System-opening cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle EastA new transatlantic project and a joint Euro-Atlantic-Arab task
To predict the course of world politics during the 21st century is impossible. Main possible forces can only be assessed on the basis of an extrapolation of past experiences. Unpredictable are potential quantum leaps in science and technology. No other development was more unforseeable in the early days of the 20th century . Will mankind see again comparable developments in science and technology over the next decades? Will they revolutionize health and energy supply, demographic patterns and the geographical distribution of success and failure? Will nuclear fusion become possible, with revolutionizing consequences for the energy needs of a growing world population? Will food, water and health services match the rising demand of the world? Will territorial conflicts arise from the unbalanced distribution of ressources and wealth? Will migratory patterns, mostly unvoluntary in nature, impact world stability as has been the case over much of the 20th century? Will the two demographic giants, China and India, match modernisation with a sustainable relationship between homogeneity and pluralism, between democracy and stability? Will Africa catch up with the course of globalization and development?
Whatever the path of the 21st century will be, world order is not a given. It will always change as has been the case in the past. The 20th century has seen Europe at the core of the struggle for world order and as the root cause of world disorder. This chapter of world politics has come to a close with the unique transformation of Europe into a continent of democracy, market economy, integration and cooperation. America’s commitment to make this transformation possible has generated an exceptional Euro-American success story. It has given sense and value to the notion of an Atlantic civilization. Transatlantic relations have become the strongest element of stability and the most successful expression of trans-regional prosperity and peace in the world of the early 21st century. Enlargements of both the European Union and of NATO have laid the foundation for a lasting guarantee of Atlantic peace and prosperity, of democracy and security from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. While Euro-Atlantic relations towards the Ukraine, Russia and Turkey are still evolving, they are most likely following the inclusive path which has emerged since the end of the Cold War.
With Ronald Asmus and Kenneth Pollack I share the view that the biggest danger for Americans and Europeans today stems from threats outside of Europe. The danger of Americans and Europeans to become victims in big numbers is related to terrorism, rough states and failed states in the Greater Middle East more than to any existing or potential threat inside of Europe. To deal with this biggest strategic challenge to stability and security in the Western world is the most crucial test for today’s generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. This is not only true as far as the solution of the new set of problems is concerned. It is also true with regard to their ability to reinvent transatlantic relations as cornerstone of a stable and prosperous world order. Beyond the initial proposal of Asmus and Pollack I consider the new challenge as a great opportunity for revitalizing the Atlantic civilization and for changing the relationship between the Atlantic partners and the countries and people in the Greater Middle East through a cooperative system-opening transformation of that region.
The fierce transatlantic dispute over the Iraq issue - in fact an internal Western Cold War - has raised doubts as to whether the Atlantic partners will both be willing and able to give a new sense and direction to their common future. A new transatlantic project can indeed grow out of this dispute only if both Atlantic partners are willing to develop a new common understanding of the threat they are confronted with and the opportunity they could help emerging from this threat over time. The new transatlantic project should therefore, I belief, not only be one in dealing with a new threat. The new transatlantic project will only be successful if it is also capable of defining new positive goals. Transforming the Greater Middle East must therefore be linked to cooperation between the transatlantic partners and the countries and societies in the Greater Middle East. Transforming the Greater Middle East through cooperation wherever possible and with the help of legitimate deterrence whenever necessary can thus become a joint Euro-American-Arab task for the next decades.
Some preconditions are evident in order to make possible such a strategic redefinition of a transatlantic project with implications for world peace. Any global partnership and in fact any world order cannot be build on the basis of negative aspects alone. Threat and fear might produce deterrence and veto-capacities over the potential behaviour of others, they cannot generate genuine and reliable stability. Such a reduced view would be self-centered and autistic. On the other hand to merely trust in cooperation and to invoke common interests of survival does not resolve any real conflict and dispute over interests, ressources or political goals. Such a view would be naiv and apolitical. A new transatlantic project for cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East would thus need to avoid both extremes and it would have to outline the perspectives of a common future.
Transforming the Greater Middle East into the direction of democracy and market economy does not necessary cover all the interests of either the US or Europe. To bind their interests in a sustainable way and to accept the limits of partnership with the Greater Middle East will require a positive agenda with both policy-consent and institutional mechanisms. Both might bring about what they should help to make sustainable and successful over time. A new Euro-American project has to think beyond threat perceptions and it has to accept that by its very nature it will be a project that will last rather decades than years.
We are confronted with two challenges: redefining the mental frame of the transatlantic partnership and transforming the Greater Middle East. This requires a differentiated analysis of the problem, sober assessments of common interests and of the limits of commonality. It also requires different layers of operation and realistic considerations about timing and obstacles. With Ronald Asmus and Kenneth Pollack I agree that we are confronted with a challenge for decades to come which is of similar scope and importance as the challenges which confronted the US and Europe after World War II. While we might in vain be looking for a new Truman of our time, we should also not get trapped by the simplistic allusion that the Greater Middle East is the contemporary equivalent of the Soviet Union and any of their leaders the equivalent of Josef Stalin. Looking beyond Asmus and Pollack I thus argue in favor of a system-opening strategy with the perspective of cooperative structures to emerge over time between the West and the Greater Middle East.
