Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 19/09/14

Massenbach-Letter. News

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

· In eigener Sache: Udo von Massenbach im neuen „kressköpfe“-Buch 2014/2015!

Guten Morgen.

· Joe Biden: The hard fight to end violence against women

· “Neue Liberale“ in Hamburg gegründet.

· New York Times:To Crush ISIS, Make a Deal With Assad

· The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum

Massenbach* ‚American War Generals‘ a sobering reflection on U.S. failures in Iraq *

As the U.S. escalates its campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria, a new documentary offers a cautionary tale about putting too much faith in technology and forgetting hard-fought lessons from the past.

“American War Generals,” which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel, looks at how the U.S. military recovered from its disastrous endeavor in Vietnam, remade itself into an all-volunteer force that focused on fighting conventional wars, and then came close to defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan as it faced a type of enemy it vowed never to fight again.

From left to right: Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster; retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark; retired Army Gen. David Petraeus; retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey; and retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry at the Sept. 8 premiere of ‚American War Generals‘ in Washington, D.C. Ralph Alswang/National Geographic Channel

The documentary provides access to many of America’s top current and former commanders, including retired Army Gens. David Petraeus, George Casey, Jack Keane and Stanley McChrystal and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, currently with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

McChrystal provides the film’s most candid and forthright commentary. The former head of Joint Special Operations Command, who went on to lead all U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, waged a brutal war against al-Qaida in Iraq. Despite the U.S. military’s successes in Iraq after 2006, he calls the invasion a mistake.

“Before that war, if we’d looked at the cost — not just in Americans but in Iraqis and others — if we’d looked at the distrust that it created — or loss of trust — around the world for America; I don’t think a rational person would have ever said, ‘Yeah that’s worth it; we’ll do that,’ ” he said.

“American War Generals” illustrates how the U.S. military did not train to fight guerrilla wars after Vietnam, preferring instead to prepare to fight large-scale conflicts against well-equipped, traditionally trained adversaries.

“Most of my professional life, the Army put Vietnam in the rear-view mirror and focused on this major conventional warfare,” says Petraeus, a past commander of U.S. Central Command who led all coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. “That’s all well and good if that’s what you end up fighting, but if you then end up in small wars, as they’re called — counterinsurgency efforts — you then have to go back to the drawing board and do some serious thinking.”

McMaster, who in 1991 led an armored cavalry troop during the Battle of 73 Easting in the Persian Gulf War, sets the stage for the history of the post-Sept. 11 wars by explaining that the U.S. military took away the wrong lessons from that conflict by believing technology had beaten Saddam Hussein’s army.

“There are two ways to fight the United States military: Asymmetrically and stupid,” McMaster says. “ ‘Asymmetrically’ means, you are going to try to avoid our strengths. In the 1991 Gulf War, it’s like we called Saddam’s army out into the school yard and beat up that army.”

When the insurgency in Iraq began, the U.S. military refused to accept that it was fighting an unconventional war, McMaster says.

“We didn’t have enough forces for what the situation required and we didn’t adapt fast enough, largely because in the beginning of the war in Iraq, we were in denial,” McMaster says. “We were in denial about it. We wouldn’t even call it an insurgency. We wouldn’t call it an insurgency because it evoked the images of Vietnam.”

The documentary also examines the tension between Casey, who opposed sending more troops into Iraq, and those who advocated for the eventual surge of forces there. Casey led all U.S. troops in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, before he became the Army’s chief of staff. His philosophy differed from that of retired Gen. Jack Keane, who in December 2006 gave President George W. Bush a blunt assessment of the situation.

“I told him that we had run out of all options to succeed in Iraq but one,” says Keane, the Army’s former vice chief of staff. “I said ‘There is only one thing that would be decisive and that is to change our strategy and begin to protect the people.’ And I said ‘You have to understand that right now the U.S. military strategy is not designed to defeat the insurgency. And based on his body language, I know he reacted to that statement.”

Filmmaker Tresha Mabile co-produced “American War Generals” with her husband Peter Bergen. The documentary is the culmination of two years of work.

She hopes audiences take away that the U.S. military has to be able to fight different types of wars, she told Military Times on Thursday.

“War is a human endeavor and technology doesn’t always solve all of the problems,” Mabile said. “I think you heard that a lot from the generals in the film. Having been in war zones, you see that. War is a people venture and you just can’t solve all problems by dropping bombs from the sky.”

For Mabile, the most difficult part of making the documentary was selecting which scenes had to be left out to avoid the film running too long, she said.

“There was one point where the vice president called General Keane and said, ‘We want you to go to Iraq and implement this strategy;’ and General Keane said ‘I’m retired; it would look like an act of desperation if you called me out of retirement; you need to get this guy Dave Petraeus on the ground and things will be OK,’ ” Mabile said.

Mabile also wishes she had more time to explain how the U.S. military was not trained to fight an insurgency at the start of the Iraq war. She believes Casey gets a “bad rap” for his tenure as commander in Iraq because it took time to retrain the military in counterinsurgency.

In “American War Generals,” Casey explains how the death of his father — a two-star general killed in Vietnam — shaped the way he made decisions as an Army commander.

“I never made a decision to put forces in harm’s way without thinking of the consequences,” Casey says.

Casey also says he feels a connection with each of the more than 2,000 U.S. troops who died under his command during his tenure in Iraq. He still wears a bracelet with the name of a soldier killed in Iraq that was given to him by the soldier’s spouse.

“I don’t take it off,” he says. “The cost — the human cost of war is something, as a leader, you can never allow yourself to forget.”


*Politics and the long war in Iraq*

By Brian M Downing

The four armed groups warring in Iraq – Islamic State (IS), the Kurdish peshmerga, the Iraqi army, and Sunni tribal levies – have strengths and weaknesses. They also have varying levels of foreign support and capacities for cooperation. IS troops have a marked qualitative edge but are badly outnumbered and have no reliable allies inside Iraq.

IS stands little chance of holding on to the swathes of Iraq it has recently conquered, and in coming months it will be forced to retreat from northern Iraq, if not from much of the country. The Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites are capable of effectively countering IS’s offensive but political bargaining with the new Baghdad government will come first. The negotiations and fighting will determine Iraq’s future as a unified state, a federation, or a fragmented state.

The armies
IS forces have the best discipline and tactical expertise of any force in the country. Its rank and file trust their commanders, have more combat experience than rivals, and have demonstrated remarkable cohesion, tactical knowledge, and audacity. However, they are few in number – no more than 18,000 at most in Syria and Iraq. Since sweeping into northern Iraq last June they’ve become greatly overextended and must now fight on a winding 800-mile front along which they enjoy little support from local populations. Indeed, IS has alienated almost all those under its rule and is vulnerable to insurgency. The jihadi band has no defense against US airpower.

