Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)




  1. Gentlemen, can I welcome you to the first public meeting of the Committee in our new Parliament. All of you are distinguished commentators in your relevant fields and we look forward to this, the first of our hearings in respect of the British/US relationship. We welcome, then, Mr James Rubin, a former US Assistant Secretary of State; Professor Michael Clarke, an old friend of this Committee and, indeed, of the Defence Committee, our sister Committee, who is from Kings College, London, and, again an old friend, Professor Fred Halliday of the LSE. Gentlemen, September 11, and the special relationship. I think, Mr Rubin, you began an article which you wrote in December of last year by saying "It is going to be very special after all . . . ." That was before September 11. What can you say about the effect of September 11 in terms of the relationship between ourselves and the US?

  (Mr Rubin) For those of you who have friends in the United States or hear from people in the United States I think it is fair to say that Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of your Government, has become almost a folk hero in our country. Many of the people who have seen him speak and seen him come to the support of the United States in its hour of need will never forget it. That is what ultimately is meant by the words "special relationship". In political substantive terms, that is usually a reference to intelligence co-operation, military co-operation, diplomatic co-operation and co-ordination of economic activities. If you look at those four areas I think you will have seen a remarkable development in the last few weeks when, I think—and this is a public hearing so let me say fairly candidly—it was believed that because the Prime Minister was very close to the previous President that somehow this would have an effect on Britain's relationship with the United States. What we have seen in these last two months is that the special relationship is not about personalities, it is about policy, and that regardless of who the Prime Minister would have preferred won the election or who is his better friend, the policies of our governments go down so deeply and are in such consonance at deep levels that personalities at the top are really not that relevant. So when it came to deciding how to put out information on who is responsible for this crime, this government, working I suspect in close co-ordination with the United States, did so. Only this government was involved in the initial air strikes. I think arguably there is a risk now that it is too much of an Anglo-Saxon operation—

  2. Before I call in your two colleagues, can you say what it means in practice in terms of not the applause—Tony Blair for President—but what it means in terms of real political influence at the highest levels?
  (Mr Rubin) I think what it means is that because this Government here in London immediately said they were going to provide whatever the United States needed, they had a seat at the table. I think there were other governments that hedged their bets a little bit in Europe and said, "Well, we might provide you what you need, we probably would provide you what you need, but we want to be part of the consultative process". By saying that first rather than offering the full 100 per cent support I think they lost some influence, and now the views of the Blair Government are taken seriously.

  3. Have you any examples of the way in which it has?
  (Mr Rubin) Yes, certainly when it comes to the political track of Afghanistan, namely how you put together this operation on the political side. Number two: the whole idea of staying in Afghanistan after the war is over and dealing with the consequences of 15 years of war on that country, I think, is something where this Government played a role, and you have started to see US officials repeating what British officials were saying three, four, five days ago.

  4. Professor Halliday, do you agree with that?
  (Professor Halliday) I do. I think that initially the Bush administration came into office saying it will not get involved in what they call "nation building". It is a rather inaccurate term; I think a more accurate term is "state building", but leaving that aside they were not going to do the kind of thing which was the long-term commitment which you have seen in Bosnia or Kosovo, where you go in for a few months but, actually, have stopped there for years. Of course, they did not do it in Somalia, which is an important precedent for how others may see America now. The long and the short of it is, however, that this Government decided very quickly that there is no point in just going to Afghanistan and finding and eliminating al-Qaeda (even if you could do that). You have got to reconstruct the political system or even construct one. One of the ironies of Afghanistan is it does not have a state: there are no railways, there are no roads, there is no education system (or a minimal one but even that has been destroyed). So, yes, the Blair Government, I think, has got people in Washington to realise they have to get into the business of, if not nation building then of coalition building, with the added and, I think, very important point, which is not sufficiently recognised in discussion in this country, that there is a UN process going on which has been going on actually since 1993—the 6+2 process. This is about creating a coalition government in Afghanistan, one which is going to stop terrorism and stop drug exporting. So this is not something plucked out of the blue by Britain, it is something for which there is strong view and precedent.

