A Note by the Director (2002/05)
12-14 April 2002
Over a sunny April weekend we set ourselves the challenging task of trying to establish what lasting impact the events of 11 September in the USA might have had. Although there were references to Zhou Enlai's dictum about the French Revolution - still too early to say - our discussions were wide ranging and illuminating even if firm conclusions to which all could subscribe, were limited.
We looked in depth at the impact on the USA itself. We were told that the attack had been a traumatic event with lasting psychological effects on the population of the USA. The US had been transformed, and politics changed. In domestic political terms the Democrats had, early on, sensed the public mood and had signed on to the Administration's response. Some argued that the American people wished to return to their former feeling of security and invulnerability. What had happened was unacceptable and they looked to their leaders to ensure it did not happen again. It had changed public attitudes to the possibility of military casualties. Young Americans had been painfully reminded of the world outside America and of the risks it posed to them. The US felt itself to be at war (not a unanimous view) and Europe did not.
We were divided about whether the Bush Administration had a policy to deal with the unfolding events. One participant thought that the Administration had an agenda which they were seeking to implement, but no clearly thought through policy. Iraq was on the agenda but no decisions had been taken, we were told, nor a policy worked out. It was pointed out that as far as the Israeli/Palestine conflict was concerned the Administration had had to reverse its policy of distancing itself. Some, however, thought that there were those in the Administration who considered a once in a generation opportunity had arisen when the application of the USA's overwhelming political, economic and military power could reshape the Middle East.
The current action in Afghanistan, the Israeli/Palestine conflict and a potential attempt to change the regime in Iraq occupied a good deal of our time, both as issues in their own right and as indicative of wider differences between America and its European allies and partners in their approach to international problems. The Americans, it was claimed, were dealing with the short term consequences while the Europeans and others were more concerned to address the long term causes of the problems confronting us. In looking at the threat, one participant commented that 9/11 had shown that non-state actors now had capabilities which they had never possessed before. They did not need missiles to strike at their enemies. Traditional means of deterrence were no longer relevant. Terrorists did not necessarily need a state from which to launch their attacks - although, perhaps fortunately, both Afghanistan and Iraq fell into the category where a strike against the state could be equated with a strike against the terrorists. Unless we could reach a common understanding of the problem there would be no basis for common action.
On Afghanistan the risks taken by the USA had, it was acknowledged, paid off - to the extent even that it might have given rise to hubris in Washington, cautioned some - but in the view of others it showed what clear leadership allied to outstanding military technology, could achieve. We were cautioned, however, that the struggle in Afghanistan was not over. Al Qu'eda could still cause problems, and the warlords who had thrown in their lot with the Americans would demand payment. We were reminded that many of the warlords were the same as those whose activities had enabled the Taliban to take over in the first place. One participant commented that the model of US airpower allied to local ground troops was not a universal panacea. The local allies would invariably be difficult to direct once the military phase was completed. Nation building was a complex process, not particularly popular with the Americans.
We were warned that although the current crisis in the Middle East was not directly linked with the events of 11 September, it had the potential to define international relations in the same way as the East/West struggle had done in the past. It could also become a serious problem for transatlantic relations. Sharon had been able to present himself as engaging in a war on terrorism in the same terms as those used by President Bush which had made the US initially reluctant to intervene and had also make subsequent efforts to rein him in ineffective. We were advised not to underestimate the anger in the Muslim world over Israeli actions, which were assumed to have US support, against the Palestinians. But, commented another, power was at the centre of this calculation. Arab leaders and the Arab street had not in the past reacted as violently as had been predicted.
Iraq gave rise to a detailed discussion, both as a possible target for US military action, and as symbolic of some of the wider issues raised by the war on terrorism. An argument was made that dealing with Saddam Hussein might help with urging restraint on Israel in its actions against the Palestinians. Seen from a Muslim perspective, however, according to one participant, the case against Saddam Hussein had not been credibly made. Seen from an American perspective, Iraq was alleged to be paying the families of suicide bombers and thus complicit in terrorist attacks against Israel, while Saddam's past record and possession of weapons of mass destruction could pose a threat to the security of the USA which it was entitled to deal with pre-emptively, if necessary on its own - "a man's got to do, what a man's got to do".
