Ten Years After 9/11: Lessons Learned?

Panel on the conference.
Image: Stephan Röhl. License: Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0. Original: Flickr.

July 14, 2011
Stefan Schaaf
Dieser Bericht existiert auch auf Deutsch.

The theme of this year’s annual foreign policy conference suggested itself, explained Heinrich Böll Foundation Co-President Ralf Fücks in his welcome. The attacks in New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2001, almost exactly ten years ago, represented a historic turning point of a scope comparable to that of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. While the latter was a sign of hope and new beginnings, 9/11 meant uncertainty and recrimination: “The world has not become a better or safer place since then,” Fücks noted.

Two protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost hundreds of thousands of lives while failing in their goal of stabilizing and pacifying those states. “We have experienced an immense display of U.S. military power, a worldwide decline in American political and moral authority, and a self-endangerment of U.S. democracy in the name of fighting terror.” Civil rights were eroded, doubts were cast over the values of openness and religious tolerance, and confidence in the global appeal of liberal democracy waned, said Fücks.

A few weeks before the meeting, an elite American military unit tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, the head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, in a commando raid in Pakistan. Yet Al Qaeda hardly played a role in the one and a half days of discussion. Instead, the conference focused much more on the Arab Spring – the peaceful and successful revolt of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples against their autocratic rulers, followed by uprisings in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, and demonstrations in Morocco and Jordan. The goals of the protestors were lives of dignity, freedom and democracy, not an Islamic empire. Against this background, bin Laden’s death is a mere footnote in post-9/11 history.

The conference was held in cooperation with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Ulrike Guérot, head of the Berlin ECFR office, highlighted the banking crisis, the awakening of the Arab world, and the advent of social networking technologies as the milestones of political upheaval since 2001. She called for more intensive debate on foreign policy objectives in Germany and Europe. Heads of state at summit meetings make too many sweeping pronouncements, while too little thereof is subject to parliamentary scrutiny and debate.

The first discussion began with a look back on the day now referred to simply as “9/11”. Staffan de Mistura, the present UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, recalled that “we were suddenly all New Yorkers,” paraphrasing the famous Kennedy quote. For Wolfgang Ischinger, currently Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, it was his first day on the job as the German ambassador to the United States in Washington DC. Dan Hamilton, formerly of the State Department and now director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Transatlantic Studies in Washington DC, was surprised by the European allies’ offer of “unlimited solidarity” to their fellow NATO member, the United States. Daniel Cohn-Bendit was in Brussels at the time. Born in 1945, the year of the Allied victory over Germany, the idea shot through the head of the Green politician that now – 56 years later –was the time to show solidarity in return. In the following days, he was unsettled by the realization that he was apparently in a minority with his desire to show solidarity with the people of New York City. Too many expressed the sentiment that the U.S. “only had itself to blame”. How could it be possible that so many around the world identified with the terrorists?

Ten years later, it is perhaps possible to take stock of the “war on terror” declared by President George W. Bush. Wasn’t this approach flawed from the outset? What would have been the alternatives?

Staffan de Mistura pointed out “two or three things that could have been done better”: perhaps we should not have lumped the Taliban and Al Qaeda together. But today, in a dangerous and difficult moment for Afghanistan, we need to make the best of the situation and not abandon the Afghans to their fate yet again. It was also a mistake to allow the invasion of Iraq to distract us from the conflict in Afghanistan, even if Saddam Hussein was not exactly a pleasant character. “I can say that because I met him twice,” de Mistura explained. Finally, it would have been necessary to seriously tackle the crisis in Israel and Palestine.

Cohn-Bendit came back to that topic, noting that this unresolved political conflict had been exploited by all sides. The question is why policymakers reproduce the existing resentments again and again. Against the backdrop of 9/11 and the Arab Spring, Germany, the United States and Europe can no longer demonstrate unconditional solidarity with Israeli policy. While we must be unconditionally for Israel, that also means no longer being unconditionally supportive of the politics of Benjamin Netanyahu. Standing in the way of the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations is wrong. We must ally ourselves with the Arab Spring, permit such a state, and thus isolate the terrorists.