The Iraqi army has 90,000 combat troops organized into 180 battalions, each of differing competence. They cannot all be judged by the poor showing around Mosul last June. Those units comprised many Kurdish and Sunni Arab soldiers who were not inclined to fight for the Shi’ite government in Baghdad and in fact were pleased to see the Shi’ites abandon Sunni regions. Nonetheless, the national army’s officer corps is plagued by corruption and inexperience. Having regrouped in more Shi’ite regions, the army enjoys considerable local support and is being augmented by Shi’ite militias, adding to numerical strength though not to organizational ability and combat effectiveness.

Kurdish units boast some 200,000 troops, but training and equipment vary. Organization is poor and experience is low, but on the rise. Concerned foreign states are delivering arms to the beleaguered people and Kurds from Turkey and Iran are streaming to the aid of their cousins in both Syria and Iraq. The Kurds have recovered from earlier losses to IS and retaken many villages and strategic sites. Owing to limited training and political caution, peshmerga operations are not likely to extend too far from Kurdistan and parts of northern Iraq they recently seized.

Sunni tribal militias are of uncertain numbers; they are essentially levies that elders raise from a large pool of young men. Some fought in the insurgency against the US and in the Sunni Awakening against al Qaeda. Others are inexperienced youths in tribal patronage networks. They enjoy support from the population and know the terrain in both urban and rural settings. Tribal militias are likely to benefit from American arms and money, as they did in the Sunni Awakening. They have not exhibited great discipline or tactical mastery, neither in large or small units. US troops likened them to well armed street gangs. But they can harass IS troops across central and western Iraq and force the jihadis to reduce the number of troops deployed against the Iraqi army and Kurds.

IS’s discipline and experience gives it a considerable qualitative edge over the other armies in Iraq. However, the same could be said of the Third Reich’s military in the Second World War. The Reich, of course, was ground down and destroyed by numerically superior enemies. IS is incurring constant losses in skirmishes and from US airpower. It can no longer mass troops, hold fixed positions, deploy armor, or convoy men and equipment as tactical situations require.

With even moderately vigorous attacks from the three Iraqi enemies, IS will be badly attritted, with little chance that fresh recruits will compensate for constant losses of experienced fighters. The jihadi cult will either adhere to its warrior creed and fight on, which will lead to exhaustion and disintegration, or it will soberly accept the disadvantage and retreat to urban redoubts and the wastelands of western Iraq from which it can only wage a bombing campaign. In either case, it will no longer be the danger it is presently seen as.

The politics
Numerical advantages will not lead to an immediate IS defeat. The timing, vigor, and coordination of the counteroffensive depend on negotiations among the three groups. Unfortunately, there is considerable mistrust between the three and a coordinated campaign against IS will prove difficult. After all, one group is the former oppressor, the others the oppressed.

Wars have often brought unity, however sometimes they bring opportunity for aggrieved peoples to negotiate their rights and even their independence. Indian troops fought for the British Empire in Italy and Burma (now called Myanmar), but only with the understanding that cooperation would bring independence. The same can be said for African troops and the French Empire. The Kurds and Sunnis are thinking along the same lines and will ask for or declare autonomy. The Shi’ites want to keep both groups under the present unitary state and are seeking to control the flow of arms and money to the two groups.

The Kurds already have their own army, constitution, flag, and oil pipeline. They would like to declare independence. However, they face difficulties selling their oil overseas as Baghdad’s legal claims over it are widely respected. Kurdistan has only found buyers in Israel, Hungary, and an undetermined Southeast Asian country. (A tanker filled with Kurdish crude is sitting in international waters off Texas until the dispute is resolved.) The Kurds will seek to get Baghdad to relent on its claims, or convince foreign countries to recognize their legal claims in light of their contribution in fighting and defeating IS.

The Sunnis long dominated the Iraqi army and state until Saddam was driven from power in 2003. Irritated by Shi’ite preeminence, and recognizing their own small percentage of the population (about 16%), the Sunnis are the only Iraqi group that IS can find support from. IS’s bombing campaign against Shi’ite targets was at least tacitly supported by some Sunnis, especially remnants of Saddam’s army and state. IS’s recent offensive has been helped by those same remnants. They were instrumental in convincing parts of the Iraqi army to abandon Mosul, and IS rewarded them with positions in new local governments.

However, Sunni ambitions for autonomy are irreconcilable with IS’s dream of a new caliphate. The Sunnis, especially the tribes, are amenable to fighting IS. The most powerful sheikh, Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, has announced his willingness to fight IS. There will be a price and it seems to include direct US support, without Baghdad’s mediation – a step toward a fuller break from the old Iraq.

Neither Kurdish nor Shi’ite troops will be welcome in Sunni regions, hence the Sunni tribes will be decisive in ousting IS. The jihadis occupy large parts of Sunni territory, hence the Sunni tribes will be subject to pitiless reprisals. The Sunnis are unlikely to find minority status and a few portfolios preferable to the regional autonomy the Kurds already have. The Sunnis, armed by the West and victorious over the jihadis, will not again submit to the Shi’ite majority.

It is unclear if the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites can agree upon Iraq’s future then attack IS in a concerted manner. While from a military perspective coordination would be preferable, it isn’t necessary to begin wearing IS down and forcing significant retreats. Each of the three forces has an incentive to stake out territory from the other two and demonstrate effectiveness to foreign powers in order to win support for its particular vision of Iraq’s future.

Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, author of The Military Revolution and Political Change, The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam, and co-author with Danny Rittman of The Samson Heuristic.


*Secret US-Syrian dialogue for coordinating counter-ISIS operations in Syria led up to Obama speech*

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 10, 2014, 7:45 PM (IDT)

Tags: ISIS, Barack Obama, US-Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bashar Assad,

Old enemies, new buddies?

Shortly before US President Barack Obama was to unveil his strategy for tackling ISIS in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, Sept. 10, US and Syrian officers held secret talks for coordinating their military efforts against the common foe, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This is revealed exclusively by debkafile’s military and intelligence sources.

The Syrian officers, on the authority of President Bashar Assad, met on the quiet several times with American officers in the capital of one of the Gulf emirates – most probably Muscat in Oman – to prepare the ground for the US and coalition to extend the military campaign against IS into Syria. Tehran was almost certainly in on the dialogue, which brought together US and Syrian officials for the first time in the nearly four years of the Syrian civil war.

Our military experts say that the US campaign will be a lot more complicated militarily on the Syrian side of the the Islamic State than parallel operations in Iraq – although IS strongholds in northern and eastern Syria should not be hard to bomb from the air.