This widened into a discussion about what were claimed by some to be fundamentally different approaches to international treaties and rules, with the USA criticised for unilateralism and the Europeans caricatured (by a European participant) as "treaty-hugging" wimps. The so-called New World Order, claimed one participant had not proved effective and the USA was justified in taking action to protect its interests and its citizens. We discussed the possible emergence of a new US doctrine, where in addition to humanitarian intervention (as in Kosovo), terrorism and possession of WMD might also be justifications for military intervention. Those who expressed unease about this maintained that the great achievement of the 1945 settlement had been acceptance of a rules-based approach to settling international disputes. To depart from that risked reintroducing the principle of "might is right". While circumstances had changed and the rules which had been drawn up to deal with inter-state disputes might need amendment to cover non-state actions, the right approach was to try to change the rules not to ignore them when they caused difficulty. The approach of the first Bush Administration to the Gulf war had, in this sense, been exemplary, it was claimed.
There was a good deal of introspection among the Europeans about their contribution to the war on terrorism which would be a long haul. NATO, it was argued, had been sidelined. After Article 5 had been triggered, some European Allies had been keen to offer military assistance to the USA, but for the most part their offers had been disregarded. Given the widening gap between the USA's technological capabilities, and those of the Europeans, the Americans had preferred to mount action in Afghanistan under their own direction with minimal contributions from their NATO Allies thus avoiding the administrative burden of transporting and supplying their Allies. Some thought the Europeans had only themselves to blame as a result of their declining military budgets, their failure to give substance to their declarations about a rapid reaction force etc. Had the steam gone out of the European project? It was not surprising that the US had decided not to accept the restraints of coalition action in exchange for these offers. "No influence without capability" was how one participant summed it up. Were we, de facto, heading for a division of labour with the USA undertaking war fighting tasks and the Europeans following on with nation building? Many thought this would undermine transatlantic solidarity in the long term. Europe could not match US military expenditure which was now roughly equal to that of the whole of the rest of the world. But, argued another, European expenditure and capabilities were not negligible and were probably adequate to deal with most contingencies they were likely to face. Surely, at least the Europeans should devote sufficient resources to remaining inter-operable with the Americans.
Some doubts were expressed about the future of NATO itself. Were the Americans content to let it become a political security organisation. Would this be the effect of the decisions on the next round of NATO enlargement due to be taken in Prague in November? One participant thought that it was hard to overestimate the importance of the Prague summit for the future of NATO. It was no longer simply about the enlargement of NATO, it was about its transformation. This was supported by another participant who hoped that NATO would become an organisation capable of projecting force on a world-wide basis. Others thought that NATO might remain more like a tool-box from which coalitions of the willing would draw particular assets for specific operations. Another commented that the USA was not so much looking for coalitions of the willing but coalitions of the able and compliant. The Europeans were urged to speak up for their views and interests and not to fawn on the Americans. But commented another, fawning or not, the present US Administration was extraordinarily cohesive, it was hard to engage with them in a policy debate. Another area in which we noted European and American capabilities were widely different, was intelligence. We were told that serious capabilities existed in very few European countries and that their willingness to pool their resources with other Europeans was limited for operational and other reasons.
In considering some of the more intangible aspects of 9/11 a voice was raised in favour of care over the language we used. Terms like imperialism, modernisation, westernisation, "good" Muslims etc could lead to humiliation and division. One participant thought the discussion had been inward looking in focussing mainly on European and American interests. The sympathy for the USA which had existed on a wide scale after 9/11 was now dissipating fast. It would be a mistake to ignore "the other" in our view of events. And there were wider connections, if, for example, the US moved on from Afghanistan to deal forcefully with Iraq under the pretext of combating terrorism, they should bear in mind that the Indian Army faced the Pakistanis across their common border and might move to settle old scores on the same pretext.