Plenary panel 1, June 17: Regime change and democracy promotion - a questioning analysis

9/11 was a catalyst, and perhaps an accelerant, for political developments that made a deep mark on international politics and left the vital transatlantic relationship in considerable turmoil, Gregor Enste noted in his opening remarks. Some foreign policy strategies should be revised and new opportunities highlighted.

If democracy and human rights are so important to the West, it will be necessary to study options for influencing the exercise of power of other states. Regime change through military intervention is the most drastic approach, and promoting democracy in small steps does not always achieve its goal.

The transition from autocracy to democracy is currently an issue in North Africa in particular. The Heinrich Böll Foundation, said Co-President Barbara Unmüßig, is present there with its office in Ramallah, and will soon be represented in Cairo. Transition processes are time-consuming and require perseverance. Regime change has not just been practiced since the inauguration of the Bush administration and the 11th of September 2001. Earlier U.S. presidents brought about regime changes in Grenada, Panama and elsewhere, while democracy promotion was a policy instrument throughout the Cold War. The governments of the United States and Europe not only helped to overthrow dictatorships – those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan – but also formed alliances with dictatorial regimes such as Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia in the interest of political stability. Unmüßig asked her guests for their positions on a decade of regime change:

Christoph Heusgen, Division Chief for Foreign and Security Policy of the German Federal Chancellery in Berlin since 2005, summed up his views in a few short propositions. He denied that everything had gone wrong, even though the West had gone into Iraq with too much idealism and naiveté. Generally, he warned against simplifications, generalizations and the belief in easy foreign policy solutions, instead advising patience and consideration for different cultures and traditions. Relying solely on the military was wrong; complex concepts such as networked security were more promising and had proven themselves internationally. Finally, Heusgen argued in favor of a more conditional approach to economic cooperation, although this is more difficult with large countries like China or Russia than small ones.

Since 2005, Germany has consistently pursued a values-oriented foreign policy, which he evaluated as a success. However, he regretted that the Russian invasion of 2008 in Georgia could not be prevented and that no progress had been made in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Claudia Roth, Co-Chair of Alliance 90/The Greens, focused on the “war on terror”. War is the wrong instrument against “privatized violence”, and the rhetoric of war had resulted in less progress than Obama’s speech in Cairo and his message to Iran on the occasion of its Nowruz celebration. Above all, the universality of human rights had been undermined, and the names Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram had entered the public awareness. Other countries had followed that fatal logic and legitimized their own human rights violations in Chechnya, or against the Uyghur in China, with the threat posed by terrorists. Domestically, there is increased risk that some groups – here Muslims in particular – would be put under general suspicion and excluded.

German and European politics had not exactly demonstrated full solidarity, Roth said. After 2001, pressure had been exerted toward organizing a parallel political process in Afghanistan, but the associated hurdles had been underestimated. Roth criticized the fact that Germany had repeatedly made stability rather than human rights its primary criterion when choosing alliance partners, and that Europe is being turned into a fortress against those people who had just successfully carried out a “revolution of dignity”. Tunisians and Egyptians rightly criticize Germany’s lack of credibility when it supplies weapons and Internet-blocking technology to the old autocracies, she said. According to the organization OpenNet, at least nine states in the wider Middle East rely on Western technology to prevent their citizens from accessing online content (see: http://opennet.net/sites/opennet.net/files/ONI_WestCensoringEast.pdf ).

Caroline Wadhams, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, emphasized that the ideological foundation of the “war on terror” of the Bush era had since been thoroughly discredited. The willingness of the United States to become militarily involved in distant lands has given way to fatigue since Iraq and Afghanistan. A clear majority would like to withdraw from Afghanistan and rejects regime change. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is explicitly isolationist, and thus stands in contrast to the traditional party line as embodied by Senator John McCain, the unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2008. The Obama administration has publicly declared that it considers investment in renewing the U.S. infrastructure and educational system to be more urgent than foreign involvement. The Arab Spring has once again prompted thinking about democracy promotion; it must be borne by local actors, however, and cannot be imposed from the outside.

