Documents

Edit

“France-United States: Two Different Ways to Reach Legal Truth” by French magistrate Antoine Garapon.

Email Print

Below is an illuminating theoretical piece by a French magistrate, relevant now because of the proceedings on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.   Undiscussed, however, is the presumption of innocence that defendants enjoy in the U.S. along with the burden of the prosecution to prove  guilt “beyond reasonable doubt” to a jury of laymen, who are in theory not prejudiced by pre-trial publicity, or any other facts about the case not presented under rules of evidence in the trial itself.   --European Affairs


Part of the unavoidable fall-out of the “DSK affair” is that it has strikingly highlighted the existence of a profound cultural gap between the American and the French approaches to justice.  Since these two legal systems rely on different conceptions of truth, they use different methods to arrive at a verdict designed to be considered fair in their respective societies.

In the U.S. system, the premise is that truth is brought to light by a struggle in which opposed positions (defense and prosecution) are cast in the roles of protagonists confronting each other. In France, in contrast, truth is deemed to emerge best as the result of an investigation. The French system (categorized as “inquisitorial”) is based on the premise that allegations only reveal a clear truth on the basis of thorough examination of official documents such as hearings, transcripts, analyses and expert reports,, enabling the state’s authorities to construct a plausible scenario that will convince judges. The process is linear, continuous – and lengthy since all imaginable hypotheses have to be dismissed or confirmed and the procedure may even require opening new investigations.

Ultimately, French legal truth is meant to be established on the basis of a quasi-Aristotelian “unity of meaning” that emerges from the investigation. In contrast, the American system (categorized as “adversarial”) arrives at “the truth” through the meticulously well-prepared drama of a public court trial. The judicial authorities, by themselves, are not supposed to investigate the validity of facts: their task is supposed to be a transparent oversight of a confrontation allowing a jury to designate the winner.

In the French philosophy of justice, truth is the fruit of deduction based on experts’ analysis of the evidence; in contrast, the U.S. system relies on the credibility that ordinary citizens give to witnesses.  It is a deadly serious form of theater in which the act of judging does not require any expertise. It is completely different in nature  (almost in epistemology) from the French emphasis on analyzing documentary evidence with a view to substantiating a logical scenario.  In the U.S., witnesses’ credibility and jurors’ personal intuition are the driving forces of justice.  In France, logic and deduction provide the necessary authority. [For legitimacy], the American system needs citizens; the French needs specialists.

One thing shared by both systems is the aim of providing a reconstruction of past events. But they do it  by different means.  French Investigations bring patient, intellectual effort to put together the pieces of the past; the adversarial system converts the events surrounding the crime into an event of its own and of a different order. In a theoretical way, the “actual facts” are subordinated to the courtroom struggle that results in a “truth” that emerges from a selection imposed on the “facts.” (The word “trial” actually comes from the French word, “triage,” meaning the operation of sorting out different elements to make a selection.)  So, in the adversarial procedure, the question of “truth” becomes a question of due process in seeing each side make its case. This insight into the American way,  taken to its extreme by French philosopher Michel Foucault, can be explained in these terms: “The goal “not to determine who is telling the truth but to ensure victory for the party that is the most powerful and who therefore gets to ‘be right’.” His analysis implies that “reaching the truth” is a notion that has only a relative value in American culture, where the real purpose is to ensure that the party who has proved more powerful and persuasive in this ritualized combat will end up as the one who is right.

In an American trial, the real “facts of the case” are meant to be eclipsed by blinding evidence or an overwhelmingly self-evident argument that functions like a knock-out punch in a boxing match. This why the items and testimony submitted to the court are called “evidence” – as in, “self-evident” to a juror’s convictions.

This approach also explains why so many trials do not come to a definitive end in the U.S.  The reasoning for a sentence or verdict is not and has never been a central element of the U.S. process. (Under old common law practice, the conclusions delivered after the trial – the verdict – usually simply named the winner without giving much detail about how the court reached the “truth.”) This approach also explains why so many U.S. criminal cases are settled by plea bargaining. This feature of the American system shocks many French people, who see it as a negation of the moral truth that should be inherent in determining the facts of a case and settling the truth. That is because the French “verdict” (“le jugement”) is supposed to emerge from a process that discovered the truth whereas the American “trial” aims to achieve justice through a fair fight.