But it must be taken for granted that the ISIS commander, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who has proved to be a competent military tactician, will not leave his troops in place to wait for US bombers, but has already moved them to safe hideouts, either in the mountains of northern Syria, the Syrian desert that spreads over into Iraq, or in the dense vegetation on the banks of the Euphrates River, good places from which to conduct protracted guerilla warfare.

Our military sources believe that Baghdadi has probably discovered that the US-led military campaign against him will lead off in Iraq – and only then expand into Syria. To prevent an IS counteroffensive taking off and gaining more ground straight after the Obama speech, the US military must go into action against its strongholds in Iraq – and only then turn to Syria.
This will also be the message US Secretary of State John Kerry conveys to Arab foreign ministers when he meets them in Jeddah Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to draw them into a coalition for fighting the Islamists. Before his speech, President Obama put in a call to Saudi King Abdullah, the key to an Arab lineup behind the effort.

The coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday offers a detailed roundup of the military operations planned by Washington for eradicating the Islamic State terrorist movement, and the fluctuations within the coalition of Middle East allies enlisted for the battle.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* *Joe Biden: The hard fight to end violence against women*

Even just 20 years ago, violence against women in America was an epidemic few people wanted to talk about, let alone do something about. No one denied punching a wife in the face or pushing her down the stairs was reprehensible. But most people refused to intervene. They called domestic violence a "family affair." Critics of proposed laws protecting women from this violence claimed they would lead to the "disintegration" of the family.

Today, it’s hard for many people to fathom a day in which Americans ignored this violence, or worse, condoned it. But it’s true. And it was against that backdrop I introduced the Violence Against Women (VAWA) in 1990, the first federal law that directly held violence against women as a violation of basic civil rights and fundamental human dignity.

It had three simple goals. Make streets safer for women. Make homes safer for women. Protect women’s civil rights. It met those goals comprehensively by: increasing violence prevention, investing in shelters, enhancing services, and training police, lawyers, and even judges to better investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate domestic violence cases. But it took four years for the bill to get signed into law in 1994.

OUR VIEW: Joe Biden’s fight to end abuse of women

It was a struggle with setbacks, but also a journey that has changed America. Sparsely attended Senate hearings at first led to hundreds of pages of testimony by survivors, health professionals, and advocates. I issued "Violence Against Women: A Week in the Life of America," a report detailing the human tragedy of the 21,000 crimes against women that were reported every week in America at the time – a small slice of the 1.1 million assaults, aggravated assaults, murders, and rapes against women committed in the home and reported to police that year. With the help of supporters, we surveyed laws across all 50 states that implied "if you knew her, it wasn’t a crime."

And throughout I met true heroes: women, like Carol Post here in Delaware, who ran shelters, coalitions, and rape crisis centers supported by no more than bake sales and good intentions. Survivors who had their arms broken with hammers and their heads hit with pipes by their partners, but who still summoned absolute courage to stand up and share their story.

It is because of them that VAWA is a law that has saved lives – yearly domestic violence rates dropped 64 percent from 1993-2010. It has saved the country money – one study shows the law saved an estimated $12.6 billion in averted social costs in its first six years alone. It has improved justice – higher rates of prosecution for special-victims units, like the Family Division established by Attorney General Beau Biden, and new waves of state law reforms. Services, technology and forensic collection, and education and prevention efforts have all dramatically improved.

Fundamentally, the Violence Against Women Act has changed a prevailing culture from a refusal to intervene to a responsibility to act – where violence against women is no longer accepted as a societal secret and where we all understand that even one case is too many.

This law is my proudest legislative accomplishment, and it was based on something my Dad taught me growing up in Wilmington: that the cardinal sin is an abuse of power, and the ultimate abuse of power is someone physically raising a hand to strike and beat a woman or child.

We know there is still more to do, but years of struggle and progress have spurred a national understanding that you can’t talk about human rights and human dignity without talking about the right of every woman on this planet to be free from violence and free from fear.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former U.S. Senator from Delaware, is vice president of the United States.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* *Water Pressures in Central Asia*

Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.

Political rivalries, economic competition, heightened nationalism and mistrust hamper the search for a solution to the region’s growing water and energy needs. In its latest report, Water Pressures in Central Asia, the International Crisis Group examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The report also analyses the international community’s potential to contribute to national and regional stability in Central Asia.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Kyrgyzstan is looking at a bleak winter of energy shortages because of low water levels at the Toktogul reservoir and hydropower plant. Energy insecurity and resentment are growing and have proved to be major catalysts in the downfall of successive Kyrgyz administrations. Only mass labour migration and authoritarian tactics have prevented similar upheavals in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
  • Attempts at comprehensive regional solutions have foundered on mistrust. The three countries (and international backers) should act in the Ferghana Valley border areas to end annual competition and conflict over water by seeking step-by-step solutions rather than an all-inclusive resource settlement. If Uzbekistan will not join, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan should work bilaterally.
  • Uzbekistan’s irrigation system desperately needs modernisation. Researchers suggest that 50 to 80 per cent of water used for agricultural irrigation is lost.
  • The failure in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to provide basic services greatly increases the perception that their governments are weak and corrupt and provides a rallying point for opposition movements that seek to oust them.
  • The donor community, including China, the EU and Russia, should support the region in modernising its water infrastructure, building in effective anti-corruption measures and focusing on direct impact at community levels. “Corruption, hidden interests and inflexible positions in all three states hinder a mutually acceptable solution. A common development strategy focusing on reform of agricultural and energy sectors would be in their interest”, says Deirdre Tynan, Central Asia Project Director, “but such an initiative requires a radical shift in the way regional leaders think”.

“The failure of Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent to resolve cross-border water problems shows a worrying disregard for stability in their common area. Strained ethnic relations and competition over water and land could be a deadly mix. Conflict in this volatile part of Central Asia risks rapid, possibly irreversible regional destabilisation”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

Executive Summary | Full Report PDF


"Neue Liberale" in Hamburg gegründet.

Erster Bundesparteitag am 28. September

Die neue liberale Partei ist am 14. September 2014 formal in Hamburg gegründet worden. Mit dem eingängigen Namen „Neue Liberale“ wurde sie beim Bundeswahlleiter angemeldet. Ziel ist es, bundes- und Europa-weit als Liberale aufzutreten.

Die „Liberalen“ verstehen sich als Mitglied der internationalen liberalen Familie, wie sie in der „Liberal International“ organisiert ist.

Zu den Gründern zählen der ehemalige FDP-Wissenschaftssenator Dieter Biallas und der Journalist Haug von Kuenheim, früher stellvertretender Chefredakteur der Wochenzeitung "Die Zeit" und weitere Liberale aus Deutschland. Der 24-köpfige Gründungsvorstand wird angeführt vom früheren FDP-Europakandidaten Najib Karim. Die ehemalige Hamburger FDP-Vorsitzenden Sylvia Canel ist Schatzmeisterin. Der Gründungsvorstand soll nun einen bundesweiten Gründungsparteitag organisieren, der nach aktueller Planung am 28. September in Hamburg stattfinden soll.