  5. And real influence?
  (Professor Halliday) Real influence in the long haul, I think, is very important. I think one of the deep problems which we had better face now is that there is a real crisis of leadership and policy in Washington. Basically, what to do? There is no intelligence, the military are at sixes and sevens. The President himself has weathered this crisis, I think, as well as anybody could have done since he has been dealt a hand which nobody could have responded to initially. However, in relation to the anthrax thing, the state cannot even protect its people and its executive buildings from anything like that, so there is a long-term problem. I think George Bush is up to the short-term challenge but I worry about him keeping US public opinion or an international coalition going. In that context, I think British advice and that of others is important. He has a good relationship with Schröder in Germany, and Schröder has moved German opinion and I think very responsibly so (and as someone who has German family I am glad to see the German leadership here), and the French are on board for all sorts of reasons, some of them to do with the Algerian war, which are not entirely happy—

  6. The GIA?
  (Professor Halliday) No, I meant the war in the fifties which they do not want people to talk about. So I think we should not think we are the only people to listen to. Bush has obviously got some kind of working relationship with Putin and they have got a deal on the ABM Treaty, for which this country is not prepared, I think. So not the only voice but an important voice. However, the real problem is that not only is this a very difficult challenge but Washington is in a mess. In addition, and this is something Mr Rubin might want to comment on, the Democratic Party is in a mess. Where are the Democratic leaders who are offering ideas on this? There is only one and he has already served his term.

  7. Professor Clarke, do you agree?
  (Professor Clarke) Yes, broadly, Chairman, I do. The levers of influence which the United Kingdom has with the United States tend to be in the military and intelligence sphere, and these levers are more prominent as a result of the crisis than they were before. As it happens, we have the biggest military presence in the region, second to the United States. In fact, the United Kingdom has 27,000 of the 40,000 who are in the region. It has about a quarter of all the aircraft and about a third of all the ships. Some of that is lucky because of this major exercise that was taking place in Oman, but it does create elements of influence which are not lost, I think, in Washington. More specifically than that, British intelligence has always favoured human intelligence because it is low-tech, and we did not get out of the human intelligence business in the way that the United States did in the last ten years—certainly after the late-70s, early-80s. So our human intelligence resources are quite high, our Special Forces work is prized in Washington and those very specific advantages which the UK has offers some element of leverage, but one should be aware that they are very specific.

  8. Does it translate itself into procurement decisions?
  (Professor Clarke) I am not aware of any direct translation in that direction, Chairman. Let me put it this way: I am not aware that it has happened in the past. It is not inconceivable that it may happen in the future, but when we think about procurement decisions one is talking now about generations of weapons systems that will not be available, at least, until 2010/2012 from decisions taken now.

Sir John Stanley

  9. Professor Halliday, you said that you thought that President Bush and President Putin had agreed a deal on the ABM Treaty. Are you suggesting that there is an agreed modification or an agreed scrapping? If it is an agreed modification, what do you believe the agreed modification is?
  (Professor Halliday) I believe the agreed modification is that the Americans will go a long way to meeting the Russian demand for a lowering of the number of strategic missiles. In other words, the Russians had implied, in line with all the previous negotiations, that they would not object to modification of the ABM Treaty provided the ABM Treaty was kept and, rather than being scrapped, altered. Secondly, that the United States would greatly lower the number of strategic missile warheads which it has. Putin is going to Washington, and symbolically it looks like he is also going to Crawford, Texas, which is Bush's home town, on his visit. That will then mean that the Russians will not object to various forms of testing. Rumsfeld stated last week that the United States has suspended further testing until they reached such an agreement with the Russians. My understanding is that, after the Shanghai meeting, that is the deal.

  10. Are you saying that as far as the agreed modification on the American side is concerned, they will get the consent of the Russians to be able to deploy their ABM field not around the national capital, which of course is a right they have not exercised so far, but into Alaska?
  (Professor Halliday) Yes. What forms of testing the Americans go in for, and indeed what kind of national missile defence they have—because there are several possibilities—is an open question. The Treaty will not be abolished and the Russians will agree to a modification in terms of testing. It seems to me to be a done deal. A broad comment I would make is that I do think that both in the universities and in the press knowledge of America is very weak in this country. People think they know about it but they do not. As an academic I am very struck by this. I have read 100 articles in the British press in the last year about Bush this and Putin that, and never once seen one which actually goes over the text of the ABM Treaty and says "Okay, we have sat down, what would the modification be? How could this Treaty be revised". It is always at a very generic level. I think we are going to be faced with some quite precise decisions in the coming weeks.