These differing conceptions of truth also explain many subtle differences in the two systems. If a trial is conceived as a struggle or trial of strength, the accusations become a challenge for the defense, which must tackle the prosecution.  This dynamic applies to the DSK case: for an American lawyer, the main requisite is strategy (as in battle) whereas a French investigation is handled by magistrates prized for their ability to think and work methodically. The American procedure emphasizes the principle of contradiction; the French one stresses the need to preserve “the level playing field.” This procedural approach is designed to curb any unfair advantage for the state; the other is to intended to ensure that there is a fair competition between two opposing sides. In the U.S. system, publicity is inextricably linked to the process whereas in the French, system confidentiality is the watchword. (This French attitude should not be interpreted as tantamount to “secrecy” because “disclosure” of conflicting items is paramount from the outset in the magistrates’ investigation.) In the U.S. system, the “performance” is entirely public so as to protect the search for truth; in the French system, the authorities retain a degree of control over the narrative that is written as the process unfolds and ultimately is only disclosed to an audience [of judges] that is more limited and also represents the State system. That is why the media coverage of American court cases often gives rise to theatrical vocabulary – “plot,” “suspense,” “dramatic reversal,” and so on.  In France, the rhetoric used about the process of justice really could be better compared to religious discussions, in which words carry sacred overtones and criminal trials are described almost as a liturgy.

Therefore it is important to realize that while similar words are used to describe the French and Anglo-Saxon quest for justice, this similarity actually disguises a profound divergence about nature of truth.  The French believe in written depositions more than in oral testimony; they instinctively give more credence to the police and their reports than to private detectives hired by the defense. The French prefer the State to civil society; the opposite is true for Americans. These different conceptions of “courtroom truth” also stem from differences between the two societies:  a centralized body politic in France compared to a segmented nation built on immigration. The resulting approaches to power differ:  a great variety of communities and a federal, government that is readily mistrusted by Americans versus a centralized system symbolized by the State in France.

In the end, are these two systems ultimately isolated from each other and is everything relative? That disheartening idea should be set against the notion that societies communicate through their utopias and both French and American societies pursue a common one: the equality of all citizens before the law and the triumph of justice over passions or any “raison d’etat” that enables the authorities to ignore people’s rights. This ultimate communality means that we can and should pursue dialogue and not indulge in mutual opprobrium and anathemas.

Translated by Thalia Bayle

 
Edit

EU and US approaches to lobbying

Email Print

 

EU and US approaches to lobbying

Published: 01 March 2005 | Updated: 29 August 2005

Although lobbying techniques in Brussels and Washington are often considered similar, public affairs professionals on both sides of the Atlantic are convinced that differences in "style and substance" will remain between the two capitals. Language and national cultures are only part of the explanation. The traditional, consensus-based approach to EU policy-making and lobbying will probably continue to contrast with the highly professionalised and more aggressive US-style for many years to come. Above all, political institutions in Brussels and Washington are different animals which require to be approached in quite distinct ways.

Milestones

  • The Society of European Affairs Professionals published its revised voluntary code of conduct on 10 February 2005
  • Until or unless there is a major scandal, it seems unlikely that either the Commission or the Parliament will attempt any major reform of the present arrangements

Policy Summary

To be successful, lobbyists need to adjust to the political system in which they operate. Trying to draw comparisons between EU and US lobbying therefore presupposes a look at the institutional and political framework in Brussels and Washington.

Fundamental differences quickly emerge. The US is a nation state with a federal structure while the EU is a collection of nation states with only partial limitations to sovereignty. While the institutional setting in Washington has been stable for decades, the EU is in constant flux over whether to expand or even roll back Brussels's powers.

The long American tradition of lobbying means the practice is largely accepted, drawing a wider variety of interest groups - including NGOs and citizen's groups - to fight for the attention of politicians. Europeans are more sceptical towards lobbying as a legitimate part of the political process and have turned to it in fewer, yet growing proportions.

Current estimations point to a total of 20,000 lobbyists in Washington. About half this number can be identified in Brussels.

Issues

In Europe, the general presumption is that EU insitutions welcome and indeed need input from civil society organisations. This is mainly explained by insufficient staffing in the Commission and to a lesser extent, in Parliament. According to research, the Commission administration is only 2% the size of the US federal government and is even smaller than the local government of the city of Rotterdam. The total EU budget is about the same as that of Belgium.