Ahmed Badawi, who has spent years focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and works for Transform e.V. (Transform – The Interdisciplinary Centre for Conflict Analysis, Political Development and World Society Research, Berlin www.transform-centre.org), cast a critical eye on the concept of democracy promotion. It was first used by the Reagan administration in its attempts to rid Central America of leftist forces such as the Sandinistas. Under Bush, it served as a cloak under which extensive military assistance programs – in Egypt, for example – were realized. Yet the revolution there broke out despite the policies of the West, with no thanks to Western democracy promotion. The Middle East has had its fill of Western experts touting advice for social change. Better terms of trade and exchange programs would be of greater use to enable the forces of reform to decide for themselves what is best for them.

Christoph Heusgen described what was currently being provided by Germany in terms of support: He also deems it useful to open up new freedoms and possibilities for the reformers. Realistic goals are a must, however: the Egyptian politician Amr Musa described the social reality of rural Egypt to Chancellor Merkel. Merkel thereupon urged German companies in Egypt to create thousands of new jobs. The idea of offering KfW startup loans to Egyptian entrepreneurs has also been proposed. While Germany is in favor of opening markets, it has encountered resistance from states in southern Europe that fear competition.

Plenary panel 2, June 17: New challenges and old alliances? EU, NATO and a security architecture for the 21st century

The paradigms of transatlantic cooperation shifted in the wake of September 11, 2001. But the question remains whether the central institutions of cooperation – the EU and NATO – have responded adequately to those changes. Stefanie Babst, Acting Assistant Secretary General of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division in Brussels, Walter Stevens, Head of the Crisis Management and Planning Department of the European External Action Service in Brussels, Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in London and developer of the concept for the European Defense Agency, and Dimitar Bechev, Head of the ECFR office in Sofia, discussed this topic.

In his speech before the British Parliament, President Obama spoke of an international security order, as presenter Ulrike Guérot noted in her introductory remarks, yet he mentioned NATO only in the past tense, as if it were a historical relic. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly expressed his disappointment with the European NATO allies in his farewell speech. Babst noted that this topic is being debated over and over again. Gates demonstrated that in light of its own budget problems, the U.S. can hardly afford missions such as Afghanistan and Libya, and that it faces congressional opposition to financing them. Walter Stevens also spoke of the necessity of crisis management on a tight budget, as there is currently no shortage of crises.

The EU always had a different image of itself than NATO, and other tools to create and guarantee security such as its Common Foreign and Security Policy, and since the Lisbon Treaty, the European External Action Service. Stevens noted that while the latter is not really up to speed yet, coordination within the EU has nevertheless improved. As Catherine Ashton put it, Europe has “soft power with a hard edge”: Europe’s power goes beyond representing its values and providing a good example, yet it is not sufficient to impose its will upon others. Furthermore, the EU is a worldwide model of good neighborliness. Stevens therefore does not see the EU and NATO as alternatives, but as complementary; both are necessary. The EU was even assuming the leadership of military deployments such as Operation Atalanta to combat pirates at the Horn of Africa, and Operation Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Has that made NATO redundant? Is the “jewel” of a security architecture that has endured for six decades in danger, as Guérot said, because it has lost the driving force of a common enemy, because Europe no longer has goals, and because it is not able to adapt to new times? Nick Witney considers NATO to be anachronistic to a certain degree, as its world has largely dissolved. Europe is no longer vulnerable to a military threat; instead, it faces economic worries, the danger of unemployment, and unresolved issues related to immigration. Under the circumstances, a scolding by Robert Gates will not prompt anyone in Europe to increase defense spending. Witney urged more putting effort into Europe’s relationship with Turkey. Far more than a mere supplicant at the EU’s gates, Turkey is an increasingly important regional power and potentially useful cooperation partner for the EU. Dimitar Bechev also warned against this mistake.