Mr Chidgey

  11. Professor Halliday, I would like to draw your mind back to your comments earlier about the law of the UN and how the US sees it. I recall, in the evidence you submitted[1] that you clearly believe that international law and the UN is the key point in dealing with these conflicts between states and their differences. The thrust of my question is, really, given the record of the UN, given your own statement that since the early 1990s the UN has been in deep discussion and given your recognition that the risk has never been of a similar administration not recognised as a state, what sort of time-scale are we talking about before we can look forward to any development of any sort of state that we would recognise? How can the US see that going forward with the UN? Is the US prepared for the commitment in that will clearly be necessary? What sort of time-scale are we talking about? What is your opinion of the US's understanding of the impact and importance of cultural and religious leadership in both the east and the west? Might they perceive that leadership becoming part of the solution rather than the problem?

  (Professor Halliday) A short answer to some of those questions. International law is important but to make what, in my profession, is called a `realist' point: international law which is not backed by force gets nowhere. That would go for Kosovo, and it would go for Kuwait; you tried it globally, you tried international law but there has to be a point at which you say "it ain't worked", which is why I am sometimes sceptical of the "Give peace a chance/drop food parcels et al" brigade, because I think it will go on forever. I could be wrong but that is a very general point. So when we are talking about international law we are talking about the instruments of international law and we mean the Security Council, which brings us back to the permanent members. That is the way the system was set up. So when people say, including some honourable Members of this House, that you have got to go to the UN, they have gone to the UN, they have gone to the body, which is the Security Council, which has passed two resolutions. There is an authorisation for the use of force by members in writing with the UN charter. The UN 6+2 process—which, as I say, began in 1993—reached a particular point in 1999 (and I think it would be worth Members getting hold of the Tashkent Declaration of July 1999). The 6+2 means the Russians and the Americans plus the six neighbouring states—Pakistan, Iran and the others. If you read that document it is pretty precise. It says there has to be a coalition government, it has to be broadly representative, it has to stop exporting drugs, it has to stop exporting terrorism and it has to stop violating human rights inside Afghanistan. In other words, there are five or six quite clear points there which make a programme authorised by three members of the Security Council (and by implication by all the others) for the creation of a coalition government in a new state of Afghanistan. That is, if you like, the policy framework within which Britain, the United States and others are operating.

