Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

The Military in a Wicked World: A European Union Military Point of View

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

The Military in a Wicked World: A European Union Military Point of View

Article excerpt

We live in an increasingly wicked world, both in the common understanding of the word (given the growing number of serious security bushfires around the world threatening to join into a larger forest conflagration) and from a systems engineering perspective;1 where interrelationships between concurrent and coincident actors and events necessitate increasingly complex solutions, to even the most seemingly simple crisis, if unintended consequences are not to dominate outcomes.

The European Union (EU) has responded to such increasing complexity in its approach to delivering Comprehensive action and effects - it now assumes modern crises require all instruments of power to be woven together from the outset to address them - a full span of such levers are, of course, the constituent parts of the EU. Some organizations might say they already deliver comprehensive effect. However the EUs uniqueness lies in that it does not presume a starting point where any one lever of power is dominant-as is found in a defense dominated organization such as NATO. The EU's model roughly equates to the U.S. interagency, but working in this case not under just one administration but 28!

Novel, and beginning to show real promise of delivering more enduring outcomes, this approach requires an attitude of mind in the military in the EU that has to learn to cope with ambiguity and compromise. They must also cope with the fact that defense isn't the dominant partner in an environment that, from its outset, has always been orientated more towards the norms of society and nation building than crisis management. Albeit, of late with the advent of the 2009 EU Lisbon Treaty, Member States (MS) have indicated their intent to grow the ability to deliver more coherent external action in the area of conflict prevention and crisis management through the formation of the European External Action Service on 1 January 2011, which has incorporated, inter alia, the European Union Military Staff.

The Issue

All too frequently military interlocutors outside the European Union (EU) get frustrated that "we" don't act or feel like NATO. What follows attempts to address that frustration and suggest that the unique complexities of the EU are both desirable and increasingly proving to be an advantage in some circumstances. Such a discourse will also examine how the EU integrates military effect into its external action and show why the EU does not duplicate NATO, why it has a different philosophy of working, why (at times) it has entirely different roles and why such difference may eventually be seen as more complementary, and not in competition, with the efforts of other defense dominated organizations, such as NATO.

The Comparator

For a start the context is substantially different. The genesis of NATO, and its authority today, rests largely on the application of a single instrument of power-defense and security. Defense is the senior stakeholder with, by and large, the civil dimension being spread sparsely throughout the structure. Obvious advantages flow from this more discrete and focused lever, in terms of its ability to respond to crises at short notice. Such agility requires high readiness capabilities to support such advantagehence, in part, the justification for permanent command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) infrastructure and response forces designed to operate quickly and up to the highest reaches of the spectrum of crisis.

Of course utility across the spectrum of crisis must not be confused with, or detract from, NATO's ultimate purpose of assured collective defense and thus the drive to sustain the capabilities necessary to fulfill that remit. Such high-end capability necessarily proffers the capacity to address issues lower in spectrum and to pursue its "Comprehensive Action" ambitions. The difference between "Comprehensive Action" and the "Comprehensive Approach" might be, in the latter case, making a difference between using all possible means and valorizing them and others, in the former case, who can only coordinate. …

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