This section has received contributions from Giulio Bartolini, Alessandra Briganti, Silvia Colombo, Alessandro Marrone, Rosa Rosanelli, Giulia Sirigu, Alessandro Ungaro.
Demystifying Syria / edited by Fred H. Lawson. - London [etc.] : Saqi in association with London Middle East Institute SOAS, c2009. - 223 p. : ill. - (SOAS Middle East series). - ISBN 978-0-86356-654-7
In the introduction, Syria is defined as "one of the few countries that continues to resist the 'end of history'". Whether this definition is appropriate cannot be ascertained without reading this compelling book that offers the reader much food for thought on a country that certainly defies any attempt to be encapsulated in unidirectional and straightforward definitions.
The book moves from the declared need to shed light on one of the protagonists of the events that have marked Middle Eastern and international relations in the last decade to go beyond the so-called mysteries that are often attributed to the domestic and external development of Syria, something which, according to the editor, reflects a lack of information or superficial analysis. There is no intention to criticise unsympathetic observers that have long adopted a mystifying discourse about this country with a view to projecting a negative image and justifying distrustful reactions and behaviours. According to the authors, the tendency "to interpret actions and platforms that do not conform to one's own basic tenets as irrational or inexplicable" has in fact characterised certain strands of the Western liberal thought on Syria throughout the country's long modern history. In contrast, the sole objective of the book is to address the complexities, uncertainties and paradoxes that characterise Syria's internal and external affairs. This represents a much-needed contribution to the scholarly debate on a country that, as highlighted in some sections of the book, has always played (and will continue to play) a fundamental role in the future of the Middle Eastern region.
Demystifying Syria is arguably a complex book, one that, owing to the rich and detailed accounts including names and places and sometimes presenting pieces of information that are generally overlooked or unreported, is certainly aimed at people already knowledgeable about the country. Nevertheless, it is also a book that it is likely to conquer and fascinate the non-expert public given its ability to mix the discussion of theories and debates with the recollection of anecdotes, its down-to-earth style and profusion of information and explanations.
The chapters of the book offer insight into a wide range of aspects related to contemporary Syria: the domestic institutional set-up; the changing balance of power between political and economic actors; the bargaining process between modern expressions of religious solidarity - both Sunni and Shi'a - and the Syrian state; the link between domestic developments, including the outcome of the opposition's mobilisation and the regime's subsequent reaction, on the one hand, and transnational movements and relations with the West, on the other; and the international relations of a country that, in the words of Professor Salloukh, "against all expectations, has survived and overcome challenges that, for the ruler of Damascus, must have felt like more than enough for a lifetime".
The last three chapters are the most interesting part for international affairs researchers and commentators. While the chapter on the relations between Syria and the European Union remains open owing to the recent paralysis of the Association Agreement negotiation process, the country has recently been active in other international fora, including Iraq after the American-led invasion, Lebanon with the broader geopolitical objectives of Syria's presence in the country for more than a decade, the Arab-Israeli peace process and, last but not least, the firm rapprochement with Turkey on political and economic grounds. All these developments, on which the final chapters of the book dwell extensively, lend credit to the argument portraying Syrian foreign policy not as naïve or based on Bashar al-Asad's presumed miscalculations - a thesis with a neo-conservative flavour - but rather as grounded in clear regime security calculations, a strategy of authoritarian refurbishment and modernisation that has many followers throughout the region. (Silvia Colombo)
The EU-Russia strategic partnership : the limits of post-sovereignty in international relations / Hiski Haukkala. - London and New York : Routledge, 2010. - xix, 249 p. - (Routledge advances in international relations and global politics ; 85). - ISBN 978-0-415-55901-0 ; 978-0-203-85644-4 (ebk)
What is at the root of the problems that the EU and Russia have been experiencing in developing institutionalised cooperation during the post-Cold War period? Have the frictions really been about divergent 'material' interests? What are the chances of continued rapprochement between the EU and Russia? Haukkala tries to answer these questions offering an original perspective on the matter through significant use of International Relations theory.