  The UN Special Representative Mr Brahimi, who I may say is a great friend of this country—he was the Algerian Ambassador here in the 1970s and those of you who know the London/Middle East role, he was an active ambassador who went out and talked to people and had many, many friends in all parties and was greatly respected—resigned at the end of 1999 because the neighbouring states were refusing to co-operate, particularly Pakistan and Iran. Iran supported the Alliance, Pakistan supported the Taliban. My view is if he takes up the job again, which he has now, it is not out of loyalty to Kofi Annan, to whom he is very close, it is because he believes that the Iranians and the Pakistanis are willing to help in this endeavour. I could say more about that if you wish. So one of the main problems of the 1990s has gone. Secondly, he knows and we all know that if you are going to deal with the terrorism problem in Afghanistan you have got to create a state that will control it because ultimately the problem is the state and where it is on the map. This is the time to do it. It is not a perfect opportunity. Leaving aside the humanitarian issues, this is the only time you are going to be able to put through UN policy. On the broader question of stamina, I think this, as we all know, is a much more complex crisis than the Gulf in 1990 or Kosovo in 1999 or even Cuba in 1962. I think one of the huge issues facing ourselves and facing anybody who wants public debate here is going to be, if you like, policy stamina on this one. It is going to be very complex, it is going to take a long time—years—to get the thing done. In that sense I worry about the stamina of any state (perhaps a little bit less about this one) and certainly I think that anything that helps produce a practical, reasonable policy in the US, one that does not lash out at Iraq is welcome. The Secretary of State says that stamina is very important but one cannot assume stamina and I have to say I think the lack of leadership and the lack, also, of intelligence and, indeed, of policy ideas in Washington is a very serious one, for which we will all pay the price. On your final point, I would say there is not much you can do about this inter-cultural stuff beyond doing what we all do, which is try and make sensible points. The biggest problem in the Muslim world is unemployment, which people do not talk about. We devote far too much to Jihad and Sharia and not enough about jobs and corruption and so on. I can talk about this if you want. The second point is I do think there is an enormous problem—and we are on the wrong side of this problem and there is no quick fix—with what I call `global rancour'. There is rancour against America. Anti-Americanism is a very widespread, global phenomenon, which is also present in this country. Far too little challenge, far too little basis, actually, on studying America. I worked on an American liberal think-tank which was a wonderful experience for me and I have great affection for the country. I also have many American students, I think partly because I am Irish and I do not share some of the anti-American prejudices. The Irish do have a special relationship. I do think the issue of rancour and this issue of global hostility to America into which bin Laden has tapped—his strategy is extremely intelligent. Finally, one of my students has just come back from Thailand and Malaysia yesterday and he said the T-shirts on sale everywhere were with portraits of Bin Laden.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  12. Can I follow two of those points with Mr Rubin? First of all the question of stamina. You heard what Professor Halliday has said in his frank comment. How do you assess the stamina of the United States administration and how do you assess the consensus of political opinion in the United States, which is clearly behind the President at the moment. Do you believe that it is ready for the long haul? The other key question that came up as a result of Professor Halliday's comments is this widespread rancour, as he calls it; this feeling of hostility towards the United States which is present, especially of course in particular countries but around the world—something which I deeply deplore and greatly regret, but nevertheless it is there. I wonder if you would like to comment on those two things?
  (Mr Rubin) First of all, on the stamina issue, I think there are no precedents by which to judge the stamina of the American people. Kosovo is not a precedent, Somalia is not a precedent. Arguably, Pearl Harbour is not a precedent because it was an attack on the United States out in the ocean; this was on the home land and there were far more people killed and they were all civilians. I think, in my mind, those who use Vietnam analogies—body bags, loss of soldiers—or use Somalia analogies—mutilation of American soldiers—are living in the past. After September 11, even the farthest Left people, the people who opposed every intervention in the modern era, have said the use of force is appropriate in the United States. My favourite example of that was the lawyer for the "Yippies" in the Chicago Seven trial. He said he has been against everything, Vietnam, Somalia, Kosovo, and he always said that the only time force was appropriate was when our homeland was attacked. It has now been attacked and I think it is wrong to even suggest that the United States is going to be "wobbly" or weak on this issue. The only debate now in the United States, is whether to take this to the next level and to send in ground divisions—not Special Forces but divisions on the ground—to take over Afghanistan. So I do not see stamina as a problem. There may be problems in co-ordinating the political objectives for an Afghan government post-Taliban with the military objectives of the air campaign, but I do not see that stamina is a problem at all. On your next question, the conventional wisdom now is on the US/UK losing the propaganda war. I think most people will say that they believe that. The way I think of this, having confronted people's views about the United States in my travels for the government and from the podium every day at the State Department, is we are a country that creates both love and hate around the world. Many of the same people who want to buy an Osama bin Laden T-shirt, want to go to Yale. That is just the nature of the beast. When it comes to substance, that is a not-fixable problem. I think to the extent that President Clinton tried to soften the edges of globalisation he was seeking to address it, but it is not a fixable problem. What is a fixable problem? If you ask me to grade on a scale from 1 to 100 how did many of these populations we are talking about feel about the United States prior to September 11, with 100 being complete support for our policies and 1 being they are prepared to join a war against the United States, sadly, because of the collapse of Camp David and because of the difficulties of dealing with Iraq, and because of the resentment in the Arab world against some of the rulers in that world, the number was about 15 before September 11 (again, 1 being complete anti-Americanism and 100 being total support). So when somebody goes out there now and says, "Okay, how does the same populace feel about the United States after the attacks on Afghanistan?", it is my judgment that it has moved from 15 to 12, that it has not changed that much, and that we need to remember American policies towards the Israeli government and towards the Palestinians, the continued bombing of Iraq (mostly when Iraq is shooting at planes that are there to protect their own population from Saddam using his aircraft and his helicopters but that is always forgotten), the resentment against the extreme wealth of a few individuals in the Arab world, and the jobs problem (as Fred put it), and the support America provides to governments like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, create enormous resentment. Yes, there is a little bit more, but it is only a little bit more. So we need to be realistic: the Palestinian issue, the Saudi Arabian democracy issue that nobody likes to talk about, the long-term challenge of Iraq—these are not problems that can be solved with good rhetoric or appearing on Al-Jazeera or interviews with London-based Arab newspapers. These are long-term policy problems that only get resolved when they get resolved. That is my basic answer to the resentment issue.

  13. I am grateful, but when you say that it has fallen, in your estimation (just taking your figures as being acceptable) from 15 to 12, certainly the movement is in the wrong direction.
  (Mr Rubin) Correct.