A contribution to the debate from the audience* raised the question of whether the young attendees would leave the event assured that NATO and the EU actually represent the proper insurance for the future. The guest had his doubts. For him, European security was unthinkable without the U.S., and the operation in Libya was the best evidence to that effect.

Forum 1: The fear of terror or the fear of something different?

If there ever was a definition of the word terrorism, it lies in the term itself: to spread terror, to instill fear into a society in order to gain power over it. Who is striking fear into whom – and for what reasons? Is it a terrorist group in the mountains of Pakistan? Is it now the recent arrivals, the newcomers to our societies? Is it Islam? Presenter Sylke Tempel also wanted to talk about whether we – the West – have been striking fear into others as well, and whether those fears are measurable.

Who or what prompted fear in the United States after September 11th, 2001? Geneive Abdo was a correspondent for British and U.S. magazines and runs the new Internet platform www.insideIran.org. In her book, Mecca and Main Street, the Iran expert of the Century Foundation in Washington DC describes how U.S. Muslims became increasingly alienated from their country’s society and foreign policy, while at the same time becoming more religious. Naturally, the Muslim population in the U.S. is not a homogeneous body. Even their number – five to six million – can be only estimated roughly, for lack of official statistics on religious affiliation. Younger Muslims in particular have considered their religion to be more important since 9/11, identifying with it in their outward appearance and conducting their social lives more than ever in the mosques. For non-Muslim U.S. citizens, this has destroyed the image of Muslims as a highly integrated community, and put their identity – and loyalty – as citizens of the United States to the test. The self-image of American society as a multicultural success story has been damaged since 9/11. The problem for the majority population lies less in religiosity per se than in Islam, culminating in the vehement rejection of the construction of a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero in New York.

Pugnacious authors in Germany have also targeted Islam. In his book Die Panikmacher, Patrick Bahners, arts editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily newspaper, accused the critics of Islam of spreading xenophobic propaganda. On the panel, he tried to define the limits of criticism of Islam. Such criticism questions the religion’s claim to universal truth, which he deems legitimate, yet he protested against the view that Islam is a threat to the free world. While valid, such an opinion in itself already carries religious overtones and is being misused as a political instrument. Bahners believes that the criticism of Islam crosses a line when Muslims are denied the right to live in our society and to attend mosques.

Durre Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow of the Center for the Study of Gender and Culture in Lahore, comes from Pakistan – the “cradle of political Islam”, as Tempel described it. Ahmed has studied the Western view of the role of women in Islamic societies. Its perspective is narrowed, as it focuses only on the Saudi-Wahhabi version of Islam. This religious interpretation by a small minority is the template upon which the Western discourse of fear is based. But Islam has been alive for a thousand years on several continents, and has adapted to the respective cultures, speaking many languages. Yet rather than many languages, Saudi Arabia deems only a single accent to be legitimate, and the country has made huge investments over the past three or four decades to enforce it throughout the Islamic world. Tempel noted that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman appeared to have a similar view when he wrote about a factional dispute between the urban Islam of Cairo and the desert Islam of Wahhabism. Ahmed pointed out that a special feature of European society, the separation of church and state, is a theoretical concept that is hardly comprehensible for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.

Cem Özdemir, Co-Chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens together with Claudia Roth, called the debate in Germany peculiar, marked as it is by the belief that the less religious a society is, the more enlightened it is. After 9/11, all of society’s problems were promptly blamed on religion, thus making religion more important than it is in fact. While there have repeatedly been deliberate provocations such as the criticism of Islam by publicists like Henryk M. Broder, very little discussion takes place otherwise. Özdemir recalled an official representative of Turkish Muslims, who was only able to read prepared statements during a debate with the former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He has the impression that Muslims in Germany have the choice of two extremes: “Either I finally confess that I also have something to do with the Islamists, or I renounce the culture of my parents. But there must be a third option in between.” That option does exist, and he does know such people, but they are not on the public’s radar. Also in the Arab world itself, those pursuing enlightenment and modernization frequently do not get the right answers from the West.