Die "Neuen Liberalen" fühlen sich liberalen Traditionen verpflichtet und stellen den Menschen und seine Chancen mit besonderem Blick auf die Rechte der künftigen Generationen in das Zentrum ihres politischen Handelns. Ein liberaler Kompass – die Grundsätze – wurden auf der Gründungs-versammlung verabschiedet.

Das Interesse an der Partei sei groß, sagte der neue Parteichef Najib Karim. Es habe mehr als 600 Anfragen aus ganz Deutschland gegeben – wobei dahinter weitaus mehr Menschen stünden. Teilweise planten ganze Ortsverbände der FDP oder der Piraten den Übertritt zu den "Neuen Liberalen".

"Wir haben bundesweiten Zulauf auch von bislang parteipolitisch unorganisierten Bürgern", so Karim.

Aber auch Mitglieder der FDP, der Piraten, der Grünen und der SPD haben den Weg zu den „Liberalen“ gefunden und sind im Gründungsvorstand vertreten.

Noch ist unklar, ob die "Neuen Liberalen" zur Bürgerschaftswahl im Februar 2015 antreten. Allerdings wird dieses Ziel offenbar von vielen angestrebt. Dafür sind allerdings in kurzer Zeit noch allerlei formale Hürden zu nehmen. So wird nach dem Gründungsparteitag der Bundespartei am 28. September zunächst eine Hamburger Landesgruppe gegründet werden. Weitere Landesgruppen in Berlin, NRW, Bayern, Baden-Württemberg sind in Vorbereitung.

Laut Satzung ist die Kurzbezeichnung der "Neuen Liberalen" schlicht "Liberale". Im zwei Seiten umfassenden Grundsatzprogramm grenzt sich die neue Partei inhaltlich von der FDP ab. Dort heißt es etwa, es sei das Ziel der neuen Partei, "auch soziale Ungerechtigkeiten zu bekämpfen, Menschen in sozialer Not beizustehen und ihre Fähigkeiten und Talente zu fördern".

Udo von Massenbach

Mitglied des Gründungsvorstandes

Neue Liberale


Middle East

New York Times:To Crush ISIS, Make a Deal With Assad

LONDON — LAST week, President Obama virtually declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But it is hard to reconcile the seemingly urgent need to confront the threat posed by this organization with the chosen means of doing so.

By opting to support the “moderate” Syrian opposition and running the risk of an open confrontation with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the West appears to be primarily appeasing Arab Persian Gulf allies that have turned the overthrow of Mr. Assad into a policy fetish that runs against any rational calculation of how to defeat Islamist terrorism.

The persistent belief in Western policy circles that there is a “moderate opposition” in Syria — reiterated at the close of a NATO summit meeting in Wales on Sept. 5 — warrants serious scrutiny. The very notion of a “vetted” opposition has an absurd ring to it. It assumes that moderation is an identifiable, fixed element that can be sorted out from other, tainted characteristics. It further presumes that the vetting process will not stain those being vetted. It takes as a given that Western-backed opposition will prevail and in turn provide the basis for a happier and better Syria.

There is little to support any of these beliefs. The most effective forces on the ground today — and for the foreseeable future — are decidedly nonmoderate. This is not primarily because the West has let down the Syrian opposition, but because the conflict now sweeping through the Levant is grounded in elements that have little to do with the presumed struggle between moderation and extremism.

Sunni jihadists have been successful precisely because of their insidious appeal to deep-rooted societal and religious instincts and their ability to evoke symbols that elicit a genuine response across the Sunni world, despite their brutality. Anti-Shiite sectarian sentiment adds to their appeal; they have a substantive ideological overlap with Al Qaeda (which disavowed ISIS in February) and with other Syrian rebel groups, like the Saudi-backed Islamic Front, the gulf-financed Ahrar al-Sham and the Qaeda-associated Nusra Front.

And let’s not forget the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, whose role in inflaming the conflict has been disguised under the mantle of the “moderate” Syrian National Coalition, backed by the West, the Arab nations and Turkey. Ultimately, this is the same bed that the West made — and in which it slept — in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The alleged moderates have never put together a convincing national program or offered a viable alternative to Mr. Assad. The truth is that there are no “armed moderates” (or “moderate terrorists”) in the Arab world — and precious few beyond. The genuine “moderates” won’t take up arms, and those who do are not truly moderates.

The suggestion in Washington and Brussels that a “Sunni coalition,” made up of Arab states and Turkey, can deal with ISIS is equally fatuous. Neither has any real credibility among the Sunni constituencies attracted to Al Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations; indeed, these countries are their enemies.

In many ways, the current struggle among the Arab gulf kingdoms (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) and the various iterations of violent jihadism is a family fight, a struggle for power and legitimacy within Wahhabist, salafist and other interpretations of Islam. So by insisting on a Sunni coalition, the West will only appear to be joining a gulf-led war on the Shiites of Iraq, Syria and Iran. (It bears noting that neither Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite movement based in Lebanon, nor Iran has declared a global war on the West and non-Muslims, unlike Saudi-inspired salafists and their jihadist brethren.)

Supporting the Syrian “moderates” would make some military sense only if it would make any difference on the ground. But in the absence of any large-scale Western or regional commitment to deploy troops, the only real “boots on the ground” capable of destroying ISIS are the Syrian Army and its local allies, including Hezbollah.

Despite its oppressive and brutal history, Mr. Assad’s regime not only poses no discernible threat to the West or its interests, but is ready and willing to act on the basis of common objectives. It would seem to be the height of strategic folly to initiate a military campaign on Syrian soil that is bound to result in a serious confrontation with Mr. Assad’s forces, and possibly Iran and Russia as well, at a time when the most effective course of action would be to act in concert with him to confront a grave common threat.

As the West continues to weigh its options, a strategic rethinking is necessary.

First, it is imperative to find a way to work with the most effective forces on the ground: Mr. Assad’s Syrian Army and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters. All of the West’s differences with the Syrian regime should be postponed until the tide of battle has turned. Indeed, an anti-ISIS coalition that includes Syria, Iran and Russia may be the only real key to a political engagement with Mr. Assad that could help bring about a peaceful resolution of the three-year-old Syrian civil war.

Second, the West must overcome its reluctance to offend the Saudis, and speak out much more forcefully against the insidious influence of Wahhabism and the ideological support it offers violent extremism. The Arab gulf states must choose a side. They cannot continue to finance terrorism and use fundamentalism as a policy tool and yet claim to be fighting it abroad. Saudi Arabia is both a sponsor and a target of jihad — it should wish to be neither.