  14. Would you not think that certain initiatives are necessary on the propaganda front, in particular the way in which Sharon is dealt with in Israel, to try and put that 12 back to 15 and then up to 20 and 25? Twelve is a significant minority and we do need to engage—to use the trite phrase—hearts and mind within the Muslim world if we are going to win the long-term battle and if the stamina that you talked about in your response to my first question is indeed going to be sustained.
  (Mr Rubin) Yes, I agree with you and I was not suggesting that we should not do more, and I think you are quite right to suggest that we could. Let me address that directly. Propaganda, hearts and minds, public diplomacy—whatever you call it—is usually not first on the policy-makers list when they are putting together a policy. So military issues, coalition building, intelligence, law enforcement, all of those came first, and it is only in the last couple of weeks that they have realised that we really need to organise ourselves for this. They are a new administration and they are extremely strong at the top, but the people in this area have just been hired or have just started their jobs and may not really be in position to act. I think they are going to act now, and what they can do is begin to develop real policies, real programmes using radio, using field trips, using co-ordinated speeches and statements to all of the community. I think it was a mistake in an otherwise brilliant performance by Secretary Powell to be caught questioning Al-Jazeera and putting pressure on the government in Qatar. That was unfortunate in an otherwise brilliant performance. Instead we should be on there every day for an hour; every day some official from the US Government or British Government should be on that programme. So there are policies that can be pursued. I think they are getting it together. There are meetings probably going on in the next few hours sitting down, organising themselves for a long-term battle over the hearts and minds in that part of the world. Being prepared to do nation building in Afghanistan, and to provide billions of dollars of reconstruction assistance, is part and parcel of solving that problem.

  The second and last part, I think, of your question is Prime Minister Sharon. This is a very difficult subject, as I think we all know. We first need to recognise what it is like to live in Israel. It has been a pretty horrific experience over the last year, to have totally innocent civilians walking down the street, going to the pizza parlours, going to the discos, doing whatever it is, and being slaughtered and murdered for nothing that they have done. That happens most days in Israel. They are either killed or attempts are made. So that is the context in which the Israeli Government approached September 11. I think they made some real big mistakes, because instead of realising that this was the moment to give full and complete solidarity to the United States—the government that has come to Israel's defence time and time again when they were in trouble—Prime Minister Sharon made probably the stupidest remarks by a head of government in the modern era, by comparing President Bush to Neville Chamberlain. That is something that the President will have a hard time forgetting for the rest of his term in office. That is cutting very, very, very deep. He was wrong in his analogy, he was wrong in his attempt to offer the United States a history lesson, but what he was most wrong in is not understanding that to be a friend of the United States means to, yes, lose a little bit of what you are doing. When you have a friend who comes to your defence when you are in trouble, that means that they need to make sacrifices for you, and all that the President was asking, as I understand it, at that time was to have a meeting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That was too much for the Prime Minister to accept. He misunderstands the long-term impact of American public opinion. Whenever Israel has been threatened, the United States—even at the risk of confrontation with the Soviet Union—was there, and now the United States is in jeopardy and where is our friendship with Israel when we need their help? So that message was an extremely flawed decision by the Prime Minister, and they have not really fixed it. That does not mean that we should let the Palestinians off the hook. Arafat is playing a very dangerous game and has been for a year. He has been using violence when it is convenient for him. I believe the intifada started when, for the first time in his career, Palestinians were not thought of as the under-dog. Post-Camp David most of the world thought that Barak had made the decisions we had all been asking him to make, and the response from the Arab world was not, "This is a breakthrough. You have done all the things we are asking for. We cannot finish the deal yet, we need to negotiate some more, but Barak is a man of peace and this is a breakthrough." Instead they did not like it because the whole world was asking them hard questions for the first time, rather than asking the Israelis the hard questions about what are you doing about the Palestinians? They were faced with the hard questions and they did not like it. I believe that they played the violence and the intifada to a point where he did lose some control. So every day the Israelis are living under the kind of threat and fear that Americans are just getting used to, and that may have—how shall I say—not encouraged them to make the best decisions at the top.

