Paris Attacks: A Milestone in European Unity
After the Paris attacks, many expected France to turn to nato and the United States for help. After all, America had invoked the alliance’s collective defense clause after 9/11. Instead François Hollande looked to the European Union.
At first glance, that seems an odd choice. America spends around 2.5 times more on its military than every nation in the EU combined. nato has a decades-long track record on defense.
Meanwhile, the EU has no track record here. Every attempt to create anything like a European army has failed. This is the first time the EU’s collective defense clause has ever been used.
The fact that Hollande is looking to Europe is a major milestone in the union’s development. It’s a story that’s easy to miss in the swirl of headlines surrounding the Paris attacks, but could prove to be one of their most significant long-term consequences.
A Call For Europe
Hollande’s call for European help was “a political act, [and] a political message,” said EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini. In making this call, he was “underlining that the Europe of defense is something that can be used.”
It’s Mogherini’s job to say nice things about European unity, but she’s not the only one taking note. “The priority given to the EU’s backing instead of nato echoes France’s long-standing support for an autonomous European defense policy without interference from Washington,” wrote EurActive.
“France has set a precedent for using the EU as the first response to military attack in the Continent, marking a decisive shift away from nato,” wrote the Telegraph.
The result is an unprecedented situation where the European Commission president says that sites in Syria must be bombed. The job of a European president is usually to talk about fish quotas or rail against financial markets. They never talk military.
This call cannot help but bring Europe’s armies together. Hollande has asked other EU nations to take some of the burden of France’s military deployments in North Africa. “France cannot do everything on its own any longer,” said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Key German leaders have already expressed willingness to share the burden—the likely outcome will be a coalition of European countries working in these areas.
Initiatives such as a common EU border system have long been stalled. But French officials said they hoped this call for help would revive these efforts. If Hollande’s call is heeded, the next few weeks and months will see European armies working side by side more deeply and in more countries than ever before. If it works, expect European leaders to try to build on that success and formalize the military alliance.
Hollande has called for a “broad coalition” to take the fight to the Islamic State, so he’s certainly not ruling out the United States. But the Europe-focused way he’s begun building this coalition shows that Europe will be at its core.
This coalition is another reason that Hollande called for the EU’s, rather than nato’s, help. Hollande wants to work with Russia. His planes are already flying missions alongside President Vladimir Putin.
America, on the other hand, has consistently refused to work with Russia over Syria.
This gets to the heart of the reason why Hollande looked to the EU, not nato. In doing so, he was declaring that Europe is more than junior partner in America’s defense arrangement. Europe is its own power, with its own goals, its own interests, and its own foreign relations. If it wants to work with Russia, it will do so with or without American approval.
The first nato secretary general, Lord Ismay, famously said that nato’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” But France wants the Russians in, at least in Syria; they want the Americans out, when it comes to leadership; and they want the Germans up and involved in military missions.
Europe no longer desires the fundamental aims of nato—no wonder it is now turning to its own structures.
Even if this call for help falls flat, just the fact that France made it will advance Europe’s military integration. In case of failure, France and other nations will say, we need to take this beyond a treaty obligation for nations to help each other. We need common institutions, a common EU disaster response headquarters, common military headquarters, common army, etc. Just expecting Europe to help on defense is a big moment—regardless of whether that expectation is met.
In America We Don’t Trust
This look to Europe also exposes a major division with America. The Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder summed up the feelings of many in Europe saying, “Paris changes everything.” However U.S. President Barack Obama’s response so far has been to insist that Paris changes nothing.
Consider America’s past policy on Islamic terrorism. In May 2013, President Obama declared the war on terror over. The next year, he announced that “the world is less violent than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been”—even as the Islamic State was overrunning towns and villages in Iraq and Syria. He called the Islamic State the JV team—an America term basically meaning the B team.
At a press conference on Monday, Mr. Obama showed that the Paris attacks had not changed his mind at all. “We have the right strategy, and we’re gonna see it through,” he said. There was none of Europe’s urgency to act. Instead he talked about the “progress being made” by America in Syria. His hope for the future lay in the “modest progress on the diplomatic front” that he reported.
After his speech, journalist after journalist asked the president if he had got it wrong. “The equation has clearly changed,” said Agence France-Presse. “Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?”
“Have you underestimated” the Islamic State, asked cbs? “And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?” The answer to both, said Mr. Obama, was no.
Another journalist asked Mr. Obama if “your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies?”
“I’m not interested in … posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people,” the president replied.
These style of questions continued. Even the journalists, it seemed, had a hard time believing that a president that had declared the war on terror over could insist that he had not made a mistake and that everything was proceeding according to plan.
Europe is scrambling to change after Paris. America wants to make no changes at all. No wonder France doesn’t want to turn to American-led nato. It knows that if it does, it will be business as usual. America may have all that military capacity, but with no willingness to act, it is no help to Europe.
Look at the attacks that have taken place this year: Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish market attack in Paris; up to 2,000 killed in a single attack by the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram. And that was just in January. Since then there have been shootings in Denmark and Texas. There have been major attacks in Tunisia, Somalia and Kenya. And that doesn’t include the horrible brutality metered out by Islamic State terrorists upon Christians, Yazidis and just about anyone else who has fallen into their hands in the Middle East.
What must European leaders be thinking when they see the American president insist that everything is fine and that his strategy is working? Their rejection of America’s leadership here goes much further than just the aftermath of the Paris attack. They’re starting to see that America is not going to seriously confront this problem anywhere, anytime—Europe has to look to itself.
“Rather than develop comprehensive plans for dealing with this enemy, the Americans, the Europeans and others have opted for a mix of policies running the spectrum from appeasement to whack-a-mole operations,” wrote Caroline Glick in a piece published on Tuesday. The Paris attacks are beginning to force Europe to confront this failure, while America continues in its delusion that everything is fine.
The Power Europe Has Already
There is also a more mundane reason Hollande turned to the EU rather than nato. Hollande wants to dramatically increase his military spending. He’s canceled planned defense cuts and announced that 17,000 will be recruited to France’s security services.
To do all that, Hollande needs permission from Brussels. That’s how much power the euro crisis has already forced France to give up. By officially requesting European help, he lays the groundwork for his request that EU officials allow France to borrow more money to fund this defense splurge.
Military unity is one of the final pillars that would transform the EU into a superstate. There’s still more to do on the economic front, but the euro crisis has forced it to move forward here, and the crisis will keep pushing it forward.
Now the migrant crisis is doing the same for Europe’s militaries.
Herbert W. Armstrong long forecast the arrival of a military superpower in Europe. In a world where European nations can’t rely on the United States, one in which they fear Russia and face the constant threat of radical terror, their only hope of survival is to band together. That is why Hollande turned to Europe.
For more on what Mr. Armstrong forecast for Europe and how it is already coming to pass, read “The Europe of the Bible Takes Shape” from the October issue of the Trumpet magazine.