This may well be the real test of the West’s leadership. And if the United States and its allies instead amble into another major military conflict in the Middle East without realistic objectives and a cleareyed plan to achieve them, they will have already failed.

Ahmad Samih Khalidi is an academic visitor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a former Palestinian peace negotiator.




*Vom Terror zum Kalifat*

Wie korrupte Eliten, Bevölkerungsexplosion und organisierte Kriminalität die dschihadistische Expansion fördern.

Islamistische Milizen in der al-Dschazirah-Region: Kampf gegen den „verderblichen Einfluss des Westens.

Die brutale und blitzartige Inbesitznahme eines Gebietes von der Größe Großbritanniens durch Islamischer Staat (IS) im Irak und Teilen Syriens und die Entführung von über 270 Schülerinnen in Nigeria durch Boko Haram (Westliche Bildung ist Sünde) im April des Jahres haben die Expansion islamistischer Bewegungen plötzlich in das Bewusstsein der internationalen Öffentlichkeit geschleudert. IS und Boko Haram sind jedoch nur die Spitze einer viel grundsätzlicheren Entwicklung, die sich vom Nahen Osten über die Arabische Halbinsel und das Horn von Afrika bis hin zum Sahel und nach Westafrika vollzieht.

Besorgniserregender „Qualitätssprung“

In den Ambitionen der islamistisch-dschihadistischen Bewegungen ist derzeit ein qualitativer Sprung vom brutalen Terror zur systematischen Errichtung sogenannter Islamischer Kalifate und Emirate zu verzeichnen. Darunter werden vorgeblich vom Islam bestimmte Machtbereiche verstanden, in denen Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Gleichberechtigung der Frauen und andere Menschenrechte als westliche Perversionen gelten und von einem Rückgriff auf steinzeitliche Strafen wie Steinigungen, Enthauptungen oder Kreuzigungen abgelöst werden. Der regressiv-faschistoide Charakter dieser Bewegungen ist offensichtlich, wenn man sieht, mit welcher Brutalität IS ebenso wie Boko Haram bei der Vernichtung von Andersgläubigen, keineswegs nur Christen, vorgehen. Im Falle von IS spielt die lange Geschichte der blutigen Rivalität zwischen Sunniten und Schiiten dabei ebenso eine Rolle wie Schergen des Saddam-Regimes. Ihr Anführer Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi hat sich kurzerhand zum Nachfolger des Propheten ernannt und verlangt blinde Gefolgschaft – in seinem Machtbereich durchaus mit Erfolg. Dabei kann er natürlich darauf zurückgreifen, dass die Idee einer streng autoritär-theokratischen Herrschaft in Form des Kalifats zum Grundbestand des Islams seit seinen Anfängen gehört.

Boko Haram in Nigeria hat nach der Eroberung verschiedener Ortschaften im Nord-Osten Nigerias kürzlich ebenfalls ein „Kalifat“ ausgerufen. Die Anknüpfung an die Herrschaft des Sokoto-Kalifat, im 19. Jahrhundert eines der mächtigsten, streng-muslimischen vor-kolonialen Imperien in Afrika, ist ein zentraler ideologischer Ansatz dieser Bewegung. Ansar al-Sharia in Libyen hat am 31. Juli 2014 einen ähnlichen Schritt vollzogen, nachdem es Bengasi in Ost-Libyen weitgehend unter seine Kontrolle bringen konnte. Im Jemen rief Al-Qaida auf der Arabischen Halbinsel bereits 2012 „Emirate“ aus, konnte sie aber nur teilweise halten. In Afghanistan schließlich streben die Taliban die Wiedererrichtung ihres 1997 gegründeten und 2001 verloren gegangenen „Islamischen Emirats Afghanistan“ an. Taliban-Führer Mullah Omar hat daran nach den Präsidentschaftswahlen im Sommer 2014 keinen Zweifel gelassen.

Erratische Reaktionen des Westen und der internationalen Gemeinschaft

Der Westen und die internationale Gemeinschaft haben auf diese Expansion bislang keine überzeugende Antwort. Die Reaktionen zeichneten sich überwiegend durch erratische ad-Hoc Aktionen aus. Eine umfassende strategische Analyse und Planung sowie eine entsprechende Koordination der internationalen Reaktionen sind kaum zu erkennen. Das gilt selbst für die französische Intervention in Mali und die nachfolgenden EU-Missionen. Obwohl erstere militärisch zunächst erfolgreich war, besteht die Gefahr von Instabilität und Terrorismus fort.

Ein Paradebeispiel für erratisches Vorgehen ist das Überschütten Nigerias mit Hilfsangeboten nach der Entführung von über 270 Schulmädchen. Die Beteiligten, allen voran die USA, mussten schnell feststellen, dass weder im nigerianischen Militär noch in der politischen Führung vernünftige Ansatzpunkte für Hilfe existierten. Das überrascht niemanden, der Nigeria kennt. Das nigerianische Militär mit seiner überwiegend korrupten Führung ist angesichts des Verfalls seiner Moral und Kampfkraft eher Teil als Lösung des Problems. Schlimmer noch: Offenbar hat ausgerechnet eine Reihe hochrangiger Militärs Boko Haram mit Waffen und Informationen versorgt. Dabei hatte eben dieses Militär den Auftrag, die Organisation mit aller Härte zu bekämpfen, mit dem Ergebnis, dass weite Teile der Bevölkerung im Norden des Landes heute nicht wissen, wen sie mehr zu fürchten haben: die Dschihadisten oder das Militär.

Vollends unverständlich ist die Überzeugung einiger Entwicklungspolitiker, dass nur noch mehr Entwicklungshilfe eine Ausweitung des Terrorismus verhindern könne.

Das Problem der Korruption und des Machtmissbrauchs durch die Eliten dieser Staaten ist seit langem bekannt. Westliche Regierungen versuchen ihm seit Jahren durch umfangreiche Unterstützung rechtsstaatlich-demokratischer Strukturen und Reform des Sicherheitssektors entgegenzuwirken. Auch die EU ist durch eine Anzahl kleinerer Missionen wie EUTM Mali oder EUTM Somalia zunehmend auf diesem Gebiet aktiv. Erreicht wurde bislang jedoch wenig. Es besteht kaum Aussicht, dass die Erfolgsbilanz in Zukunft besser wird. Manche dieser Programme, wie etwa die finanziell aufwendigen US-Ausbildungs- und Ausrüstungsprogramme, können sogar mehr schaden als helfen. Denn Waffen und Ausgebildete landen immer wieder auf der anderen Seite. Beispiele dafür gibt es im Irak ebenso wie in Afghanistan und in Mali. Die Tatsache, dass es sich dabei zunehmend um hochmoderne Waffen wie Boden-Luft Raketen handelt, ist besorgniserregend.