Mr Illsley

  15. I would like to ask Professor Clarke and James Rubin whether they agree with Professor Halliday's assertion that there is this lack of leadership in America, which is pretty disturbing from my point of view, bearing in mind that our Government is tending to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the military action with the United States as the dominant partner leading the military action and leading the coalition? To hear it said there was a complete lack of leadership is not exactly good news. I would like to ask whether you agree with that. Is it because there is a view that there is a lack of leadership per se, or a lack of leadership within the coalition? I am conscious of reports I read earlier this year, after the Bush election, that the sole strategy of the Bush camp was to get Bush re-elected four years hence. Colin Powell was being sidelined by not being allowed to travel as widely as the Secretary of State might have been, and that perhaps Donald Rumsfeld is taking up the role of a Secretary of State. Is it a lack of leadership per se?
  (Professor Clarke) Thank you. I think the lack of leadership which Professor Halliday mentioned really arises from two different sorts of problems. One is that this crisis itself is uniquely complex and challenges the best of policy-makers. Secondly, it has forced the United States into a series of re-orientations. The Bush policy on re-election—on the whole series of issues such as arms control, on regional stability, on relations with a number of allies—has had to be re-thought because the United States now needs to keep a coalition together, both a military coalition with its close partners and a broader, anit-terrorist coalition with a number of countries that it would not have thought of as partners before. So I think the complexity of the crisis and the need to re-orientate is creating a form of policy vacuum in the United States which it is very hard for any government to fill and which it is going to take time to remedy. Beyond that, I think the leadership problem also comes down to something else Professor Halliday introduced, which is the need to have a political structure for the future of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. We always acknowledge the need for political structures but we tend to think of them in the middle of military campaigns. We tend to say "Let's get the military campaign out of the way first and then we will think about the political structure, and if we think about it a bit earlier then that is all to the good". That will not do in this case. It is intrinsic to the propaganda war that we spoke about, intrinsic to the question of US stamina and intrinsic to the rightness of policy that a clear sense of what we want to happen in Afghanistan in the next six months, a year, two years and five years is part of the military policy that is being pursued at the moment. The leadership failure that seems to me to be most evident is a failure to have a clear political policy, or a sense of a political future, in Afghanistan. Without that the war against terrorism will make no sense. If the policy is only to remove the Taliban and then see what the options are, or remove the Taliban and conduct search and destroy operations against the network of Osama bin Laden, that will not be good enough. In order to keep allies on side and coalition partners on side, a manifestly workable and, perhaps, roughly just but just settlement in Afghanistan has got to be part of the package. The fact that it is not is, to my mind, the most important element of policy failure. Anything the United Kingdom can do to help remedy that gap would, I think, be very welcome and very useful.

Ms Stuart

  16. If I move us on slightly. I think we all struggle to draw analogies from history, and as has been made quite clear before, the one thing history cannot do is help us predict the future. We can, however, draw some lessons. One of these is that we are dealing with a new kind of war, some elements of which we will recognise but others we will not. Robert Cooper, one of the diplomats, wrote a very interesting article, before he was given the job of dealing with the future of Afghanistan, where he was talking about creating new empires. It is very unfortunate terminology but I think he talks about building those structures. I just want to take that a little bit further now. Professor Clarke, in your submission to the Committee, you identified a change in the UK policy in terms of its military relationship within the European Union and the United States of America. We are building these new alliances, some of which are pretty surprising ones, which may worry us for the future. Very specifically, within the United States and Europe, are we moving to a state where you think the United States may well see itself making military assets available to European-led initiatives, which would be quite a considerable change, or are we continuing in a kind of "big brother" relationship, which I would almost identify with the big brother who irritates you when he is around but, by God, you miss him when he has gone? Are we continuing to rely on that US leadership, where we fall in, or do you see any real hope of becoming an equal partner in this, which I think we are not?
  (Professor Clarke) If I can start at the end of those questions and work back to the beginning, the European Union will always be a junior in military terms to the United States, and the project for a European Security and Defence Policy (which is what the Blair initiative in 1998 really gave impetus to) is a policy only to engage in crisis management—the so-called Petersburg tasks. Nevertheless, it is intrinsic to the design of ESDP that NATO assets, which really means American assets in the particular areas of shortages, would be available to the Europeans if they participated in crisis management operations. What that means, in practice, is that if the United States disapproved of something the Europeans wanted to do it would effectively have a veto over the military use of its assets. On the other hand, Europeans are not likely to engage in operations of which the US thoroughly disapproves, it is much more likely that the Europeans will engage in operations where the United States is in full support but does not want to be involved itself and so says "Fine, let the Europeans handle this and we will make some of our intelligence assets and logistics assets and, perhaps, some other forms of support available for the Europeans to actually get on and do the job." That is the sort of relationship which the Europeans envisage and which, I am sure, the Prime Minister envisages in making the ESDP reality. The Helsinki Headline goals which are part of this process are due to be met by the end of 2002. I think that is rather optimistic. Nevertheless, the Europeans will have some form of military capability at some time after that which could be used, I think, in this way. Going back to the earlier part of your question, this is a new type of war and a new type of conflict. Yes, I think this will impact on what the Europeans need to think about in ESDP quite a lot. It may well be that the Europeans and particularly the United Kingdom, is signing up for a long series of campaigns which will be campaigns of counter-terrorism, of intelligence-sharing, of counter-crime operations (which are very close to counter-terrorist operations in many ways), and if this is a long-term war it is a war that will exist at several different levels simultaneously. It will be the war that we see, at the moment, in Afghanistan, which is the obvious face of it, and there will also be a dirty war which will be conducted in a counter-insurgency mode, perhaps on the ground in Afghanistan. There will be an Internet war, a cyber-war, in attempts to get into the networks of organised criminals, terrorist groups and, in particular, the Osama bin Laden network; a propaganda war and there will be a psyops war (a psychological operations war) which will go on in many parts of the world. That will be a very complex series of operations indeed, and the Europeans, I think, will find themselves signing up for parts of that war. The United Kingdom is probably going to sign up for some part of all those levels. Partly because of our relationship with the United States, I think we would want to be seen to make a contribution on all of those levels. On some of those levels we are in a position to do so, but it will have, I think, quite important consequences for the future direction of the European Security and Defence Policy, which ESDP, so far, has not been able to take on board. The attention of the European military planners is, so far, on the Capabilities Commitment Conference on 19/21 November which will review progress towards meeting the Helsinki Headline goals, and the rest of their attention is on the Headline goals themselves. I think that next year the fuller implications of this crisis will begin to work themselves into the ESDP project.