As a consequence, the Commission naturally welcomes outside input at the drafting stage of EU policy-making, giving consulted interest groups privileged access at a defining moment in the legislative process. This introduces one of the first main differences between lobbying in Brussels and Washington:

  • Public funding: Only in rare circumstances does the US government fund non-profit organisations. The opposite is true in the EU where the Commission has tried to balance corporate lobbying by supporting and even setting up non-profit organisations.
  • Revolving doors: The degree of permeability between the executive power and civil society organisations (whether corporations or civic NGOs) is higher in Washington than in Brussels. Officials moving from public functions to business/pressure groups and vice-versa is less frequent in Brussels whereas it is a fact of political life in Washington.
  • Representation system: The US democratic system makes members of Congress seeking re-election particularly attentive to the voices coming from their constituencies. In the European Parliament, the representation system is defined at national level on often contrasting criteria. Lack of knowledge about Brussels politics make MEPs generally perceived as more distant from their voters. The absence of true European parties also makes the EU representative system less readable. As a result, constituencies are clearly less influential than in the US. Lobbying tactics in Washington are therefore heavily defined along local issues which can influence re-election. By contrast, Brussels tactics will seek to build a broader consensus to influence a wide variety of politicians on a particular outcome.
  • Money: In the US, corporations routinely support politicians' (re-)election campaigns through Political Action Committees (PACs). Although the practice is regulated and the sums capped, corporate funding of politics is still a central element in US political life. Such practices are not recognised or regulated in the EU and are generally seen as unethical. In Europe, money has a bigger tendency to flow the other way, from the public sector to civil society in the form of state aids, grants, subsidies and contracts.
  • Transparency: In the US, lobbying is regarded as being capable of exerting undue influence and is therefore circumscribed by transparency requirements. The Lobbying Disclosure Act obliges public relations firms and lobby groups to list their clients, the issues they deal with and the money they get to perform these tasks. By contrast, the Commission has only developed minimal and less formalised standards on the consultation of interested parties which are set out in a communication published in December 2002. However, the Commission has so far resisted calls to force consultants and lobbyists to list their clients and budgets as is currently required in the US Lobbying Disclosure Act. Instead, it recommends that lobby groups, consulting companies and interest representations sign the voluntary code of conduct developed by Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) and Public Affairs Practitioners (PAP).
  • Media influence: In few other countries has the media reached the fourth power status that it enjoys in the US. Combined with the adversarial nature of American politics, (positive) media exposure, particularly at state level, is an important element to consider in every professional public affairs campaign.

Of course, the wider cultural context also plays its part in shaping policies with language one crucial differenciating factor between both sides of the Atlantic. Washington does not have to grapple with 20 different languages as Brussels does. Although English is increasingly imposing itself as the lingua franca in Brussels, significantly, many MEPs still value being approached in their native language. Internal political cultures are starkly different too. While US style politics tend to be polarised around bi-partisanship and highly adversarial, Brussels politics draw on a wider array of parties and specific national issues which are often deeply rooted in a country's governance culture (e.g: British laisser-faire vs. French command and control).

Overall, the US remains the most highly professionalised place in the world for lobbying. But as the single market develops and the EU gains political might, professionals say the gap with Brussels is gradually closing.

Positions

Alfons Westgeest, Managing Partner of Kellen Europe underlines the case for international and global associations or federations, as well as global NGOs. "Issues, such as security, food & health, consumer protection, fighting poverty, disaster relief efforts, etc. are becoming more and more global," says Westgeest. As a consequence, governments are trying to find common approaches or solutions on these global issues. However, he points out to differences in timing, procedure and decision-making processes between the EU and the US as posing problems for international coordination. "Association management companies such as Kellen's with fully-fledged offices in the US and Europe are helping associations dealing with these changes and finding new management solutions," he claims.

In a 2002 communication, the Commission asserts its intention to "encourage more involvement of interested parties through a more transparent consultation process". The paper, however, only provides "general principles and standards" for consultation within the Commission so that "all the diverse interests" are taken into account.

This approach was confirmed in the Commission's 'Better lawmaking' initiative which aims to promote "a culture of dialogue and participation". Here, the Commission's stated aim is "to establish who is really consulted as part of the Community legislative process". It asks for instance: "Are the smallest voices really and always heard? What are the subjects of consultation? To what extent are people's opinions actually taken into account?".

In an open letter to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the watchdog NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) denounced EU rules on lobbying as being "absurdly weak" and called on the Commission to follow the the US model of transparency as set out in the Lobbying Disclosure Act. In its letter, the CEO also criticised the voluntary code of conduct developed by the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) for being "extremely narrow and entirely voluntary".