The differences in transatlantic approaches to the new challenges stemming from uncertainties and crises in the cycle of instability stretching from „Marrakesh to Bangladesh“(Asmus/Pollack) have been discussed and experienced with all intensity during the Iraq crisis of 2002/2003. Power and weakness, whimps and imperialists, assymetric distribution of hard power and soft power - all arguments posible have been traded as part of Euro-trashing in the US and America-bashing in Europe. None of the arguments and none of the events that lie behind us has been able to fundamentally destroy the underlying importance of transatlantic relations.
Two set of disputes have to be identified. On the one hand, there are those disputes, which are stemming from our proximity (mainly debates about values and domestic developments); they are an element of trans-atlantic domestic policies and a sign of the connexion between social and cultural developments on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. On the other hand, there are those disputes which are obviously a reflection of different foreign policy choices and strategic orientations in the aftermath of the terorrist attacks of September 11,2001. Both disputes are interwoven with disputes emanating from differences in interpreting common „Western“ values. They prove the strong links between the Atlantic partners - even when this leads to disputes. This is why the failure to generate a new transatlantic paradigm would be so critically for the well-being of both partners in the Atlantic.
The Greater Middle East has often been underestimated regarding the nature of its crises and their possible implication for the West. The Greater Middle East has also been oversimplified as being mainly, if not solely a region of failure, threat and chaos, and the Greater Middle East has been underrated with regard to its positive potential for the shaping of a common agenda with the West. Failed states, terorrism, weapons of mass destruction, refugee migration, economic underperformance and political oppression: these are the key-words to assess the Greater Middle East as the hotbed of future conflicts which can easily spill over into the West or which might be directly oriented against the West. The positive potential is also evident: Oil and gas ressources, the dynamics of modernising societies, and possble joint initiatives to optimize the ressources both of the West and the Arab world in favour of the marginal regions of the Greater Middle East and also in favour of Africa which is our common neighbour. Rather undecided is the course which Islam will take in relation to the challenges and opportunities of globalization.
If the US and the European Union fail to define a new and lasting transatlantic project, their strategic divorce could be imminent. If both Atlantic partners fail to define the transformation of the Greater Middle East as a common interest of the West and the people in the Greater Middle East, a strategic confrontation between the West and the Greater Middle East (or some of its constituent parts) could evolve. The dual challenge posed by a new era is enormous. Can it be dealt with in a satisfying way? This depends on the willingness to honestly analyse the challenge, to courageously take up its implications and to consistently work for the transformation of the challenge into a visible opportunity for all people involved. This is what has happened in Europe in the course of the 20th century. After status quo oriented crisis managment came to an halt, the strategy of inclusive transformation of the whole continent based on common values and political systems was pursued and led to unprecedented success. At the end, this was to the benefit of all Europeans including those who had been bitter enemies in the past.
While the Greater Middle East is culturally different and politically highly complex, the challenge ahead is not completely incomparable. At the root of it, it is a challenge of world order building through the transformation of regional structures and trans-regional relations. It is also a challenge to intellectual honesty, moral and cultural farsightedness and to political leadership among all actors involved. This is why the cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East will be the most important test-case for order building and positive progress in the 21st century.
Whether we refer to the US or to the US and Canada, to NATO or to either the European Union or to the Council of Europe, the Atlantic community is clearly defined by a common history and a mutually recognized identity. The arch of instability - the region from „Marrakech to Bangladesh“ is less clearly defined and definable. The European Union puts emphasis on partnership with the Southern Mediterranean countries, including Israel. NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue includes pro-Western countries only, but goes beyond the „Barcelona-Process“-region by including Mauretania. Relations of either the US or the European Union with the countries of the Arab peninsula, of the Middle East in the strict sense of the conflict which has absorbed the world for decades, or the extended/ larger Middle East with Iraq and Iran are nor identical and not necessarily overlapping either. As far as the inclusion of the Caucasus region and the newly independent republics of Central Asia is concerned, there exists as much ambiguity as there is with regard to including Afghanistan and even Pakistan - let alone India and Bangladesh - into the region. Not all countries of the region are Arab, not all Arab countries are purely Muslim, not all Muslim countries are in the region, Israel does neither fit in one or the other category, nor do Turkey and India.
Since NATO has formally taken over the command of the peace-keeping troops in Afghanistan, the rebuilding of Afghanistan has clearly been recognized as a common Euro-American task. In that sense, the Hindukush has become the natural eastern border of the region which is undergoing strategic and domestic transformation and which is of concern to both the US and the European Union. No matter how grave the potential for trouble and how hopeful the opportunities for cooperation, the republics of the Caucasus and of Central Asia have to be included into the arc of instability. EU Commission President Romano Prodi has talked about an „arc of stability at Europe’s gates“ which the EU tries to develop around its borders - which would stretch from Morocco to Russia. Asmus and Pollacks region „from Marrakesh to Bangladesh“ is a useful compass. But as all other geographic conceptualisations, it falls short of giving definite and authoritative answers to some of the intricacies and contradicitions in this vast region. As conflicts and opportunities overlap, so do regions, depending on the categories one emphasises.