Following the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the cartoon controversy and the opposition to new mosques in Cologne and in New York City, it has become necessary to discuss how far the freedoms we are willing to grant one another go, noted Bahners and Abdo. On one hand, freedom of expression – including blasphemy – must be acceptable; on the other, restrictions such as those on the construction of mosques in Switzerland and elsewhere are not. Such spaces of freedom and mutual tolerance have shrunk since 9/11, but in the wake of the Arab Spring, we can hope that they will grow again.

Forum 2: Fear of terrorism as a political pretext: cutting down of data protection laws, civil rights and encroachment in the private sphere

The second forum was a review of the security measures put in place since 9/11. Peter Schaar, Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Berlin, was serving as Deputy Data Protection Commissioner in Hamburg in 2001. He explained that the precautions taken in Europe and Germany immediately after the attack were less excessive than those in the United States. However, after ten years it is time to review the effectiveness of those measures and determine how appropriate they are to the threat of terror. He regretted that for the most part, he did not see this willingness to reconsider.

Rena Tangens, co-founder and Chairman of FoeBuD e.V. (Association for the Promotion of Public Mobile and Stationary Data Communication), spoke of the danger that democracy will be sacrificed in an effort to protect it, a disastrous development in her opinion. Considerably more funds are being earmarked to fight terrorism than to prevent deaths from diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS. The number of deaths caused by such diseases is significantly higher, however. The other two speakers focused particularly on the relationship between the U.S. and Europe, their cooperation and their different methods in the fight against terrorism. Anthony Dworkin, Senior Policy Fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations, remarked that although the United States and Europe were applying different paradigms, both resulted in the weakening of civil rights. The challenge is to harmonize our sense of threat with the great value we place on the rule of law.

Annegret Bendiek, Deputy Head of the EU External Relations Research Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, advocated stronger involvement of the European Parliament in decisions on anti-terrorism measures to ensure a focus on citizens’ rights and the rule of law. In the discussion, a U.S. citizen active in the security sector pointed out that the American authorities do not look upon entry into the U.S. as a right, but as a privilege, and that surrendering personal information is its price. He asked the panelists for their opinion on this position. Rena Tangens said that she no longer travels to the United States for that reason, and that she knows numerous others who do likewise out of protest. The U.S. is risking a brain drain if it does not change its policy.

On the central question of whether fear is being exploited to justify a security policy that does not correspond to the usual European principles of rule of law, Anthony Dworkin warned against the view that the EU is acting under a pretext. Many measures were put in place with the support of the European population, which fears terrorist attacks. With regard to the appropriateness of the anti-terror measures, Peter Schaar said that many of them had nothing to do with the actual threat. On the question of what can be done here in Germany, Rena Tangens called for a stronger awareness that democracy and civil rights cannot be taken for granted, and that every generation has to fight for those rights.

In a concluding discussion, Annegret Bendiek suggested taking stock of the experiences of the last ten years, and once again advocated a parliamentary reappraisal of security policy. Peter Schaar said that we have to ask ourselves whether we have abandoned our principles, and urged caution to ensure that we do not legitimize terrorism by overreacting to it.

Forum 3: Turning a blind eye? The fear of crises and the truth

While not immediately apparent from the title, this debate focused on intervention. When is intervention justified for humanitarian reasons? What should be the criteria? How do you measure success? How can the difficult relationship between the military and policymakers be made clearer and more binding?

Bundeswehr missions abroad are always the subject of controversy in Germany. In an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily newspaper (www.faz.net/artikel/S30923/de-maiziere-im-f-a-z-gespraech-toeten-und-sterben-gehoeren-dazu-30378016.html – in German), Federal Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said that he was anticipating inquiries into the possibility of Bundeswehr deployments in Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan or Somalia. In Brussels in June, he noted that the German government would “constructively review” a request for German peacekeepers in Libya. Deutschlandfunk security correspondent Rolf Clement asked the panel why there had been hardly any response to this by policymakers or the media.