Those claims were rejected by the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP), which represents professional lobbyists in Brussels. In a statement, SEAP said it was "against the compulsory registration of lobbyists in Brussels". Such a model, it said, would not correspond with the position of EU civil society groups who do not want the introduction of the American model in Europe. In SEAP's view, "self-regulation is the best way to promote ethical behaviour with lobbyists, whether they represent business or civil society group interests". SEAP pointed to the ongoing strengthening of its self-regulatory code of conduct to conclude that there was "no need for EU legislation in this respect". The revised code was published on 10 February 2005.

"Everybody is welcome to provide input, and dialogue and consultation can be adapted according to the needs of different policy fields," the Commission responded following the CEO's open letter. It pointed to binding internal staff rules which impose requirement of independence and objectivity when dealing with lobbyists.

 
Edit

U.S. Accelerating Controversial Crops (3/28)

Email Print

The Obama administration is moving to expand and accelerate U.S. production of genetically engineered crops – a trend that is eventually liable to ratchet up transatlantic pressures over EU resistance to importing “GMO’s” for consumption by Europeans.

Read more...
 
Edit

On The Future of NATO: Robert Gates' Final Policy Speech

Email Print

The Security and Defense Agenda

June 10, 2011

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

 

Thank you, Mr. Secretary General, Jaap, for that kind introduction.

And my thanks to Giles Merritt and the Security and Defense Agenda for the opportunity to speak here today.  This is Day 11 of an 11-day international trip so you can understand why I am very much looking forward to getting home.  But I am glad – at this time, in this venue – to share some thoughts with you this morning about the transatlantic security relationship in what will be my last policy speech as U.S. defense secretary.

The security of this continent – with NATO as the main instrument for protecting that security – has been the consuming interest of much of my professional life.

In many ways, today’s event brings me full circle.  The first major speech I delivered after taking this post nearly four-and-a-half years ago was also on the Continent, at the Munich Security Conference.  The subject was the state of the Atlantic Alliance, which was then being tested with the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Today, I would like to share some parting thoughts about the state of the now 60-plus year old transatlantic security project, to include:

  • Where the alliance mission stands in Afghanistan as we enter a critical transition phase;
  • NATO’s serious capability gaps and other institutional shortcomings laid bare by the Libya operation;
  • The military – and political – necessity of fixing these shortcomings if the transatlantic security alliance is going to be viable going forward;
  • And more broadly, the growing difficulty for the U.S. to sustain current support for NATO if the American taxpayer continues to carry most of the burden in the Alliance.

I share these views in the spirit of solidarity and friendship, with the understanding that true friends occasionally must speak bluntly with one another for the sake of those greater interests and values that bind us together.

First, a few words on Afghanistan.  I have just returned from three days of visits and meetings with our troops and commanders there, and come away impressed and inspired by the changes that have taken place on the ground in recent months.  It is no secret that for too long, the international military effort in Afghanistan suffered from a lack of focus, resources, and attention, a situation exacerbated by America’s primary focus on Iraq for most of the past decade.

When NATO agreed at Riga in 2006 to take the lead for security across the country, I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction, and development assistance – more akin to the Balkans.  Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Soon, the challenges inherent to any coalition operation came to the surface – national caveats that tied the hands of allied commanders in sometimes infuriating ways, the inability of many allies to meet agreed upon commitments and, in some cases, wildly disparate contributions from different member states.  Frustrations with these obstacles sometimes boiled into public view.  I had some choice words to say on this topic during my first year in office, unfavorably characterized at the time by one of my NATO ministerial colleagues as “megaphone diplomacy.”

Yet, through it all, NATO – as an alliance collectively – has for the most part come through for the mission in Afghanistan.  Consider that when I became Secretary of Defense in 2006 there were about 20,000 non-U.S. troops from NATO nations in Afghanistan.  Today, that figure is approximately 40,000.  More than 850 troops from non-U.S. NATO members have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.  For many allied nations these were the first military casualties they have taken since the end of the Second World War.

Frankly, four years ago I never would have expected the alliance to sustain this operation at this level for so long, much less add significantly more forces in 2010.  It is a credit to the brave ISAF troops on the ground, as well as to the allied governments who have made the case for the Afghanistan mission under difficult political circumstances at home.

Over the past two years, the U.S. has completed the dramatic shift in military priorities away from Iraq and towards Afghanistan, providing reinforcements to allies who courageously had been holding the line in the south.  These new resources – combined with a new strategy – have decisively changed the military momentum on the ground, with the Taliban ejected from their former strongholds.