Diese insgesamt schlechte Bilanz westlicher Maßnahmen sollte Militärs ebenso wie strenggläubige Anhänger der zivilen Krisenprävention nachdenklich machen. Denn der Glaube letzterer, dass zivile Mittel vor allem im Bereich Menschenrechte und Rechtsstaatlichkeit der letztlich allein erfolgsversprechende Weg sind, bestätigt sich leider nicht. Entsprechende Programme haben an der Expansion dschihadistischer Bewegungen ebenso wenig ändern können wie militärische Maßnahmen. Vollends unverständlich ist die Überzeugung einiger Entwicklungspolitiker, dass nur noch mehr Entwicklungshilfe eine Ausweitung des Terrorismus verhindern könne. Wenn diese Hilfe so erfolgsversprechend wäre, müsste Afrika längst ein blühender Kontinent sein!

Die dschihadistische Expansion ist komplex

Verständlicherweise ist die westliche Reaktion auf die dschihadistische Expansion bisher vor allem militärischer Natur gewesen. Das ändert jedoch nichts daran, dass damit lediglich an einem Symptom herumlaboriert wird. An den tieferliegenden Ursachen ändern die militärischen Maßnahmen nichts. Diese gilt es in ihrer Komplexität erst einmal zu verstehen. Im Wesentlichen handelt es sich um ein dynamisches Zusammenspiel von vier Bereichen: Marode politische Systeme und korrupte Eliten, religiöser Fanatismus im Gewande des Dschihad, transnational organisierte Kriminalität sowie Bevölkerungsexplosion und eine dramatisch anwachsende Zahl von Jugendlichen ohne Perspektive.

Auf die Problematik der politischen Systeme und ihrer Eliten wurde schon eingegangen. Was die religiöse Dimension betrifft sind die dschihadistischen Gruppen Teil der grundlegenden Auseinandersetzung, die sich im Islam gegenwärtig über seinen „wahren“ Weg in der modernen Welt vollzieht. Dabei geht es nicht um eine abstrakte Debatte islamischer Gelehrter, die die Dschihadisten ohnehin überwiegend als unislamisch ablehnen. Diese Debatte spielt für die Attraktivität der militanten Bewegungen jedoch nur eine untergeordnete Rolle. Insbesondere die Jugendlichen werden vielmehr von einer These angezogen, die alle diese Bewegungen von IS im Mittleren Osten, al-Shabab in Ostafrika, bis hin zu AQIM im Sahel und Boko Haram in Westafrika vertreten, dass es nämlich die korrupten, unter dem verderblichen Einfluss des westlichen Denkens stehenden Regime in den muslimischen Ländern sind, die die miserable Lage weiter Teile der Bevölkerung zu verantworten haben. Das Heil kann daher nur in der Rückkehr zum „wahren“ Islam liegen. Diese These mag für gutsituierte westliche Bürger absurd erscheinen. Nicht so jedoch für Jugendliche, die in einer erbarmungslosen Umgebung ohne Hoffnung auf eine lebenswerte Zukunft aufwachsen. Ihre Bereitschaft zum Mitmachen dagegen verbessert ihre Lage sogleich in zweifacher Hinsicht: Sie werden bezahlt und gewinnen einen sozialen und identitären Status, von dem sie vorher nur träumen konnten.

Dschihadisten als solche stellen kaum eine Gefahr für die internationale Sicherheit dar. Ohne Finanzmittel und adäquate Bewaffnung sind sie lediglich zahnlose Fanatiker. Die Frage nach der Politikökonomie dieser Bewegungen ist daher zentral. In ihrer Frühphase flossen dem al-Qaida Netzwerk entsprechende Mittel vor allem von Regierungen und privaten Sympathisanten aus den Golfstaaten zu, oder – wie im Falle der Taliban – aus Pakistan und ganz ursprünglich sogar den USA (zur Zeit der sowjetischen Besetzung). Gestützt auf diese Mittel konnten es sich die Taliban in Afghanistan oder die al-Shabab in Somalia leisten, dem Gebot des Korans strikt zu folgen und Drogenanbau und Drogenhandel zu verbieten.

Dschihadisten als solche stellen kaum eine Gefahr für die internationale Sicherheit dar. Ohne Finanzmittel und adäquate Bewaffnung sind sie lediglich zahnlose Fanatiker.

Das hat sich inzwischen geändert. Die Unterstützung aus dem arabischen Raum geht zurück. Zugleich ist der Bedarf an modernen Waffen und Kämpfern erheblich gestiegen. Taliban, al-Shabab & Co mussten sich nach anderen Quellen der Re-Finanzierung umsehen. Sie sind dabei zwangsläufig immer enger an die organisierte Kriminalität herangerückt, insbesondere an den illegalen Drogen- und Waffenhandel, ähnlich wie seinerzeit marxistische Befreiungsbewegungen in Lateinamerika. Die Taliban profitieren heute vom Opiumanbau und Heroinhandel in Afghanistan. Ähnliches gilt für al-Shabab in Bezug auf den Khathandel nach Europa, obwohl ihre Hauptfinanzierungsquellen der Export von Holzkohle und der illegale Handel mit kenianischem Elfenbein nach Asien sind. Und IS kann sich inzwischen aufgrund der besetzten Ölquellen, der Zwangsbesteuerung der Bevölkerung, der Einnahme von Banken etc. fast völlig aus seinem eigenen Machtbereich refinanzieren. Was schließlich die Bewegungen im Sahel betrifft, ist es ist kein Zufall, dass einer der früheren Führer der al-Qaida im Maghreb (AQIM) Mokhtar Belmokhtar, zugleich den Beinamen Mr. Marlborough führte. Er war (und ist wohl) eine maßgebliche Figur im illegalen, regionalen Zigarettenhandel. Zugleich hat sich AQIM allerdings auch maßgeblich durch die Entführung europäischer Geiseln finanziert, ähnlich wie IS.

Wie eng das Zusammenwirken von organisierter Kriminalität und dschihadistischen Bewegungen im Einzelnen ist, bleibt bislang strittig. Kein Zweifel besteht jedoch daran, dass die wachsende Masse der perspektivlosen Jugendlichen für beide ein ideales Rekrutierungspotential darstellt. Regierungsversagen und Bevölkerungsexplosion wirken hier auf fatale Weise zusammen. In Mali zum Beispiel hat sich die Bevölkerung in zwei Jahrzehnten fast verdoppelt (in Deutschland hat das seinerzeit ein Jahrhundert gedauert). 50 Prozent der Bevölkerung ist heute jünger als fünfzehn Jahre alt, ca. 70 Prozent jünger als 25. Selbst funktionierende Regierungen hätten Probleme, solche Zuwachsraten zu bewältigen.

Was kann der Westen beitragen?