It seems to be relatively easy to find Atlantic consensus in defining the „Greater Middle East“ as the region which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein and Kuweit. With specific classifications and for different reasons, Afghanistan must and Georgia, Armenia, Azerbeijan, Turkmenistan, Kasachstan, Kirgystan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Yemen and Mauretania most likely should be included in the search for a new regional order. The core zone of the „problem area“ seems to be the Arab world, which strictu sensu would also entail Sudan, Somalia and the Comores, and exclude Israel as far as issues of religion, governance and market-economy are concerned. Yet, Israels very existence will always be a factor to be reckoned with in defining the perspectives of the region, also in any post-Middle East conflict scenario. Turkey as being a non-Arab country, a member of NATO and the Council of Europe and a candidate for EU membership clearly is obviously part of the Atlantic side of the equation and yet involved in some aspects of the development of the Greater Middle East in specific ways.
More difficult than the geographical delimitation is the question of the scope of the definition of the problem we link with the Greater Middle East. Do we basically deal with the war against terrorism or is this but a dimension of deeper structural crises in the region and a broader set of challenges for the West? How do we assess the relationship between the Middle East conflict and the evolution of the Greater Middle East? Even beyond the most inclusive agenda which would cover all root causes of terrorism and regime instability, how do we look at the region in the final analysis? As a permanent threat which at best can be contained and tamed? As a partner with unresolvable problems or as a puzzle of problems among potential partners? There is little Atlantic consent on these questions. So far, predominantly country- and regional experts have dealt with the set of issues. After 9/11, the agenda has been transformed as the key challenge for Western strategy- and policy-makers who are often limited in their regional expertise. Contradictions and divergent views stemming from domestic considerations both in the US or in Europe are hence natural and they will most likely prevail. But one fact is for certain: The Greater Middle East is no longer a region for regional experts. For better or worse, It is a region which touches emotions of all sorts in the Western world. Likewise, the perception of the West and its constituent parts is under heavy discussion inside the Greater Middle East.
One of the perennial trends in the Arab or Greater Middle East discourse about the West is the obvious inferiority complex in the region. While the West simplifies the Arab or Islamic world as non-rational, aggressive and dangerous, the Arab world perceives the West as superior, arrogant and imperialistic; equal partnership could never be achieved. The Arab worlds only contemporary pride of a non-destructive nature seems to be the success of the TV station „Al Jazeera“ in Qatar which has been labeled the CNN of the Arab world. Many in the region are proud of „Al-Jazeera“, which has revolutionized the media landscape in the Greater Middle East - not always to the pleasure of regimes it critizises unequivocally.
Finding common ground between the West and the countries of the Greater Middle East will be easier on practical aspects than on issues of principle. Incremental progress will be the more likely path towards cooperation than full-fledged comprehensive strategies and approaches. The Western ambition of a comprehensive transformation of the whole region will not only require strong differentiation when it comes to specific countries, specific aspects of the matter and specific perspectives for the future. It will also be a continuous obstacle to find common ground between „us“ and „them“ regarding the overall definition of common interests and long-term potential of any comprehensive cooperation. Yet this asymmetry seems to be inevitable as the urgency for a new transatlantic project has been imposed upon the West by the attacks of 9/11, whether one likes this starting point of a focus of fear or not. Rarely has a transformation in world order been driven by academic scenarios of good-will and nicely outlined time-frames.
Bringing the US and the European Union together in a new transatlantic project of the indicated scope and nature will inevitably bring about internal Western debates about priorities and posteriorities. It will also bring about outright power-struggles about leadership as was the case during the internal Western Cold War on Iraq. Nevertheless, there is ample room for common ground among the US and the EU, for joint perception and action and, moreover, for common interests and goals, if necessary coupled with complementarity. The quarrel over Iraq was a wake-up call on both sides of the Atlantic. It has led to reshuffles of power inside the Western camp, not the least inside the European Union - mainly to the detriment of the role of Germany -, but it has not derailed the Atlantic partnership as a whole.
Before involving the countries and societies of the Greater Middle East, the Atlantic partners have to come to terms with their own assessment of the challenges and opportunities ahead. Whether they consult representatives of the Greater Middle East or not, they have to bear in mind their possible reaction and their interests if the whole project shall succeed. Only a gradual development and implementation seems realistic. At the center remains the most crucial question: How can the nature of the problem be defined? Most evident is a perception that starts with the terrorist threat, coupled with the possible use of weapons of mass destruction by rough states or radical groups sponsored by them. The challenge however is deeper and larger.
The root causes of the multiple and interlinked crises in the countries and societies of the Greater Middle East have best been summarized by the UN-sponsored „Arab Human Development Report“, which was written by 22 eminent Arab scholars and published in 2002 . It indicates the root-causes of the modernisation crisis in the Arab world as following: lack of political freedom, corruption, economic stagnation, lack of rule of law and reliable legal systems, inappropriate market economies, insufficient education systems, gender inequality. The report has been critizised on many accounts, not the least in the Arab world. But this critique can be understood as part of the process which the report wanted to launch. The public discourse about the need to transform the societies and regimes in the Greater Middle East, and in the Arab world in particular, is no longer a taboo. In fact, it is beginning to become a visible factor of the development itself, which is still wavering between resilience and closure on the one hand and fear from too radical changes, whereby the direction is less certain and the results potentially even contradictory to the overall ambition.