While President Obama is still considering the size and pacing of the troop drawdown beginning in July, I can tell you there will be no rush to the exits.  The vast majority of the surge forces that arrived over the past two years will remain through the summer fighting season.  We will also reassign many troops from areas transferred to Afghan control into less-secure provinces and districts.

As the Taliban attempt their inevitable counterattack designed to increase ISAF casualties and sap international will, now is the time to capitalize on the gains of the past 15 to 18 months – by keeping the pressure on the Taliban and reinforcing military success with improved governance, reintegration, and ultimately political reconciliation.

Given what I have heard and seen – not just in my recent visit to Afghanistan, but over the past two years – I believe these gains can take root and be sustained over time with proper Allied support.  Far too much has been accomplished, at far too great a cost, to let the momentum slip away just as the enemy is on its back foot.  To that end, we cannot afford to have some troop contributing nations to pull out their forces on their own timeline in a way that undermines the mission and increases risks to other allies.   The way ahead in Afghanistan is “in together, out together.”  Then our troops can come home to the honor and appreciation they so richly deserve, and the transatlantic alliance will have passed its first major test of the 21st Century:

  • Inflicting a strategic and ideological defeat on terrorist groups that threaten our homelands;
  • Giving a long-suffering people hope for a future;
  • Providing a path to stability for a critically important part of the world.

Though we can take pride in what has been accomplished and sustained in Afghanistan, the ISAF mission has exposed significant shortcomings in NATO – in military capabilities, and in political will.  Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – NOT counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25- to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more.

Turning to the NATO operation over Libya, it has become painfully clear that similar shortcomings – in capability and will –have the potential to jeopardize the alliance’s ability to conduct an integrated, effective and sustained air-sea campaign.  Consider that Operation Unified Protector is:

  • A mission with widespread political support;
  • A mission that does not involve ground troops under fire;
  • And indeed, is a mission in Europe’s neighborhood deemed to be in Europe’s vital interest.

To be sure, at the outset, the NATO Libya mission did meet its initial military objectives – grounding Qaddafi’s air force and degrading his ability to wage offensive war against his own citizens.  And while the operation has exposed some shortcomings caused by underfunding, it has also shown the potential of NATO, with an operation where Europeans are taking the lead with American support.  However, while every alliance member voted for Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission.  Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t.  The military capabilities simply aren’t there.

In particular, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets are lacking that would allow more allies to be involved and make an impact.  The most advanced fighter aircraft are little use if allies do not have the means to identify, process, and strike targets as part of an integrated campaign.   To run the air campaign, the NATO air operations center in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the U.S., to do the job – a “just in time” infusion of personnel that may not always be available in future contingencies.  We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150.  Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.

In the past, I’ve worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance:  Between members who specialize in “soft’ humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and talking tasks, and those conducting the “hard” combat missions.  Between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership – be they security guarantees or headquarters billets – but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.  This is no longer a hypothetical worry.  We are there today.  And it is unacceptable.

Part of this predicament stems from a lack of will, much of it from a lack of resources in an era of austerity.  For all but a handful of allies, defense budgets – in absolute terms, as a share of economic output – have been chronically starved for adequate funding for a long time, with the shortfalls compounding on themselves each year.  Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan – the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history – total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11. Furthermore, rising personnel costs combined with the demands of training and equipping for Afghan deployments has consumed an ever growing share of already meager defense budgets.  The result is that investment accounts for future modernization and other capabilities not directly related to Afghanistan are being squeezed out – as we are seeing today over Libya.

I am the latest in a string of U.S. defense secretaries who have urged allies privately and publicly, often with exasperation, to meet agreed-upon NATO benchmarks for defense spending.  However, fiscal, political and demographic realities make this unlikely to happen anytime soon, as even military stalwarts like the U.K have been forced to ratchet back with major cuts to force structure.  Today, just five of 28 allies – the U.S., U.K., France, Greece, along with Albania – exceed the agreed 2% of GDP spending on defense.

Regrettably, but realistically, this situation is highly unlikely to change.  The relevant challenge for us today, therefore, is no longer  the total level of defense spending by allies, but how these limited (and dwindling) resources are allocated and for what priorities.  For example, though some smaller NATO members have modestly sized and funded militaries that do not meet the 2 percent threshold, several of these allies have managed to punch well above their weight because of the way they use the resources they have.

In the Libya operation, Norway and Denmark, have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one third of the targets.  Belgium and Canada are also making major contributions to the strike mission.  These countries have, with their constrained resources, found ways to do the training, buy the equipment, and field the platforms necessary to make a credible military contribution.