Die Analyse zeigt, dass es nicht einfach sein wird, erfolgversprechende Ansatzpunkte für eine Bekämpfung der Expansion von Dschihadismus und organisierter Kriminalität zu identifizieren. Begrenzte militärische Aktionen und der Einsatz von Drohnen sowie die Luftunterstützung lokaler Akteure im Kampf gegen IS werden eine Rolle spielen, das Problem aber nicht lösen. Ein heikles, aber nicht zu vermeidendes Thema ist deshalb auch die Frage von Waffenlieferungen, so wie sie kürzlich von der Bundesregierung beschlossen wurden. Dass solche Lieferungen schwierige ordnungspolitische Fragen aufwerfen, liegt auf der Hand.

Was das rasante Bevölkerungswachstum betrifft, haben sich die bislang praktizierten Strategien der Geburtenkontrolle als undurchsetzbar oder ineffektiv erwiesen. Ähnliches gilt für den Versuch, die politischen Eliten dieser Länder durch Rechtsstaats- und Menschenrechtsprogramme sowie durch Sicherheitssektorreformen zu einem verantwortungsvolleren Regieren zu bewegen. Der Kampf gegen Korruption ist auf breiter Front gescheitert. Das könnte sich ändern, wenn sich Europa, die USA, Japan und insbesondere China zu einem entschiedenen und gemeinsamen Vorgehen zusammenfänden. Das jedoch steht in den Sternen. Nicht viel besser sehen die Erfolgschancen im Kampf gegen die organisierte Kriminalität aus. Hier existieren gewisse Ansatzpunkte einer besseren Koordinierung. Wirklich erfolgversprechend wäre aber nur, die unverändert wichtigste Einkommensquelle der Kriminalität durch Entkriminalisierung des Kokain- und Marihuana-Konsums trocken zu legen. Genau das ist eine zentrale Forderung eines kürzlich erschienenen Expertenberichts der West African Commission on Drugs.

Darüber hinaus ist fraglich, was der Westen zu einer Bekämpfung des Dschihadismus überhaupt beitragen kann, abgesehen von selektiven, unterstützenden Maßnahmen zur militärischen Eindämmung. Diese Begrenzung hat aber auch ihre positive Seite. Denn ein direktes westliches, insbesondere US-amerikanisches, Eingreifen steht immer in der Gefahr, die Popularität der Terroristen zu stärken, anstatt sie zu schwächen. Außerdem, das ist die gute Botschaft, trägt das Erstarken der Dschihadisten zugleich den Kern ihrer Schwächung in sich. Das brutale Vorgehen etwa von IS gegen schiitische und andere Muslime erzeugt nicht zuletzt in islamisch geprägten Staaten zunehmend Widerstand, auch auf der Arabischen Halbinsel. Das Ausmaß der Annäherung zwischen Teheran und Washington in Sachen IS ist geradezu bemerkenswert. Und die Rivalität zwischen IS und al-Qaida schließlich um den Führungsanspruch unter den Dschihadisten wird weiter zunehmen. In verschiedenen Gruppierungen, insbesondere AQIM, gibt es bereits heftige Auseinandersetzungen darüber, wem zu folgen ist: al-Qaida oder IS. Eine kluge Politik gegen den dschihadistischen Terrorismus sollte vor allem diese Entwicklungen im Auge haben. Präsident Obama ebenso wie die Bundesregierung haben Recht, in ihrem Vorgehen vor allem auf die Stärkung lokaler Akteure zu setzen, auch wenn das schwierige ordnungspolitische Fragen aufwirft. Die Tatsache, dass eine Reihe dieser Akteure, wie zum Beispiel die erstarkenden schiitischen Milizen, ähnlich brutal wie IS sind, wird dabei noch viel Kopfzerbrechen bereiten.

Autor: Winrich Kühne


Amtsblatt der Europäischen Union L271


Verordnung (EU) Nr. 959/2014 des Rates vom 8. September 2014 zur Änderung der Verordnung (EU) Nr. 269/2014 über restriktive Maßnahmen angesichts von Handlungen, die die territoriale Unversehrtheit, Souveränität und Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine untergraben oder bedrohen…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1

Verordnung (EU) Nr. 960/2014 des Rates vom 8. September 2014 zur Änderung der Verordnung (EU) Nr. 833/2014 über restriktive Maßnahmen angesichts der Handlungen Russlands, die die Lage in der Ukraine destabilisieren……………………………………………………………….. 3

Durchführungsverordnung (EU) Nr. 961/2014 des Rates vom 8. September 2014 zur Durchführung der Verordnung (EU) Nr. 269/2014 über restriktive Maßnahmen angesichts von Handlungen, die die territoriale Unversehrtheit, Souveränität und Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine untergraben oder bedrohen………………………………………………………………………. 8


*The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum*

By George Friedman

The idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability.

The United Kingdom was the center of gravity of the international system from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until World War II. It crafted an imperial structure that shaped not only the international system but also the internal political order of countries as diverse as the United States and India. The United Kingdom devised and drove the Industrial Revolution. In many ways, this union was a pivot of world history. To realize it might be dissolved is startling and reveals important things about the direction of the world.

Scotland and England are historical enemies. Their sense of competing nationhoods stretches back centuries, and their occupation of the same island has caused them to fight many wars. Historically they have distrusted each other, and each has given the other good reason for the distrust. The national question was intertwined with dynastic struggles and attempts at union imposed either through conquest or dynastic intrigue. The British were deeply concerned that foreign powers, particularly France, would use Scotland as a base for attacking England. The Scots were afraid that the English desire to prevent this would result in the exploitation of Scotland by England, and perhaps the extinction of the Scottish nation.

The Union of 1707 was the result of acts of parliaments on both sides and led to the creation of the Parliament of Great Britain. England’s motive was its old geopolitical fears. Scotland was driven more by financial problems it was unable to solve by itself. What was created was a united island, acting as a single nation. From an outsider’s perspective, Scotland and England were charming variations on a single national theme — the British — and it was not necessary to consider them as two nations. If there was ever a national distinction that one would have expected to be extinguished in other than cultural terms, it was this one. Now we learn that it is intact. We need a deeper intellectual framework for understanding why Scottish nationalism has persisted.

The Principle of National Self-Determination

The French Enlightenment and subsequent revolution had elevated the nation to the moral center of the world. It was a rebellion against the transnational dynasties and fragments of nations that had governed much of Europe. The Enlightenment saw the nation, which it defined in terms of shared language, culture and history, as having an inherent right to self-determination and as the framework for the republican democracies it argued were the morally correct form of government.