  17. A quick follow up. If the United Kingdom has greater involvement within the European context, on the one hand, and on the other our traditional intelligence sharing relationship with the United States, do you feel that could in the long-term be adversely affected?
  (Professor Clarke) Yes. You mentioned the one most difficult issue that I think the United Kingdom faces. In most other military areas the UK is able to say, and Tony Blair has been able to say, we can do both, we can be a good friend to the United States, a great transatlantic pal, and we can lead the Europeans in developing a greater military capacity. I think that is broadly true but in the intelligence area there are some very severe trade-offs which the UK will have to face. Its intelligence relationship with the United States is unique and very close. If we go in for a European intelligence sharing arrangement that is meaningful then it will, by definition, open the door to some American intelligence being shared with other European powers and the United States, on the basis of past experience, is likely to be fairly hostile to that notion. Equally, if we say we will keep our special relationship with the United States in intelligence affairs and work quite separately with the Europeans then the other European powers are going to be suspicious of what else we know that we are not telling them. It is a genuine dilemma and so far there is no easy way out of it.

Mr Hamilton

  18. Mr Rubin, you said in the Daily Telegraph of 16 September that it is crucial that European and American leaders make it clear that these terrorist attacks are nothing to do with the Middle East peace process. Osama bin Laden in his television broadcast linked the 11 September attacks to the Arab-Israeli conflict quite deliberately and, of course, the role the US plays in supporting Israel. You made allusions to that earlier, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, but how can the United Kingdom and the United States or the European Union address the genuine grievances without appearing to bow to the terrorist threat? Following on from that, I think Professor Halliday said earlier, I am paraphrasing a bit, that the biggest problem in the Muslim world is not Jihad, it is actually unemployment. I may have changed what you said slightly there but the gist of it was unemployment is a much bigger problem than anything else. Is that not crucial in the conflict between the Middle East and the Palestinians? Finally, if I can just ask this: in the light of our Prime Minister's imminent visit to Israel and Prime Minister Sharon's visit to London, I believe it is next week, does the United Kingdom have a distinctive role to play in the Middle East peace process in your opinion?
  (Mr Rubin) Thank you for that question. First, the best way to explain why this has nothing to do with the peace process is the moment when most of the Arab world thought the United States was doing everything that they asked them to do, pressuring the Israeli Government to accept land for peace, trying their hardest to promote a particular peace agreement, was the summer of 1998 when the US Government and the Netanyahu Government were at very, very strong verbal odds with each other. Every Arab government that I know talked to us about this was thrilled with what we were doing. The press, so to speak, in the Arab world was very positive about what we were doing. It was at that moment, the height of that so-called pressure we were putting on, that the bombings of the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies took place. The Middle East peace process is not his agenda. He is clever enough to include it on his list when we are a lower point in terms of the perception of what we have been doing. What can we do and what role can the UK Government play in this? It is very tricky for an American former Government official to be overseas and to say anything that is at all critical of the Bush Administration right now, so I am going to choose my words very carefully. Prior to September 11, I think that there was not enough effort made at the highest levels to pursue the Middle East peace process. It is not a very easy thing to do, it is one of the most extraordinarily frustrating things to do, to try to promote peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it is part of our job, it is part of the Secretary of State's job, and it is part of the President's job. I think prior to September 11, they hoped that by staying out they could force certain changes on the ground, force Arafat to make certain decisions by withholding meetings with him and the President, by withholding trips from the Secretary of