On the basis of 'theoretical complementarity', that is the search for an area of commonality between different theories in International Relations, the author conceptualises the relationship between the EU and Russia as a process of 'post-sovereign international institutionalisation', highly institutionalised, and grounded on treaty-based structures and procedures, whereby interaction rests on shared values as well as on a normative foundation that creates patterned expectations of future behaviour. The author supposes that the two actors have a flexible or 'contextual' rationality, which derives from the interplay between the perceived events and the meaning given to them in a cognitive process which is rooted in what he calls 'worldviews'.
Entwined with national identities, these different perspectives frame reality and, though conditioned by material factors, ultimately influence the negotiations and therefore the very relationship among states. The different worldviews, which seem to have remained constant through time, entail clear differences in the way these two actors conceive their institutionalised relationship.
Despite frequent references to a presumed belonging to a unified 'European family' and 'common European values', European cooperation seems to be conceived with the aim of shifting Russia's progress towards a European model of society and economy, supporting a sort of integration rather than the traditional interstate cooperation and envisaging a sort of 'regional normative hegemony' - in other words, imposing an EU model on the post-Soviet space. Europe has become increasingly disillusioned with Russia's (lack of) will to build an effective and comprehensive partnership based on 'shared values', and is now trying to achieve greater similarity through economic standardisation.
Russia, instead, has maintained a coherent and traditionally sovereign understanding of its relationship with the EU, protesting against any limitation of its sovereignty, and seeking recognition of its equal rank. In this vein, Russia has opposed the logic of post-sovereignty put forward by the EU, considering it a form of neocolonialism that is incompatible and even harmful to its own economic trajectory.
In this context, Haukkala chronicles the history of the EU-Russia partnership taking into account the changes in 'commonality', that is those points where their different perspectives on institutionalised cooperation overlap. He focuses on the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Chechen wars, but also analyses the effects of the WTO accession process for Russia, pointing out how energy represents an exception to such a 'post-sovereignty' approach. Indicating the many forms that power can take in EU-Russia relations, namely military, normative or market power, he highlights a curious 'weakness power', that is the threat of its potentially disastrous instability, which has systematically allowed Russia to extract concessions.
Reading strategic documents and declarations in the light of this methodology, the author underlines the limits as well as the possibilities of such 'theoretical complementarity' and foresees future developments in his research to be based on more detailed empirical studies. Complex but very well argued, this thought-provoking book discloses a path towards a deeper understanding of the different perspectives of these two crucial actors, making it possible to identify what is likely to be the basis of their future policies and interactions. (Rosa Rosanelli)
National security cultures : patterns of global governance / edited by Emil J Kirchner and James Sperling. - London and New York : Routledge, 2010. - xxviii, 308 p. - (Routledge research in comparative politics ; 29). - ISBN 978-0-415-77742-1 ; 978-0-415-77743-8 ; 978-0-203-85061-9 (ebk)
At a time when international cooperation on security issues is deemed as necessary as it is difficult, this collection of essays edited by Emil J. Kirchner and James Sperling provides an in-depth and updated comparison of relevant national case studies.
National Security Cultures is based on a sound analytical framework. It considers four categories of national security policies: 'prevention', which includes policies aimed at preventing conflicts, such as international aid; 'compellence', namely military intervention; 'assurance', meaning post-conflict intervention such as peace support operations, electoral monitoring, etc; and 'protection', which refers to all the policies addressing internal security issues ranging from organised crime to natural disasters. The security cultures of ten countries in North America, Europe and Asia as well as the EU as a whole are assessed and compared with respect to these four dimensions. The underpinning assumption is that all case studies are located along a continuum between two extreme ideal types: the classic Westphalian state, with its traditional threat perception and security policy, and the post-Westphalian state, a model which has been widely discussed within the debate on globalisation.
This analytical framework makes it possible to compare the case studies meaningfully with the ambitious aim of investigating whether national security cultures have been converging or diverging in recent years. Another question asked is what opportunities and challenges each culture poses to the common effort towards international security. The conceptual architecture nevertheless presents some weaknesses, including an excessive downplaying of variables that are not a part of the security culture, such as geopolitical constraints. In addition, it is very difficult today to differentiate 'assurance' from 'compellence' military operations since the boundaries between asymmetrical conflicts and stabilisation operations are increasingly blurred in many cases, including Afghanistan.
In addition to the interesting analytical framework, another added value of the book is represented by the case studies themselves. A wide range of countries are assessed, including not only the usual US, Russia, UK and France, but also countries such as Japan, Canada and Italy which deal with different regional contexts, elaborate specific security policies and contribute in different ways to international security.