No recent report about developments in the Arab world has been more outspoken about the harsh realities of the region bordering Europe at the South and South-East. Three quarters of all global oil reserves are located in 13 countries of the Greater Middle East. Yet, their people do not benefit. Growth rates of 1.3 per cent on average fall behind most other development regions. The per capita income is shrinking. Population growth rates of 2.5 per cent per annum are higher than in most other regions and absorb the little economic progress there is. Of 651 billion Dollar foreign investment the world economy has experienced in 2002, the Arab countries were able to attract only 4,6 billion, which, of course, are unevenly distributed over the region. A region with 7.5 per cent of the world population but only 2.5 per cent of the global gross domestic product is clearly underperforming. This alone has to be of concern for Europe as its immediate neighbouring region.
All freedom and human rights indices paint a bleak picture of the Arab world. Be it political participation, legal security, fight against corruption, stability, transparency, govermental efficiency or governance quality - the Greater Middle East continously receives some of the worst notes in the world. It is no surprising that unresolved problems in the region are piling up and thus endangering the stability in Europe as its immediate northern neighbour. Illegal and legal migration, political threats with weapons of mass destruction, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism - the export of instability into Europe has many names. The lack of opportunities in the Greater Middle East has begun to turn into a threat to the stability of the Western world.
This is the main reason why the future development of the relationship between the West and the Greater Middle East cannot be based on the mechanism of deterrence alone. The history of the Cold War has demonstrated that deterrence can freeze a conflict. But it cannot manage and resolve it. Moreover, it would be completely misleading, if not polemic and wrong to assume that the relationship between the Greater Middle East and the West is equivalent to the Cold War relationship between the West and the Soviet Empire. There simply is neither the Arab equivalent of the Soviet Empire nor is there necessarily an Arab Moscow, even if Riad might be a potential candidate. Most important however: there is no Cold War between the Greater Middle East as a whole and the West as such. Some analysts might see it emerging, some might even wish it. But the parameters of the relationship between the West and the Greater Middle East are more complex and much more differentiated than the relationship which defined the Cold War.
Nevertheless, recent trends and the many dimensions being discussed over the past years indicate the potential of conflict, if not even confrontation between parts of the Greater Middle East and parts of the West. This is the main reason why the future development of the relationship between the West and the Greater Middle East cannot be based on the promise of cooperation alone. The history of the encounter between the West and the cultures and regions of the Greater Middle East has seen periods of cooperation as much as periods of confrontation. It is the challenge to the leadership of today, to define a frame for the relationship between the West and the Greater Middle East, between the Atlantic civilization and the Arab-Islamic civilization which is broad and forward looking enough to tap on the potential of cooperation and realistic and cautious enough not to neglect the possible need for deterrence.
Such a strategy must be based on two pillars: It requires a transformation in the relationship between the Atlantic civilization and the Greater Middle East as far as the resolution of existing problems, threats and obstacles is concerned; and it requires a transformation inside both the Atlantic civilization and the Greater Middle East as far as the internal approach to „the other“ is concerned. The „Harmel Report“ of 1967 defined the two-track strategy of NATO vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and their satellites during the following two decades of the Cold War. The new common transatlantic project - the cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East - will require a similar two-track strategy, which must go very well beyond the agenda of hard security and defense matters to become a success over time. It must be based on a system-opening strategy equivalent to the one which has started the transformation of the communist world and its gradual integration into cooperative structures with the West.
It will also require a two-dimensional approach for implementing this strategy. In order to achieve its goals, the US and the EU will need partners in the Greater Middle East and the support of those forces in that region „who aspire to the same changes“ (Asmus/Pollack). At the end, the process to achieve this might lead to a new variant of the former „Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe“ (CSCE). A Conference on Security and Cooperation with the US and the EU on the one hand and the countries of the Greater Middle East on the other hand might both be the final outcome and a crucial instrument for further intensification of a cooperative transformation in the Greater Middle East and between the two regions. For optimists, it might be the key to system-opening cooperation and for pessimists the outcome of any cooperative rearrangement as the ultimate embodiment of a new regional system. To bring system-opening cooperation to fruition, the strategic thinking in the West has to be concentrated on such an approach and perspective.
The perspective of a Euro-American-Arab(and of course Israeli) Conference on Security and Cooperation opens the debate about the ultimate goal of the new „common project“ and any idea of „regime change“ and „transformation“ in the Greater Middle East. It is imperative to understand that neither the „war against terrorism“ nor „regime change“ in and „transformation“ of the Greater Middle East are a strategic goal in themselves. They are necessary answers to the challenges which have become evident since 9/11. They might be necessary preconditions to achieve strategic goals: But themselves they cannot be a long-range strategic goal of Western politics as such. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been much talk about the need to develop a common threat perception in the European Union and in the United States. We do not only need a common threat perception, we also need a common goal if the idea of a new common transatlantic project of strategic importance shall succeed.
The goal must be defined in line with Western interests about the future course of the Greater Middle East and its position in the world order. War against terrorism, regime changes and structural transformation are tactical means. The question: whereto? has to be raised in order to look beyond the light of the end of the tunnel. The Western world, and in fact all modern complex industrialised societies are driving forces of globalisation and they import the effects of globalisation. They depend on the success of globalisation although this does not free them from dealing with their specific internal agenda of reform requirements for a successful managment of globalisation. Successful globalisation requires stability, transparency, efficient and non-corrupt structures in political and corporate governance, an open society and social conditions which are conducive to nourish any benefit from globalisation. Those structures and atmosphere require a solid rule of law and predictable public procedures in order to be in line with Western interests. Those structures are best demonstrated wherever an open society prevails. In the 20th century, the struggle was between open societies and their totalitarian enemies which were forces inside the Western world. The 21st century is confronted with the struggle between global society and its enemies which try to prevent open societies from existing and global society from succeeding.