State. Every Secretary of State does not want to get bogged down in the Middle East peace process, because it is extraordinarily frustrating and difficult, but it is part of the job. To keep the process going you have to work at it even when nobody likes you, everyone is irritated with you, when you do not appear to be making any progress, because just by the constant presence of the United States in the region you tend to minimise these resentments, and you tend to create a brake on Israeli actions, and the two are necessary. I think higher levels of engagement are necessary than occurred prior to September 11. After September 11, the equation has changed considerably and it is not obvious how to move forward on the Middle East peace process, because you do not want to give the impression that you are acting because of September 11, and because of Osama bin Laden's representation of his cause. That leads me to your last question, which is the UK Government's role, and, indeed, the Chairman's first question. I think it fairly unprecedented to have a Prime Minister from another government playing such an active brokering role in the Middle East peace process, in a sense with the daily contact and support of the United States. Let us face it, the United States is the only country that has unique leverage on both sides. Other countries have leverage on one or the other side, but it is really only the United States that has unique leverage on both. With US engagement still focussed on the war on terrorism and concerned about making new steps, dramatic steps, that will be perceived as responding to September 11 or will cause the kind of outbursts that we saw from Prime Minister Sharon, the UK Government is playing a role. The combination of Prime Minister Blair and his Foreign Minister in Iran and Michael Levy and others who really know the parties are making a difference. I think what the results will be, I do not know. Joschka Fischer tried it, George Tennant tried it, George Mitchell tried it, now Tony Blair is trying it and that is a good thing. I think he is doing it in a very highly co-ordinated way and I think it will help but we all have to be realistic, this is an extraordinarily difficult problem. The Israeli Prime Minister offered what we in the State Department never dreamed he would actually put on the table at Camp David and in the subsequent discussions at Tampa and the result was a year's worth of violence. The peace camp in Israel is feeling pretty low and pretty discredited, not just because they could not agree but because they could not get praise for the boldness and the courage of what Barak did. They did not have to agree but they had to say that this was dramatic and courageous and they would not do that, instead they used the Sharon visit to launch a year's worth of violence in the hope of improving their position, which has not got any better.

  19. Is there an extent in your view to which the election of Sharon himself was as a direct result of Arafat and the Palestinians rejecting Barak's very, very bold offer?
  (Mr Rubin) I am sure that Barak is sitting around thinking a lot about that. He has got a lot of time to do so. Barak was having a tough time prior to Camp David. For a variety of reasons his coalition was always quite weak but his notion was what he called the "big bang", that is "I keep everyone close to me, I do not alienate any of those who support settlements by agreeing to small steps on settlements. I do not alienate anybody, I keep it all inside my pocket. They are all mad at me right now but I go to Camp David, I get an agreement and I take it to the public and I get 60/40 support for it and my political problems are solved". He avoided the coalition building that was necessary to maintain a certain political power in the Knesset and then when Camp David collapsed the downside of the big bang theory came home to roost, which was he was wildly voted out of office. Was Sharon voted in because of the violence? The short answer is yes. In another context without that kind of violence, with progress in the peace process, even without the big bang theory achieved, Barak would have had a better shot at it but he was extraordinarily unpopular. He was good at all the big decisions, but in my opinion not very good at the small decisions of government.

  Chairman: Good general, bad staff work.

  Mr Hamilton: Can I just ask Professor Halliday about his comments about Muslims in general. I think you were saying that poverty as well as unemployment is a big problem.

1   "No Man is an Island", Article by Professor Fred Halliday, The Observer, 16th September 2001. Back

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