These examples are the exceptions.  Despite the pressing need to spend more on vital equipment and the right personnel to support ongoing missions – needs that have been evident for the past two decades – too many allies been unwilling to fundamentally change how they set priorities and allocate resources.  The non-U.S. NATO members collectively spend more than $300 billion U.S. dollars on defense annually which, if allocated wisely and strategically, could buy a significant amount of usable military capability.  Instead, the results are significantly less than the sum of the parts.  This has both shortchanged current operations but also bodes ill for ensuring NATO has the key common alliance capabilities of the future.

Looking ahead, to avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities – in procurement, in training, in logistics, in sustainment.  While it is clear NATO members should do more to pool military assets, such “Smart Defense” initiatives are not a panacea.  In the final analysis, there is no substitute for nations providing the resources necessary to have the military capability the Alliance needs when faced with a security challenge.  Ultimately, nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense.

Let me conclude with some thoughts about the political context in which all of us must operate.   As you all know, America’s serious fiscal situation is now putting pressure on our defense budget, and we are in a process of assessing where the U.S. can or cannot accept more risk as a result of reducing the size of our military.   Tough choices lie ahead affecting every part of our government, and during such times, scrutiny inevitably falls on the cost of overseas commitments – from foreign assistance to military basing, support, and guarantees.

President Obama and I believe that despite the budget pressures, it would be a grave mistake for the U.S. to withdraw from its global responsibilities.  And in Singapore last week, I outlined the many areas where U.S. defense engagement and investment in Asia was slated to grow further in coming years, even as America’s traditional allies in that region rightfully take on the role of full partners in their own defense.

With respect to Europe, for the better part of six decades there has been relatively little doubt or debate in the United States about the value and necessity of the transatlantic alliance.  The benefits of a Europe whole, prosperous and free after being twice devastated by wars requiring American intervention was self evident.  Thus, for most of the Cold War U.S. governments could justify defense investments and costly forward bases that made up roughly 50 percent of all NATO military spending.  But some two decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. share of NATO defense spending has now risen to more than 75 percent – at a time when politically painful budget and benefit cuts are being considered at home.

The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.  Nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.

Indeed, if current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed,  Future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.

What I’ve sketched out is the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance.  Such a future is possible, but not inevitable.  The good news is that the members of NATO – individually, and collectively – have it well within their means to halt and reverse these trends, and instead produce a very different future:

  • By making a serious effort to protect defense budgets from being further gutted in the next round of austerity measures;
  • By better allocating (and coordinating) the resources we do have; and
  • By following through on commitments to the alliance and to each other.

It is not too late for Europe to get its defense institutions and security relationships on track.  But it will take leadership from political leaders and policy makers on this continent.  It cannot be coaxed, demanded or imposed from across the Atlantic.

Over the life of the transatlantic alliance there has been no shortage of squabbles and setbacks.  But through it all, we managed to get the big things right over time.  We came together to make the tough decisions in the face of dissension at home and threats abroad.   And I take heart in the knowledge that we can do so again.

The full text is taken from the Department of Defense website.

 
Edit

EU urges radiation tests for Japanese food imports

Email Print

March 17, 2011

The European commission has asked member states to begin testing imported Japanese food for increased radiation levels, although officials believe that health risks for consumers are low.

That assessment is based on the fact that Japanese agricultural exports to the European Union are limited to begin with – particularly from the affected regions. Moreover, the disruption and devastation from the earthquake and tsunami are likely to reduce those exports even further.

Nonetheless, the commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it would remain “vigilant” about possible risks as it requested the tests for all plant or animal products imported from Japan since March 15.

“It’s a precautionary measure,” said Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for John Dalli, the health and consumer affairs commissioner.

The EU imported 64.8m euros in Japanese agricultural products in 2010, according to the commission, with Germany, the Netherlands and the UK topping the list.

Under existing trade agreements, Japan is only allowed to export four types of animal products to the EU: fish, bivalve molluscs, casings and pet food. No establishments in the Fukushima prefecture – the centre of the nuclear disaster – are authorised for EU export. In the neighbouring Miyagi prefecture, a pet-food and fisheries plant are authorised, as well as 27 vessels that catch and freeze fish.

As for fruit and vegetables, Japan’s exports to the EU were 9,000 tonnes last year. Most of the fruit and vegetables produced in Fukushima are consumed locally. The vast majority of exports go to markets in east Asia, according to the commission.

 

Joshua Chaffin, Financial Times Brussels Blog