Developing constitutional procedures and modes of politics which are more or less in line with Western notions of an open society and of democracy-based rule of law is a complex matter. The Western interest in stable global developments considers democratic regimes as conducive. But the West has to accept the criticism that it is happily cooperaring with many countries and societies that do not stand the test of democracy. Transformation in the Greater Middle East might have to include regime change indeed. But there is no natural certainty that regime change and transformation will inevitably lead to more democracy. The opposite could happen. This is the consequence of the fact that the West is not capable to predefine and manage the process of transformation in every place of the Greater Middle East and during every stage of the future developments. Democracy and even the rule of law depend on local conditions which have to have their own seeds, their own incubation period and will yet remain tied to their own circumstances.
The West should therefore insist more on a specific model of statehood than on the details of democratic governance. The Western model of a secular, pluralistic state which protects human rights including and in the first place to right to belief and express one’s faith requires the realisation of the basic parameters of rule of law, of predictability and transaprency. As far as control and sharing of power, accountability and efficient managment of public ressources are best served through the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy, the West has many experiences to share with the countries in the Greater Middle East - but also a good number of internal shortcomings to adress in a mood of self-critique.
Nothing is wrong with the democratic norm and the universality of human rights as principle and guiding star for the transformation debate. But they cannot be imposed from the outside nor should it be tried to impose them by force whereever Western standards are not being fullfilled. This could become counterproductive, for instance in the case of Iran. One decade after the end of the war, Bosnia-Herzegovina is still an extremely weak state which did not truly benefit from more than half a dozen free elections and a constitution. The conditions which burden Bosnia-Herzegovina have to be dealt with in their own right. This is also true for any transformation country in the Greater Middle East. Democracy might thus be the end of a process but not the means to make the desired process a success.
This is not just a tactical question and a typical „hen and egg“-problem. The issue most be adressed in light of the overall Western interests and the time-horizon in which to act. Three interests are being shared in the West: The Greater Middle East shall be stable and as such a good economic and political partner which cannot mean any longer that stability means the absence of an open and pluralistic society ; the Greater Middle East must become a zone that is not exporting instability, threats or terorrist violence which means that the governments and regimes in the Greater Middle East must have an self-interest in fighting the root causes of terrorism and in fighting all possible expressions of violent movements in their country; the Greater Middle East shall become more open as this is the precondition to become the stable partner one would like to see which means the Greater Middle East must deal with the preconditions for a successful integration into the globalising world.
Unquestionably, these goals can best be achieved with democratic partners that obey the rule of law and support the concept of an open and pluralistic society. These interests of the West do not find sufficient support through the appropriate means and instruments inside the West in order to be implemented at the will of the West. Stable democracies must grow over time and they must find roots inside society if they shall prevail. In the absence of traditions which are akin and favourable to democratic rule, patience and a longer time-span must be reckoned with.
Regime change and transformation thus require the cooperation of the countries and societies in the Greater Middle East, even after an enforced regime change as can be seen both in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, they can lead to positive results only, if the people develop a sense of ownership into the new reality instead of just sitting at the fences and observing foreign interventions into the life of their country rather as a curse than a blessing. Regime change and transformation must therefore correspond with the interests of the majority of citizen in any country of the Greater Middle East in order to gain enduring legitimacy among them. This might be an uphill battle and the source for frictions as it can escalate in local power struggles. Therefore it remains imperative to develop a Western strategy as part of the new common Atlantic project which does include strategies of a win-win-situation for those countries that shall undergo a fundamental transformation ( such as Syria, Iran and definitely Saudi-Arabia). Although the reality on the ground will nevertheless not be without tensions, the Western approach and attitude must at least be clear: it must be one in which the need for change in the Greater Middle East is not being seen as in the interest of the West alone, but as one being in the mutual interest of the people in both hemispheres. Otherwise it will remain an artificial quest and an imposed process.
In their initial proposition for transformation in the Greater Middle East as the new transatlantic project, Ron Asmus and Kenneth Pollack have rightly consented that the West „needs a strategy that is more than a military camapign“. They have argued in favor to not only fight terrorists and failed states, but „to change the dynamics that created such monstrous groups and regimes in the first place“. They defined „transformation“ as the need for „a new form of democracy in the Greater Middle East“, „a new economic system that could provide work, dignity, and livelihoods for the people of the regions“ and „helping Middle Eastern societies come to grips with modernity and create new civil socieities that allow them to compete and integrate in the modern world without losing their sense of cultural uniqueness“ . They remained rather unsystematic in their definition of the implications of this „tall order“ as they rightly described it. The development of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in May 2003 indicate the potential for problems and the danger of skepticism or even cynicism in the West as post-conflict situations or post-dictatorial transformation can never develop according to a academic blueprint.
All indications demonstrate differences in the approaches of the US and of the European Union. The US debate tends to be strategic, security-biased and driven by universalist norms. The European debate tends to be regional, multidimensional and institutional. As far as issues are concerned, it is easy to gain consent about them with the qualitiy of a shallow headline (weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, failed states, democracy, human rights, energy supply),. Once details of the topic or moreover perspectives of a development are concerned, the differences are all too often both of a moral and a political nature. To develop a common Western strategy which will be based on overlapping interests and commonalities, including the optimal use of complementarity, is not easy in light of the experiences with the Iraq crisis. But it must be a strategy which is focussing on common ground and complementarity, if it shall become a common project at all. Otherwise the frustrating internal Western Cold War will prevail as we have seen it during the Iraq crisis. The obvious differences between the US and many EU positions might turn into new quarrels over the ability of either the US or the EU to set the agenda, to launch an initiative and to gain positions and diplomatic ground.
A US-led strategy for the Greater Middle East might concentrate on military solutions and short term effects. The European Union might object as leading European opponents to the US policy on Iraq have done during the crisis 2002/2003. At the end, their approach and aspiration failed. The US had to return to multilateralism only during the period of stabilizing Iraq. Although the European opponents to the regime change in Bagdad tended to self-righteously indicate that they were not surprised about the obvious difficulties in stabilizing Iraq, any of their own initiative which was meant to bring the US back to multilateral approaches under the roof of the UN had to recognise that it was the US-led coalition that had initiated the course of events. At best, the European partners were able to offer support in stabilizing Iraq as a task of the whole world community.
A EU-led strategy for the Greater Middle East will intuitively be based on the experiences with the „Barcelona-Process“, Europe’s Middle East policy, its consistent reservation against the dual containment policy against Iraq and Iran, its inisistence on a constructive dialogue with Iran, its cooperative arrangements with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and its focus on economic cooperation which is hiding the fact that the EU is more dependent upon Middle East oil than the US. The US will not object most of the EU approaches - except for the EU’s Iran policy -, but will continuosly insist that the US and not the EU are the key mediator in the Middle East in spite of all recent arrangements of the Quartet Powers . The EU must recognize that many hopes and aspirations that existed for the „Barcelona-Process“ have been held hostage by the Middle East conflict notwithstanding the participation of Israel beside all Arab Middle East countries and the Palestinian Authority in the „Barcelona-Process“ since its inception 1995.
A Western strategy which will be driven by events in the Greater Middle East would remain limited to ad hoc reactions to crises and thus incapable of contribution to the transformation goal. It must therefore be in the interest of both the US and the EU to approach the central strategic questions regarding the future of the Greater Middle East and Western approaches and interests in a comprehensive and pro-active context. The individual steps will have to be pragmatic and thus incremental. Nevertheless must they be based on a comprehensive strategy and on overall goals. Otherwise they will time and again fall victim to the definition of politics which former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once gave: events.
A comprehensive grand Atlantic strategy for system-openinig, cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East and for the inclusion of the region in the process of globalisation will have to be flexible regarding the scope of its approaches. It must recognize the overlapping nature of issues and the need for gradual advancement in the most daunting fields which will require patience, rigid time-frames and mechanisms of conditionality to commit all participants to success. The US and the EU will have to make up their mind whether they will approach the challenge with enabling or vetoing intentions among themselves. Both might have their legitimate and necessary place (deterrence and cooperation). But it would end in useless frustrations if the Atlantic partners were to quarrel more among themselves by using veto capacities over decision making or actions of the other instead of looking together into the same direction and offering system-opening support for those societies and countries in the Greater Middle East that want to be partners in the process of transformation.It is imperative for the West to combine a comprehensive strategy with a pragmatic sense of priorities and posterities, a reality check about possible next steps and the appropriate combination of goals and instruments.
The next steps and most urgent test cases for the ability of the US and the EU to develop a new transatlantic project are as following:
1. Rebuilding Iraq and returning sovereignty to the Iraqis with the goal of constitutional-based secular statehood, rule of law and democracy that can grow as part of a new development bargain among Western and Arab donor countries ;
2. Constitutionalizing Afghanistan and supporting the development of a multi-ethnic state which will institutionalize peaceful and democratic solutions to pending cleavages in the Afghan society; 3. Resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict and creating a two-state solution in line with the time frame of the Quartet’s „Road Map“ and generating long-term cooperation among the two entities;
4. Bringing about peaceful regime change in Iran which is to say enhancing the domestic reforms towards an open society and the rule of law based on Irans full compliance with the internationally recognized non-proliferation mechanism for nuclear wapons;
5. Introducing the first elements of a comprehensive CSCE-like (Helsinki-Process) mechanism for the whole region which will include the EU and the US as well as Russia , possibly under the umbrella of a UN mandate.
Invasion and regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq have defined the most immediate challenges in the Greater Middle East, have created circumstances for a lasting US military presence, have brought NATO and multilateralism back, and have clearly contributed to the perception in the West that the Greater Middle East does exist and is the most crucial challenge to all Western countries. While crisis managment will remain focussed on the immediate places of unrest and while the unpredictability of developments in countries such as Iran and Saudi-Arabia remain most crucial in light of their potential global implication, the overall development of the Greater Middle East is at the long-term center of the issue.
From the perspective of global consequences, a succesful system-opening and cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East would stabilize the world order, it would deescalate the danger of proliferation of terrorism which is also threatening various countries in the Greater Middle East. It would facilitate the inclusion of the Greater Middle East in the globalised structures of the world economy and thus critically support policies of inclusive development all over the region. Both in terms of geopolitics and geoeconomics, an inclusion of the Greater Middle East as a zone of stability which is making optimized use of its ressources and neighbourhoods will become an important element towards a more stable and thus multipolar world order.
From the perspective of regional implications and bi-regional consequences, a successful system-opening and cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East would enhance the potential for regional cooperation along the model of the European Union, of NAFTA or of the Council of Europe. It would leave room for sub-regional cooperation, for instance in the Maghreb and in the Gulf, but also in continuity with the mechanism of the Barcelona-Process. It would also open potential for enhanced transregional and biregional cooperation, although this would lead to new questions about the role of the Western partners. The US might focus on strategic cooperation along the line of NATO’s Mediterranean policies while the EU might favour civil cooperation along the model of the Barcelona Process. Overlaps and conflicts of interests might arise, for instance with regard to the relationship of the Gulf Cooperation Council to the Barcelona Process. This is all the more of relevance for European policy makers as the Guld Cooperation Council might extent cooperation and eventually integration to a rebuild Iraq and may be even to a transformed Iran.
It will be in the interest of the European Union, to broaden its horizon and to develop strategies towards the Greater Middle East with a focus on concentric circles and specific solutions to the range of problems ahead. Supporting the development of human ressources that are important for the establishment of rule of law and democracy in countries like Egypt, engaging Saudi-Arabia into a dialogue about a more open-minded definiition of Islam which takes into account the parameters of the modern secular and pluralistic state, encouraging the reconciliation of Islamic interpretations of society with secular and inclusive concepts of a pluralistic notion of the state, supporting the economic diversification in the Gulf economies, encouraging Israel and Palestine to seach for the nucleus and approrpriate tools which will positively link their respective developments - these are but a few glimpses into a tall and long agenda.
What does „concentric circles“ mean? It means an overlap of institutional and policy mechanisms which are strongest in a center and remain overlapping as they are stretching to the outer regions thus maintaining their special situation and yet connecting them with the overall mechanism of policy cooperation. The Atlantic partnership between the US and the EU clearly serves as the center piece of any successful evolution of the scheme. The second layer is defined by the „Barcelona-Process“ where th EU is in the driving position and NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue where the US is in the driving position. The third layer will have to connect both the US and the EU in a more comprehensive way with the Gulf region, where both are pursuing bilateral (US) and biregional (EU) approaches of different priorities and densitiy. In the mid-term, Iraq will be considered to be part of the Gulf region.The fourth layer will have to connect both the US and the EU with the other parts of the Greater Middle East with Iran and Afghanistan as special cases, the Caucasus republics and the republics of Central Asia. It remains to be seen in which way Russia will be connected (or wants to be connected) to one or the other or to all layers of the cooperative system of concentric circles. Turkey is involved on the side if both the US and the EU through its membership in NATO and as a consequence of its status as an EU candidate.
In terms of policy content, the different layers of the concentric circle of cooperation and partnership consist of different priorities and densities. The Barcelona-Process will remain defined by its civil and largely socio-economic character. The NATO Mediterranean Dialogue will remain defined by its strategic and security-oriented character. Reaching out to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will mean to define a common agenda with them which includes specific bilateral and biregional aspects (trade, security, energy) and links to the overall regional development (their role in the implementation of a Middle East peace solution; their role in the reconstruction and constitutionalization of Iraq and Afghanistan)). Both aspects do likewise hold for the countries of the Caucasus and of Central Asia, though with a an applied arrangement in the field of economic cooperation. A stable Afghanistan could in the end be considered as being part of Central Asia. A transformed Iran might be considered as a Gulf country, eventually even linking with the Gulf Cooperation Council. These, of course, are anticipated thoughts which go way beyond the current situation and serve only as a compass to understand the potential of the dynamics if the idea of a Helsinki-like process would be taken up, encompassing the whole of the Greater Middle East.
As far as the Middle East peace process is concerned, a Helsinki-like „Conference on Security, Cooperation and Partnership in the Greater Middle East“ could serve as a guarantor for the implementation of the final results of a Middle East peace solution, whatever they will be at the end. Thus, Russia’s participation in the overall project is useful and a mandate of the United Nations for the evolutive creation of a new regional security and cooperation frame will be imperative as was the case with CSCE. A „Conference on Security, Cooperation and Partnership in the Greater Middle East“ would eventually be able to make use of the guaranteeing and enabling involvment of the US and the EU (and Russia and the Gulf countries). It would encourage to continue with specifical and rather dense regional schemes of cooperation such as the Barcelona-Process, with NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, and with specific dimensions of cooperation with Central Asia and the Caucasus. And, of course, such an overall regional process has to enable, support and gradually incorporate and transform the very focussed activities which are necessary as long as Afghanistan and Iraq require external support in their stabilization and rebuilding-phase, and as long the relationship between Israel and Palestine has not materialized on the basis of a viable two-state solution. At same ultimate stage of the process, these countries could become „normal“ participants of the overall process and overcome their current status as centers of conflict or post-conflict crisis managment.
Such an ambitious scheme can only materialize and work on the basis of pragmatic and gradual evolution which takes into account the different levels of cooperation that already exist or dominate the mutual perception. It seems unlikely to extent the model of the Barcelona Process to the whole Greater Middle East as it does not include the United States. It is insufficient to extent NATO’s Mediterranean policy to the Greater Middle East as it is too security- driven. It would be insufficient to define the priorities of the common project of system-opening and cooperative transformation of the Greater Middle East according to the most difficult countries where post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction are vital, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It is likewise important to encourage the constitutional developments in the Gulf states, enhance the component of conditionality and frankness towards Saudi-Arabia, to learn from the Algerian tragedy and to prevent Tunisia and Egypt falling back more than their peaceful, open and stable development can afford. It will be useful for the West to support Libya in returning to become a viable member of the international community and thus a relevant regional partner. It will be important to support those countries of the Greater Middle East with fundamental development problems, such as Yemen, Sudan, some of the Central Asian and Caucasus republics.
The two most crucial issues for the next two years are: a peaceful transformation of Iran and a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. Whether the Atlantic partners - bilateral or as part of the Quartet which includes Russia and the United Nations - can achieve their goals immediately and unequivocally will define the destiny of the idea of a long-term common strategic project. Failure in coordinating a peaceful and evolutive transformation in Iran and failure to bring about a sustainable two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will be more critical than any other pending problem as test case for the renewal and reorientation of the Atlantic partnership. One must already be more than skeptical about the realisation of the time-frame as outlined in the Quartet’s Road Map for a solution to the Middle East conflict. This does not enhance, but it rather undermines the Western credibility in the region. As far as Iran is concerned, the US has to abstain from unilateral, let alone military solutions while Europe has increase the pressure through means of conditionality to give sense and teeth to its constructive dialogue with the Islamic regime in Tehran.
While old-standing and newly emerging conflicts will dominate the daily agenda of policy-makers and the media, it is critical for the long-term realisation of the idea of a common Atlantic project to develop the frame for a bi-regional mechanism with instruments comparable yet applied to the Helsinki-Process which brought the Cold War to its peaceful end. Most likely can the Middle East conflict trigger the beginning of such a process that should reach out beyond the conflict-resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. It would be worthwhile to explore the launching of a CSCE-type of conference to prepare for the final stages of conflict-resolution among Israelis and Palestinians. The presence of all relevant regional and international actors could increase the legitimacy of the final solution, but also the pressure in order to bring it about. Israel and Palestine should not be just two neighbours living separate from each other. If the vision of a Greater Middle East transformed shall become reality, the two former adversaries will at some stage find their specific equivalent of the mechanism that brought about confidence, cooperation and integration between France and Germany. Water and energy as both being scarce and simultaneously available in abundance might play the role in the Middle East that coal and steel have played for France and Gemany in the 1950s.
The perspective for regional economic and social cooperation could be part of a larger bi-regional frame with full inclusion of the US and possibly Russia, supervised and legitimized by the United Nations. A Helsinki-Process-like approach to link the Greater Middle East with the Atlantic partners will include procedures, mechanisms and criteria for bringing about various „baskets“ with the leverage for package-deal solutions that can be perceived as a mutual success. Security, the fight against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the transformation of military and militia forces into armies which are loyal and accountable to civil leadership; outlining the broad dimensions of mutually beneficial economic and technological cooperation which will include investor’s security, dealing with pull- and push factors for migration, the definition of minimal social standards; an increased and free encounter and cooperation among societal groups and non-political actors, which includes media representatives as well as all dimensions of religious dialogue and the search for the preservation and use of common cultural heritage ; common concern about the realisation of sustainable human development, including training of human skills : these could be elements for the most relevant „baskets“ to be included in a reshaped Helsinki-type process. The goal of this process will be to bring about sustainable transformation in the Greater Middle East and to transform the relationship between the Greater Middle East and the Atlantic partners into one of cooperation and common approaches to global challenges.
The interesting question prevails: who could and who would launch such an initiative? It should be in the interest of the European Union to do so. As far as the embodiment of the European Union ist concerned, I would propose that both the European Parliament and the European Commission should take the initiative; both should look for support from leading EU member states who could support the idea in the European Council. In June 2004, a new European Parliament will be elected, followed by the nomination and approbation of a new European Commission. As both elections will follow the enlargement of the European Union to ten new member states, both EU institutions will have additional weight. I would strongly advise the European Parliament and the European Commission to prepare for a joint initiative for an applied version of the Helsinki process for the future relationship between the Grreater Middle East, the European Union and the United States -most likely also the Russian Federation and possibly under the auspices of the United Nations - for the winter 2004/2005.
As seen from Washington or Bruxelles, the Greater Middle East is going to be the center of strategic, political and socio-economic concern, but also of cultural and religious consideration for many decades to come. The region as a whole must be taken into consideration. This requires comprehensive approaches, also among foreign policy communities and academic experts which tend to underuse the potential for interfaces among them. Sub-regional forms of cooperative development will have to be intensified without loosing the perspective for the overall picture. Promising issues will have to be identified which could impact on the potential for cooperation inside the Greater Middle East, in a post-conflict Middle East or between the Greater Middle East and the West. The prevailing existence of threat potential and the dangers stemming from the export of instability to the West will have to be adressed with cautious realism. A transregional or bi-regional frame will have to link the Atlantic partners with the countries and societies of the Greater Middle East.
All in all, the key for success and the focus must be clear: The new transatlantic project must engage as many countries and societies in the Greater Middle East, Israel including. This will be the best recipe for lasting and sustainable success. This is a tall challenge for the EU and the US in light of a world region whose problems has divided the Atlantic partners over the past more than any other region in the world. Nevertheless, it has to be tested.