We looked at legislation passed since 9/11 to tighten homeland security. We were advised that the speed at which draft legislation had been produced looked suspiciously as if events had been used to bring forward restrictions which had been in Home Ministries pending trays for some time. US extra-territorial claims on foreign citizens to appear before their courts without any cognisance as to how they might be brought there, was an added cause for concern for some of us, as was the treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Overall, while recognising widespread popular demands for greater protection, concern was expressed that legislation had been passed in both Europe and Canada which was thought to infringe freedom of speech and personal liberty in ways which has not been subject to proper or thorough public scrutiny and that this was indicative of a more general shift to executive power with insufficient attention as to whether institutional checks and balances were in good working order.
We asked ourselves what effect 9/11 had had on the economy and agreed that it had exacerbated pre-existing economic problems rather than being the direct cause of new problems. Some participants warned against taking an over-sanguine view of the economic situation with continuing weakness in world markets. A second major terrorist attack, or serious disruption to world oil supplies arising from an attack on Iraq, could cause a major shock to the world economy. In that context we were informed that all African and all Islamic countries were at the lower end of the world ranking list in regard to their productivity. The list of economically failed states was much longer than the list of politically failed states.
Of the external actors, we devoted some time to Russia. Putin we were informed, had set a clear course for integration with the West. It might not be practical for Russia to become a full member of NATO but some substantive moves towards Russia were desirable. It was suggested that cooperation between the Russian defence industry which had much to offer, and Western partners, might be such a move. It would certainly help to maintain support for Putin's policy from an influential circle in Russia. We also noted the Russian Foreign Minister's wish to define terrorism "Can we agree that our terrorists are your terrorists" - a question which raised wider definitional questions relevant to Ireland and elsewhere. Attention was also drawn to the increasing importance of Russian oil companies in the world energy market. They were well placed to take advantage of any disruption to supplies from the Middle East.
Although most of us thought it was too soon to ascertain which changes following 9/11 were ephemeral and which more lasting we noted a number of striking differences. These included a marked change in relations between Russia and the USA and a discernible, although less marked change in US/Chinese relations. Equally, attitudes in the USA to committing ground forces to combat and an acceptance of casualties had moved a long way since Kosovo. Attitudes in Germany towards the use of force in international relations had also, we were told, changed considerably. US impatience with its European allies had increased with a gap opening over the last six months between some Europeans and Americans in their approaches to this question.
We ended with doubts being expressed about whether there was a common perception of the nature of the threat we were facing or about the policy we should adopt in the expectation that another attack would probably be made at some time in the future. But perhaps even a Ditchley weekend should leave some issues for later resolution. Discussions had thrown up plenty of food for thought and potential questions for future conferences.
This report reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.
Chairman : The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Edinburgh, Pentlands (1974-97); Secretary of State for Scotland (1986-90); for Transport (1990-92); for Defence (1992-95); for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1995-97); a Governor, Ditchley Foundation CANADA
Mr James Baillie
Counsel, Torys LLP
Professor John F Helliwell OC
Professor of Economics, University of British Columbia (1971-); Christensen Visiting Fellow, St Catherine's College, Oxford (Jan-July 2001)
HE Jeremy K B Kinsman
Ambassador and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2000-); formerly Ambassador in Rome (1998-00); a Governor, the Ditchley Foundation FRANCE
Dr Dominique Moïsi
Deputy Director, IFRI; Editor-in-Chief, quarterly review Politique étrangère; regular columnist Financial Times and Ouest France, author GERMANY
Professor Dr Margarita Mathiopoulos
Partner and Managing Director, EAG European Advisory Group GmbH; Founder and Executive Director, Potsdam Center for Transatlantic Security and Military Affairs; author
Dr Bernard May
Deputy Director and Head of USA/Transatlantic Relations Program, German Society on Foreign Relations, Berlin; Professorial Lecturer in international relations, Free University of Berlin; author
Dr Constanze Stelzenmüller
Editor and political correspondent, Die Zeit; Visiting Researcher, Harvard Law School INDIA
HE Mr Salman Haidar
Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; former Foreign Secretary to the Indian Government. ITALY
Ambassador Antonio Armellini
International Anti-Terrorism Coordinator, Ministry of Foreign Affairs NATO
Mr Jon Day CBE
Director of the Secretary General's Private Office, NATO; formerly Director of Defence Policy, Ministry of Defence NORWAY
Dr Mats Berdal
Director of Studies, The International Institute for Strategic Studies RUSSIA
Professor Vitaly Naumkin
President, Centre for Strategic and Political Research, Moscow UNITED KINGDOM
Sir Michael Alexander GCMG
Chairman, Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies (1993-); formerly: HM Diplomatic Service; Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative on North Atlantic Council, Brussels (1986-92) Mr Nicholas Armour
Head, North America Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Professor Lawrence Freedman CBE FBA
Head of School and Professor of War Studies, School of Social Science and Public Policy, King's College, London University (1982-); Hon Director, Centre for Defence Studies (1990 ); author
Professor Peter Hennessy
Attlee Professor of Contemporary History, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London (1992 ); author and broadcaster; Chairman, Kennedy Memorial Trust (1995 ); member, Programme Committee, The Ditchley Foundation
Air Vice Marshal David Hobart
Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff
The Hon Peter Jay
Writer and broadcaster; Economics and Business Editor, BBC (1990 ); a Governor, The Ditchley Foundation
Professor John Kay FBA
Fellow, St John's College, Oxford (1970 ); Fellow of The British Academy (1997 ); writer and broadcaster, author
Mr Anatol Lieven
The Carnegie Foundation; Deputy Head, Moscow office; Fellow, United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC; International Institute for Strategic Studies
Ms Bronwen Maddox
The Times: Foreign Editor (1999 ); formerly: leader writer, Financial Times; American Editor (1996 99); member, Programme Committee, The Ditchley Foundation
Mr Tom McKane
Deputy Head, Defence and Overseas Secretariat, Cabinet Office (1999 ); formerly: Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence (1997 99)
Dr Maria Misra
Lecturer in Modern History, Oxford University; Fellow, Keble College; researcher and writer on colonial and post-colonial politics in Asia
Mr Ed Owen
Special Adviser to the Foreign Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Quentin Peel
International Affairs Editor, Financial Times (1998 ); formerly Foreign Editor
Sir Michael Quinlan GCB
Permanent Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (1988 92); Director, The Ditchley Foundation (1992 99)
Mr Francis Richards CMG CVO
Director, GCHQ; formerly: Assistant Under Secretary, FCO (Central and Eastern Europe) (1995 96); Director (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) (1996 2000)
Mr Peter Ricketts CMG
Political Director, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Lt General Sir Christopher Wallace KBE
Director, Royal College of Defence Studies
Mr Hugo Young
Political columnist, The Guardian (1984 ); Director, The Tablet (1985 ); Chairman, Scott Trust (1989 ); Chairman, UK Advisory Committee, Harkness Fellowships (1993-95); author
Mr Ahmad Fawzi
Director, United Nations Information Centre, London (1997 ); Spokesman for the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan (2001 2002) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Mr Robert Bartley
Editor (1979 ) and Vice President (1983 ), The Wall Street Journal
Mr Randy A Daniels
Secretary of State, The State of New York (2001 ); Senior Vice President and Deputy Commissioner of Economic Revitalization, New York Emport State Development Corporation; Senior Vice President, Canyon/Johnson Urban Fund (1999 2001)
Mr Robert G Kaiser
The Washington Post: Associate Editor & Senior Correspondent (2000 ); author
Mr Robert R Kiley
Commissioner, Transport for London
Mrs Rona Kiley
Director, Business and Education, London First
Professor A James McAdams
University of Notre Dame; William M Scholl professor of International Affairs, Head of the Department of Government and incoming Director, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
Mr William Pfaff
Syndicated columnist and author; Editorial page writer, International Herald Tribune
Mr Charles E Redman
Region President, Europe/Africa/Middle East/South West Asia, Bechtel Corporation (2000 ) (President, Bechtel Industrial Company 1996 2000); formerly: US special Envoy: to Haiti (1992-93); to the former Yugoslavia (1993 94); Ambassador to Germany (1994 96)
The Hon James P Rubin
Partner, The Brunswick Group; Visiting Professor International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science; formerly Assistant Secretary of State, US State Department.