Assessment of the Japanese security culture sheds light on the recent changes in the traditionally pacifist attitude of the country, constitutionally bound to self-defence while it plays a growing role in the 'assurance' category and upgrades its military capabilities. Interestingly, the Canadian case explains the adjustment that occurred in Canada security policy after 9/11, particularly the need to strike a balance between solidarity with the US and NATO and the atypical Canadian cultural emphasis on 'human security'. When it comes to Italy, the authors manage a balanced assessment of the structural characters and recent evolution of Italy's security culture and rightly point out the gap between the country's international ambitions and the inadequate resources made available for this end. Yet their analysis missed an important element of the Italian picture: the active presence for five decades of the largest Communist Party in Western Europe and its long-term impact on Italian security policy with respect to NATO, the use of force and the role of the military.
Overall, the collection of essays and the book's overarching framework make a positive and rich contribution to the international debate on security cultures, strategies and policies. (Alessandro Marrone)
New directions in US foreign policy / edited by Inderjeet Parmar, Linda B. Miller and Mark Ledwidge. - London and New York : Routledge, 2009. - xiii, 277 p. - (Routledge studies in US foreign policy). - ISBN 978-0-415-77748-3 ; 978-0-415-77749-0 (pbk) ; 978-0-203-87881-1 (ebk)
The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks resulted in a new US international presence closely related to the onset of the 'war on terror' and the implementation of a set of clearly recognisable policies in the global arena generated intense discussion about the shift in US policy. The election of Barack Obama gave promise of another shift. The global display of US power and its representation necessitated a reconsideration of the changing influences of new and existing actors and sources, often overlooked in classic policymaking studies. This is particularly relevant when it comes to developing new conceptualisations and implementing new foreign policies. This book provides a wide range of explanations and conclusions regarding the recent evolution in US foreign and domestic security policy and its future development.
Although written as a textbook, this book is not a typical academic text. Its critical analysis and original ideas make it a collection of interpretative essays that explore the controversial role of the US in the international arena. The editors have selected contributors with different views on the debates surrounding US international affairs. In this way, they provide an interesting combination of theoretical and empirical analyses of the new path of contemporary US foreign policy. The book is divided into three sections on theoretical approaches to international relations, non-state actors, and new policy directions, respectively.
The first section, concerned with the theoretical approaches to international relations that account for recent changes in US foreign policy, is divided into six chapters focusing on six schools of thought: Realism, Constructivism, Neo-conservatism, Liberalism, Neo-liberalism and Marxism. The contributors do not limit themselves to simplistic explanations of US foreign and security policy based on theoretical considerations, but rather criticise their own theoretical readings by comparing the efficacy of different approaches and questioning the results. It is primarily for this reason that this book cannot really be considered a textbook. The chapters, which are generally critical, go beyond typical explanations and applications of international politics theory and examine the key issues from various standpoints.
The second section of the book provides a broad overview of non-state actors involved in US international affairs, a theme not often taken into consideration in mainstream studies. Non-state actors include political parties, think tanks, intellectuals, religious groups, public opinion and racial minorities such as African-Americans. The authors consider the way in which ideas, intellectuals and organised groups who share the same values and conceptualisations of the world are increasingly able to shape US domestic and international behaviour.
The third section deals with the new policy directions being implemented by the US in a variety of spheres and towards different types of international actors. The 2001 terrorist attacks, the subsequent 'war on terror' and related foreign and domestic policies, as well as the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States are viewed as turning points in the trajectory of US international relations. The authors analyse the changes in US power, evaluating how its transformation has influenced national security policy and its global agenda.
Although the analytical depth of the texts and the construction of a useful conceptualisation are directed towards an academic readership, by exploring various facets of and influences on US international affairs often neglected by US foreign policy studies, sections of the book offer interesting reading for anyone keen on understanding contemporary international events. (Giulia Sirigu)
Non-state actors and international humanitarian law : organized armed groups: a challenge for the 21st century : 32nd Round table on currente issues of International humanitarian law, Sanremo, 11-13 september 2009 / edited by Marco Odello, Gian Luca Beruto. - Milano : F. Angeli, c2010. - 255 p. - (Politica/studi ; 85). - ISBN 978-88-568-2427-8
This volume gathers together the proceedings of the 32nd Round Table of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, held in Sanremo. The meeting was devoted to a key topic for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the international community, namely the current role of non-state actors (NSAs) in the international system. Analysis of this much-debated issue was provided by the combination of an interesting range of perspectives from different stakeholders dealing with the phenomenon, such as operators in the field, government officials, military commanders and legal experts.
