replied unexpectedly that the Sinatra Doctrine would now rule – a reference to the song “My Way”. This wholly novel doctrine had a domino effect and opened the way for the coming of democracy to the region.
Protest without disturbances, influence without interference
Today the European Union, instead of seeking a doctrine to respond to the Arab revolutions, is tiptoeing around them. This non-doctrine has neither name nor substance. It has no name because of a glaring lack of leadership at all levels: in the capitals, where leaders are casting edgy glances as they try to avoid being the first to place the wrong bet on change, and in Brussels, where Ashton has not wanted to risk a thing. This crisis could have been a chance for Ashton to invent herself, but the Baroness has accepted with total submission her fate as a mere spokesperson for what the EU27 can unanimously agree on as best they can. There’s not going to be any Ashton Doctrine if things go on like this. Nor is there any substance to this non-doctrine, because our leaders want everything for nothing: protest without disturbances, influence without interference, condemnation without sanctions, help without risk, participation without paying in. And on top of it all, in keeping up the hypocrisy that has guided the union’s behaviour till now, the leaders do not even bother to hide the fact that what really worries them are refugees and energy prices. Like the miracle of Coke with neither sugar nor caffeine, Europe has launched the Zero Doctrine: changes, for nothing in return. In looking to put together a doctrine we could fall back on the principles expounded by Saif el Islam, the sinister son of Gaddafi, in his doctoral thesis defended in 2007 at the London School of Economics under the unbelievable title “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Institutions of Global Governance.” In his thesis Saif picks up on the distinction made by the theorist of justice, John Rawls, between two kinds of not entirely just societies. On one side are those that are “well-ordered”. Though not fully democratic, they are peaceful, and their leaders have some legitimacy with their citizens and respect human rights. Across the gulch are “outlaw” regimes or “unjust" societies that systematically violate human rights. These are the societies that should be subjected to pressure and sanctions, denied military aid or aid of any type, and have economic ties with the outside world suspended or frozen.
It is a rogue state, so let's treat it like one
On page 236 of his thesis, Saif el Islam concludes (with radical Islam in mind): "This thesis endorses Rawls's argument that outlaw states should not be left to roam freely." And, on page 237, it continues: "The isolation and eventual transformation of rogue states is vital to global stability." Let us apply, then, the principles of Rawls (gathered in by the United Nations under the concept of "Responsibility to Protect"), and let us make a clear distinction between those states that today use violence against their societies and those that engage in dialogue with the opposition. It seems that the EU27 remains unaware that Libya has made a qualitative leap that should be responded to by the UN Security Council with a tough regime of sanctions, a no-fly zone, the immediate opening of proceedings at the International Criminal Court and the freezing of all assets of the Gaddafi family held abroad. It is a rogue state, so let's treat it like one.
Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer