Thérèse Delpech is currently Director for Strategic Studies at the Atomic Energy Commission of France and Senior Research Fellow at CERI (Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques). She is also the French Commissioner at the UN for the disarmament of Iraq (UNMOVIC), and member of the International Institute for Srategic Studies’ Council as well as of RAND Europe’s Advisory Board. She served as Advisor to the French Prime Minister Alain Juppé for politico-military affairs (1995-1997). She also served as permanent consultant to the Policy Planning Staff, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1991-1995).
Thérèse Delpech is the author of four books: L’Héritage Nucléaire (Complexe, 1997), La Guerre Parfaite (Flammarion, 1998), Politique du Chaos (Le Seuil, 2002) and L’Ensauvagement (Grasset, 2005). She has written numerous articles in journals such as Politique Etrangère, Commentaire, Politique Internationale (Fr), Internationale Politik (Germany), Survival (IISS), Global (Italy), International Affairs (UK) and Washington Quaterly (US).
1. THE MIDDLE EAST, CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Whatever the strategic importance for Europe of Russia and the Balkans, the south shore of the Mediterranean and the Middle East may well represent for the European nations the most complex set of issues. The thaw coming with the end of the Cold War is not apparent there. The first conflict to erupt after the break-up of the Soviet Union was between two Arab nations, Kuwait and Iraq in 1990-1991. It gathered the most impressive international coalition since the Korean war. In many ways, the more recent Iraq war in 2003 was nothing but the completion of this first episode : it would not have taken place without the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In the whole region, cooperation among countries is not only poor, but sometimes replaced by open competition - as Morocco and Algeria in the Maghreb or Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the Machrek may attest.
Internally, there is no reason to be optimistic either. The economic and political situation will not improve soon. The dominant population groups are young, often poorly educated and burdened by high unemployment rates. They are frequently frustrated by the policies of local governments, while having no way to express their frustration at home. North Africa being the source of a migratory flow northwards, mainly to Italy, Spain and France, 15 million Muslims live in Europe today where their integration is uneven. In the Maghreb, instability is deadly in Algeria with an internal strife that has taken more than 100.000 lives in the last ten years. In Morocco, Islamists are gaining constant ground and may well win the next local elections if they present enough candidates.
On the brighter side, relations with Libya, a major headache for both America and Europe for decades, have improved : the European Union has lifted all sanctions on Libya in September 2004 and decision made by Tripoli in December 2003 to fully reveal and dismantle its WMD programs have helped creating a more cooperative climate. In Syria, a Franco-American-led pressure has terminated in 2005 the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. And the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was supported by the Europeans, the Americans, and even the UN Security Council. More importantly, some potential for reform was outlined in the UN’s Arab Human Development Report, written by economists from the Middle East. This widely commented report provides a framework for creating knowledge-based economies, which could provide hope to the frustrated youth of the region. But the implementation of the policies that were recommended is far from assured. The presentation will highlight what could be the principles of a European policy concerning the Middle East in the coming years.
Unlike the situation prevailing on Iraq, where Europe and America have been arguing for years over international inspections, war tactics, and overall policy, there is no serious transatlantic dispute concerning Iran. There may be differences of emphasis on the two sides of the Atlantic, but on what really matters, the positions are pretty close. Europe and America share a common objective vis-à-vis Tehran. They share a common analysis of the Iranian nuclear program, and they even share a common caution concerning the success of current negotiations with Russia. Yet, this does not amount to a transatlantic strategy on Iran. Far from it. Regular exchange of information, lack of alternative policy, and absence of confrontation would be a better description of the situation. On the European side, a first round of negotiations collapsed in June 2004, when some of the suspended nuclear activities were resumed by the Iranians. The international community was abruptly set back to square one at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2004 September Board meeting. The second agreement with the three European capitals (London, Berlin, and Paris) came into existence two months later—on 15 November 2004—under these difficult circumstances and collapsed again in August 2005, when conversion activities were restarted at Isfahan. On the other side of the Atlantic, until very recently, America has been watching on the sidelines, without a strategy of its own, waiting to see what happens. The Americans have never endorsed the European initiative explicitly, nor have they condemned it. Instead they have displayed a benign scepticism, even if President Bush himself made it clear that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian conundrum was preferable to any other—assuming, naturally, that such a solution is possible. In February 2006, the IAEA Board of Governors having decided to transmit all the relevant resolutions and reports to the UN Security Council for information, the Iranian issue is becoming increasingly difficult to resolve. The presentation will emphasize the positions of the main actors and the available options.
3. WHAT WILL BE THE MAIN SECURITY ISSUES IN 2025 ?
Three safe assumptions can be presented.
First, international terrorism will still be with us in 2025. An unfortunate but safe bet if one takes into account the following factors : the ability of networks to reconstitute and find new safe havens, the influence that radical thinking has on young generations in a large number of countries – we are not winning the war of ideas including in our own nations -, the difficulty to encourage political and economic reforms in the Middle East, the demographic factor - leading to a demographic explosion in developing countries -, coupled with poor economic, political and social development. In addition, considering terrorist attacks in Europe, in March 2004 in Madrid and in July 2005 in London, Europe has obviously become a target and does recognize the long term implications of the events. Finally, the outcome of the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq to stabilize both countries and ensure their reconstruction will also have important strategic consequences in the coming decades.
Secondly, WMD proliferation, whether nuclear, chemical or biological, as well as their means of delivery, - ballistic or cruise missiles - will still be with us for the two following decades. The ground for this assumption is as solid as one could be : the DPPK and Iran - although with very different styles -, show no sign of abandoning their nuclear ambitions. The Security Council is not reacting to this troubling reality : after North Korea withdrew from the NPT in January 2003, there has not even been a Chairman’s statement by the United Nations Security Council. And reaction to Iran’s behavior was still an open matter in February 2006. Pakistan poses a different problem but has become another major worry with the global clandestine nuclear network that has been uncovered. As of today, the network is neither fully known, nor fully dismantled, and there are no assurances that it will not be reconstituted. The United States has no direct access to AQ Khan, and the same network has been used for years by Pakistan to ensure its own procurement in sensitive technologies. Last but not least, more withdrawals from the NPT could take place in the next decades if Iran and North Korea are not contained. Japan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey can all change their defense policies and engage in military nuclear activities. Then the main consequence is that the NPT regime may well have exploded by 2025.
Thirdly, among the factors shaping the 2025 international security environment, the US-China relationship looms very largely. By then, according to current analyses, China will have modernized its defense forces and the pursuit of autonomous major power status, a deeply felt conviction of Beijing’s leaders, may have succeeded. The United States, on the other hand, will most likely still be a major Asian power in 2025, with numerous security commitments in the region. Although increasingly unpopular in East Asia, including in South Korea and Japan - some commentators refer to “reluctant allies” - the United States is unlikely to withdraw from the region, although new arrangements can be adopted that make American troops less numerous and less visible than they currently are. In the worst case, even if no repetition of the “Cold War” situation can be expected - with parity, MAD and ideological confrontation -, a number of asymmetric means may be available in China against the US.
Two additional assumptions regarding 2025 are suggested.
One is related to what can be called “the revenge of nature”. One expectation has been since the 19th century that science would eradicate great pandemics, but over the previous two decades a new disease has emerged into the human population roughly every year, coupled with dramatic outbreaks of diseases. In addition, the deliberate use of disease as a weapon of choice, either by states or non state actors is increasing. With biotechnological capacity spreading rapidly, an unstoppable trend, greater destructive power will be placed in the hands of smaller groups giving greater prominence to the threat of bio-terrorism, already considered to be serious in Europe and in America. In addition, a bigger number of great natural disasters has been predicted in the coming decades because of significant - and still little understood - changes in the world climate. One of the most commented upon areas of concern is the scarcity of water in significant areas of the planet that can become a serious security problem in the decades to come.
The second additional assumption - of a different nature - could be termed “the revenge of passions”. The dream of Enlightenment was to give reason a better place in the management of human affairs - including in the international arena. Such optimistic expectation was certainly not fulfilled by the past century, where tens of millions were killed because of ideological passion, but the end of the Cold War renewed the hope that somehow cooperative security will eventually prevail, with peace and democracy extended to most part of the world. While the European achievement gives credence to this prediction on its continent, with the sad exception of the Balkans, the increase of violence in its most extreme forms (ethnic cleansing, suicide bombing, international terrorism…) is one of the most prominent features of today’s international relations. To deal with the passionate opposition to Western values that are so prominent in large parts of the developing world – and indeed specifically in the Muslim world - will represent a significant challenge for societies very poorly equipped for dealing with radical thought and extreme means of action. Threats to social cohesion are already apparent in many European nations, unable to deal with immigration as well as unable to achieve integration.
Is multilateralism the best way to handle these challenges ?
4. 1905-2005 : THE NEW BARBARITY
Although for most of human history it seemed natural to think of politics in ethical terms, political issues have progressively become divorced from their ethical context since the end of the 19th century. It was then that power politics and economics took precedence over anything else. As a result, many of the basic issues that have preoccupied thinkers for ages, such as the meaning of human liberty, a proper sense of history, or responsible public behavior have now come to seem incomprehensible, irrelevant, or even suspect. And the mere idea that the acts of political leaders may have consequences comparable to natural catastrophes or to major epidemics is no longer understood.
In 1900, the prospects for the new century were generally seen in a positive light, with increasing social progress, limitless technological advances, and a first attempt to ban wars between nations. But by 1905, exactly a century ago, a number of disquieting warning signals indicated that the coming century might instead be one of wars, revolutions, and human misery on an unprecedented scale. Events that at the time seemed to have no particular connection between them would turn out to have enormous future repercussions and to shape the decades to come. The Russo-Japanese war, the failed Russian revolution of 1905, the publication by Sun Yat Sen of the principles of the Chinese nationalist movement, and the crisis between France and Germany over Morocco, would turn out to have consequences that were literally unimaginable at the time. Only a few lucid observers understood the potential implications of the events that were taking form around them, and that would utterly transform international relations, disrupt whole societies, and cast humanity into a global catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
In the late 1990s, there was also much talk of a “new world order” and of unlimited possibilities for peace and progress. And on the eve of the new century, men’s worst fears were concentrated on the possible consequences of the widely anticipated Y2K computer crash. Now, a mere five years later, the international scene has changed so much that we seem to live in a phantasmagoric world where everything may be turned upside down tomorrow, and where it is not possible to write off any nightmare scenario, no matter how dire. All the naïve enthusiasm of the end of the Cold War has not only been called into question. It has nearly been forgotten. We are living in times of extraordinary uncertainty and particularly of extraordinary unmoral uncertainty.
Is it possible to foresee what lies ahead, as it was hundred years ago?
Not so long ago, the world of today would have seemed impossible, with nations as insignificant as North Korea able to threaten the rest of the world, and with limitless greed allowing clandestine networks to sell nuclear technology to the highest bidder. In addition, mounting tensions over Taiwan or between Japan and China also show that East Asia may be a good candidate for a dramatic new swing in international relations. There we clearly see that the twentieth century was anything but a “short century,” and in a sense is still waiting its conclusion, as well as World War II is awaiting its final outcome.
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