Barbara Lochbihler, Member of the European Parliament (EP) for the Greens and long-time General Secretary of the German section of Amnesty International, went one step further back: the fight against terrorism was used to justify many military operations. In doing so, human rights have been eroded, and torture has been practiced and legitimized in the years since 9/11. Freedoms have been sacrificed in the quest for security. EU states had permitted the incarceration of people in secret prisons established on their soil. While there was indeed an inquiry committee in Germany on the role of German security authorities in the fight against terrorism and the Guantánamo detention of German citizen Murat Kurnaz, it ultimately did not result in a more effective control over the secret services. To date, this crisis has not been overcome, despite the new administration in the United States. For far too long, Europe had kept quiet about dictatorial practices in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in the interest of keeping out refugees from North Africa. At present, the current agreements between the EU and North African countries are still not transparent for members of the EP.

General Klaus Naumann, former Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, was a member of the international commission that formulated the “responsibility to protect” (www.iciss.ca/pdf/Commission-Report.pdf) – the duty of the international community to protect the populations of sovereign states against the power of their respective rulers if necessary – on the initiative of Kofi Annan in 2001, as a consequence of the genocide in Rwanda and the Srebrenica massacre. While the document rejects the expression “humanitarian intervention” as a contradiction in terms, it emphasizes that intervention is imperative in cases of genocide as defined by the UN Convention of 1948 (www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html). There had been disagreement within the Commission as to whether a United Nations resolution is always required here. Naumann explained that he had also learned that countries around the globe differ greatly in how they value their own sovereignty; in particular, states that fought long and hard for sovereignty tend to defend it against even the most minor interventions.

For any intervention, it is essential to “think in terms of the end” and take into account the possible duration. Those not willing to do so “should think five times about whether to intervene”, he said. Is also quite clear that military means cannot resolve conflicts, but can only create the transitional security needed to rebuild a state order. There had also been disagreements with the U.S. allies about this view. Lochbihler suggested an additional protocol to the Genocide Convention to govern the responsibility for prevention, with provisions such as a ban on supporting irregular militias. Not enough research has been devoted to opportunities for prevention due to a lack of funding, she complained.

Conrad Schetter, a recognized expert on Afghanistan and Senior Research Fellow at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, has experienced both in Germany and in Afghanistan that ever-changing goals have been used to justify the international mission there: fighting Al Qaeda, rebuilding the country, building schools for young Afghans or stopping drug cultivation. The people of Afghanistan ask themselves time and again where the West’s interests actually lie. Over the course of the past decade, the West initially worked to promote civil society. In 2004, the emphasis shifted to state building. As of 2008, the focus narrowed to security, while today the sole objective is to maintain stability.

For the past 15 years, the balance between interests and values has shaped the security policy debate. This has led to the assignment of political tasks to the military. Approaches such as the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan frequently did not lead to success, however. Parallel to those efforts there is also the extreme opposite model of drone warfare in Pakistan, which Schetter described as terror against the civilian population.

Questions from the audience also revolved around Afghanistan and the contradictions and compromises of the ISAF deployment. Is it permissible to stand back and watch the political rise of the prominent Islamist Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an ally of Osama bin Laden who was responsible for a massacre of Shiite Hazaras in Kabul in the 1990s? Lochbihler criticized the lack of courage of Western governments in such cases. One speaker called this an example of a policy of convenience that hides behind alleged constraints.

Another topic involving a grave conflict between the pursuit of security and respect for human rights is Frontex, the European border security agency. Lochbihler described her efforts in the European Parliament to commit Frontex to respect human rights and allow transparency. It is becoming apparent that the behavior of Frontex will become a test for the EU’s relations with the young democracies of North Africa. A second point is the debate about the timing of elections. Tunisia was subject to external pressure to choose a new parliament already in July to prevent Islamists from organizing in time. However, the main priority for the Tunisians was to create a proper electoral register, so the election was postponed until the autumn. Lochbihler was critical of EU plans to promote the establishment of parties on other continents through a foundation for democracy, as this would move yet another area beyond the control of the EP.