After the French Revolution, some nations, such as Germany and Italy, united into nation-states. After World War I, when the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanov and Ottoman empires all collapsed, a wave of devolution took place in Europe. The empires devolved into their national components. Some were amalgamated into one larger nation, such as Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, while others, such as Poland, were single nation-states. Some had republican democracies, others had variations on the theme, and others were dictatorships. A second major wave of devolution occurred in 1992, when the Soviet Union collapsed and its constituent republics became independent nation-states.

The doctrine of the right to national self-determination drove the first wave of revolts against European imperialism in the Western Hemisphere, creating republics in the Americas. The second wave of colonial rising and European withdrawal occurred after World War II. In some cases, nations became self-determining. In other cases, nation-states simply were invented without corresponding to any nation and actually dividing many. In other cases, there were nations, but republican democracy was never instituted except by pretense. A French thinker, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." Even while betraying its principles, the entire world could not resist the compulsion to embrace the principles of national self-determination through republican democracy. This effectively was codified as the global gold standard of national morality in the charters of the League of Nations and then the United Nations.

The Imperfection of the Nation-State

The incredible power of the nation-state as a moral principle and right could be only imperfectly imposed. No nation was pure. Each had fragments and minorities of other nations. In many cases, they lived with each other. In other cases, the majority tried to expel or even destroy the minority nation. In yet other cases, the minority demanded independence and the right to form its own nation-state. These conflicts were not only internal; they also caused external conflict over the right of a particular nation to exist or over the precise borders separating the nations.

Europe in particular tore itself apart in wars between 1914 and 1945 over issues related to the rights of nation-states, with the idea of the nation-state being taken to its reductio ad absurdum — by the Germans as a prime example. After the war, a principle emerged in Europe that the borders as they stood, however imperfect, were not to be challenged. The goal was to abolish one of the primary causes of war in Europe.

The doctrine was imperfectly applied. The collapse of the Soviet Union abolished one set of borders, turning internal frontiers into external borders. The Yugoslavian civil war turned into an international war once Yugoslavia ceased to exist, and into civil wars within nation-states such as Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. At the same time, the borders in the Caucasus were redrawn when newly independent Armenia seized what had been part of Azerbaijan. And in an act that flew in the face of the principle, NATO countries divided Serbia into two parts: an Albanian part called Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.

The point of all this is to understand that the right to national self-determination comes from deep within European principles and that it has been pursued with an intensity and even viciousness that has torn Europe apart and redrawn its borders. One of the reasons that the European Union exists is to formally abolish these wars of national self-determination by attempting to create a framework that both protects and trivializes the nation-state.

Scotland’s Case

The possibility of Scottish independence must be understood in this context. Nationalism, the remembrance and love of history and culture, is not a trivial thing. It has driven Europe and even the world for more than two centuries in ever-increasing waves. The upcoming Scottish election, whichever way it goes, demonstrates the enormous power of the desire for national self-determination. If it can corrode the British union, it can corrode anything.

There are those who argue that Scottish independence could lead to economic problems or complicate the management of national defense. These are not trivial questions, but they are not what is at stake here. From an economic point of view, it makes no sense for Scotland to undergo this sort of turmoil. At best, the economic benefits are uncertain. But this is why any theory of human behavior that assumes that the singular purpose of humans is to maximize economic benefits is wrong. Humans have other motivations that are incomprehensible to the economic model but can be empirically demonstrated to be powerful. If this referendum succeeds, it will still show that after more than 300 years, almost half of Scots prefer economic uncertainty to union with a foreign nation.

This is something that must be considered carefully in a continent that is prone to extreme conflicts and still full of borders that do not map to nations as they are understood historically. Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, the second-largest and most vibrant city in Spain, has a significant independence movement. The Treaty of Trianon divided Hungary so that some Hungarians live in Romania, while others live in Slovakia. Belgium consists of French and Dutch groups (Walloons and Fleming), and it is not too extreme to say they detest each other. The eastern half of Poland was seized by the Soviet Union and is now part of Ukraine and Belarus. Many Chechens and Dagestanis want to secede from Russia, as do Karelians, who see themselves as Finns. There is a movement in northern Italy to separate its wealthy cities from the rest of Italy. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is far from settled. Myriad other examples can be found in Europe alone.

The right to national self-determination is not simply about the nation governing itself but also about the right of the nation to occupy its traditional geography. And since historical memories of geography vary, the possibility of conflict grows. Consider Ireland: After its fight for independence from England and then Britain, the right to Northern Ireland, whose national identity depended on whose memory was viewing it, resulted in bloody warfare for decades.

Scottish independence would transform British history. All of the attempts at minimizing its significance miss the point. It would mean that the British island would be divided into two nation-states, and however warm the feelings now, they were not warm in the past nor can we be sure that they will be warm in the future. England will be vulnerable in ways that it hasn’t been for three centuries. And Scotland will have to determine its future. The tough part of national self-determination is the need to make decisions and live with them.

This is not an argument for or against Scottish nationhood. It is simply drawing attention to the enormous power of nationalism in Europe in particular, and in countries colonized by Europeans. Even Scotland remembers what it once was, and many — perhaps a majority and perhaps a large minority — long for its return. But the idea that Scotland recalls its past and wants to resurrect it is a stunning testimony less to Scottish history than to the Enlightenment’s turning national rights into a moral imperative that cannot be suppressed.

More important, perhaps, is that although Yugoslavia and the Soviet collapse were not seen as precedents for the rest of Europe, Scotland would be seen that way. No one can deny that Britain is an entity of singular importance. If that can melt away, what is certain? At a time when the European Union’s economic crisis is intense, challenging European institutions and principles, the dissolution of the British union would legitimize national claims that have been buried for decades.

But then we have to remember that Scotland was buried in Britain for centuries and has resurrected itself. This raises the question of how confident any of us can be that national claims buried for only decades are settled. I have no idea how the Scottish will vote. What strikes me as overwhelmingly important is that the future of Britain is now on the table, and there is a serious possibility that it will cease to be in the way it was. Nationalism has a tendency to move to its logical conclusion, so I put little stock in the moderate assurances of the Scottish nationalists. Nor do I find the arguments against secession based on tax receipts or banks‘ movements compelling. For centuries, nationalism has trumped economic issues. The model of economic man may be an ideal to some, but it is empirically false. People are interested in economic well-being, but not at the exclusion of all else. In this case, it does not clearly outweigh the right of the Scottish nation to national-self determination.

I think that however the vote goes, unless the nationalists are surprised by an overwhelming defeat, the genie is out of the bottle, and not merely in Britain. The referendum will re-legitimize questions that have caused much strife throughout the European continent for centuries, including the 31-year war of the 20th century that left 80 million dead.


In eigener Sache: Udo von Massenbach im neuen „kressköpfe“-Buch 2014/2015!

Udo von Massenbach, President American German Business Club Berlin e.v. und Herausgeber des "Massenbach-Letter. News" ist im neuen, druckfrischen „kressköpfe“-Buch!

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