Closing plenary panel: Ten years after 9/11 – lessons for the future

The final round of the conference revisited the topics of Afghanistan and the Arab Spring. Ralf Fücks expanded on this with a “double disillusionment”: exporting democracy and social engineering through intervention has proven to be an illusion over the past decade. Furthermore, military power alone is not enough to bring peace to countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. A certain degree of intervention fatigue has resulted. Many had seen 9/11 as evidence of a global culture clash between Islam and Western ideas of freedom, and social and political conflicts had become religiously charged as a result, noted Fücks.

Staffan de Mistura described the three phases of the Western reaction to 9/11: first shock and outrage that prompted solidarity, then collective action in a coalition of 47 states that participated in military operations in Afghanistan, and 20 states that initially followed Bush into Iraq. And finally, results: Saddam Hussein was toppled, captured and executed, bin Laden is also dead, and the Taliban are no longer in power in Afghanistan. The United Nations would have preferred to see both Saddam and bin Laden behind bars rather than killed, yet the Iraqis are better off today without Saddam, and the same holds true for Afghanistan without Taliban rule.

However, it is crucial to remember the large number of casualties in those countries and understand the limitations of such missions. Democracy cannot be exported using force. We can only encourage such processes. We cannot be present in foreign countries indefinitely. Realistic goals are a must: Afghanistan will never become a second Switzerland.

Yet de Mistura has hope for Afghanistan and Iraq, if the West acts responsibly. “We cannot say ‘farewell and good luck!’”

Hamilton noted that 9/11 had a profounder impact on the United States than on Europe. The attacks had shown that man-made disasters can indeed happen. It has been difficult for Obama to clear away the legacy of the Bush administration, rebuild trust, and return to the right track after such errors as Guantánamo. He lamented that Obama was being denied the help of his own party in Congress and allies like Germany. The clash of cultures mentioned by Fücks was often a struggle within the religious communities over their place in society. The Arab Spring had shown that the search for a better life by individuals can indeed topple dictatorships.

Oleh Rybachuk, who as the former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine had witnessed his Orange Revolution blossom and fade, had a piece of advice for those involved in the Arab Spring. It is easier to overthrow a dictatorship than to construct a new order. Politicians in power need to be constantly reminded that they are servants of their people. In Eastern Europe, he saw the danger of new blocs forming and new borders between Europe and Russia. He recommended always seeking a consensus on universal values in order to avoid this.

Stefan Ulrich Schlie, Head of Policy Planning and Advisory Staff of the German Federal Ministry of Defense, was asked about the criteria for further international engagements by Germany. He noted that after 9/11, it took NATO far too long to finally determine the correct strategy for the Afghanistan mission in Bucharest in 2008. In contrast to the Cold War, we no longer have a problem with powerful states, but with weak ones like Somalia and Afghanistan that cannot provide for their own security. The world is vulnerable.

So far, the U.S. has borne the greatest share of the military burden, despite wholehearted declarations of solidarity. Schlie called for a more precise coordination of security instruments – military, intelligence, and diplomacy – and a strengthening of global policy instruments, particularly the United Nations and the Security Council.

Reinhard Bütikofer, Deputy Chairman of the Greens/EFA parliamentary group in the EP, noted a new complexity with regard to foreign policy actors. The EU had been striving toward a common foreign and security policy over the past ten years, and has made some degree of progress. Yet internationally, the principle that “the mission defines the coalition” has become a matter of course. The shared values of the West are less clear today than they were in 2001. A new transatlantic generation is not coming of age, and even the Republicans in the U.S. are becoming isolationist. “That does not look very comfortable for Europe”, he noted. Schliemann, by contrast, saw a long-term trend toward a European army that would be necessary to remain a partner of the United States. “The tasks are not becoming smaller, after all.” Dan Hamilton regarded financial constraints to be the reason for the withdrawal of the United States. “We are indispensible, but we are not powerful enough on our own,” he said, summing up the U.S. position.

Could the United Nations help? Staffan de Mistura was cautious: The UN is only as strong as the collective will of its member states and the veto powers on the Security Council; it does not have its own armed forces. Nevertheless, there is no alternative – no international military intervention can be realized without legitimization by the Security Council. 

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