Examination of the subject raises several difficulties, not least clarification of the very notion of NSA, as this term covers a vast variety of individuals and groups that require different approaches and solutions. As a first hypothesis, this term is deemed to include a traditional category of IHL, that is organised armed groups participating in non-international armed conflict. The relevance of such actors for the application of IHL is self-evident, given that, from a quantitative viewpoint, this kind of armed conflict represents the majority today. However, this group of NSAs cannot be considered to have a single uniform identity either. As emphasised by the UN Secretary-General in his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, a defining element of current non-international armed conflicts is the "proliferation and fragmentation of such groups. They encompass a range of identities, motivations and varying degrees of willingness to observe international humanitarian law and human rights standards" (UN Doc. S/2009/277, 29 May 2009, para. 38).
The diverse characteristics of these groups makes ensuring their adherence to IHL a problem. First of all, the IHL obligations that are pertinent to these NSAs is still a debated issue, concerning both customary and treaty law. Legal experts such as Pedrazzi and Geiss have tried to clarify the circumstances in which IHL applies, to what extent, and the basic characteristics that these groups should possess in order to be bound by these duties. But in addition to IHL, there is increasing recognition that such groups are also obliged to respect human rights norms in the territory over which they exercise control (Clapham), a position recently maintained by Justice Richard Goldstone in his report for the Human Rights Council concerning the duties of Hamas in the Gaza Strip (UN Doc. A/HRC/12/48, 25 September 2009).
Yet, clarifying which rules of international law pertain to NSAs without making efforts to enhance their observance by such groups would represent a mere theoretical exercise. As rightly emphasised by the UN Secretary-General, it is fundamental "to develop a comprehensive approach towards improving compliance by all these groups with the law, encompassing actions that range from engagement to enforcement" (UN Doc. S/2009/277, 29 May 2009, para. 39).
The volume in question is a timely contribution to this end, as it offers pertinent suggestions and reflections on these issues from a variety of perspectives (legal, political, humanitarian and military), while drawing on concrete experience in the field from the main organisations involved in this arena, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other pertinent NGOs, such as the Geneva Call or the International Center for Transitional Justice.
On this basis, the volume includes in-depth analyses of the different characteristics of NSAs (Decrey Warner), as they can have a significant influence on the development of a constructive dialogue with these groups. However, it is self-evident that this dialogue itself entails several problems, such as the need for the international actors involved to respect the principles of impartiality and neutrality while obtaining access to victims, not to mention the general context in which the dialogue is supposed to be carried out, that is the volatile environment of an armed conflict (Wigger). Dialogue is particularly necessary for putting possible mechanisms (of a legal nature but not only) into practice to encourage the engagement of these NSAs with respect to IHL and to generate a sense of ownership of these rules, for instance through appropriate political and normative incentives (Sassoli, Bangerter, Hayner). Of course, other instruments can also play a role in this area, such as reaction mechanisms employed by the international community in response to violations of IHL and, in particular, the recent development of international criminal law and other tools favouring the accountability of NSAs (Zegveld). However, it is difficult to maintain that these repressive instruments alone are capable of solving the problem.
As previously stated, the notion of NSAs includes a variety of groups and individuals towards whom the international community has to adopt different approaches and solutions. In this context, the Round Table devoted considerable sessions to private military companies (Seger, Spoerri), transnational violence (Kress), terrorism (Rona) and piracy (Heintschel von Heinegg), emphasising the main challenges that NSAs involved in these scenarios represent for IHL, ius ad bellum and human rights law.
In conclusion, this volume is a pertinent contribution to analysis of the issue of NSAs and has the important merit of balancing theoretical analysis with factual details, thus providing interesting sources of reflection not only for legal experts, but also for all the political analysts, practitioners and policymakers increasingly involved in finding solutions to the challenges that NSAs pose to the international community. (Giulio Bartolini)
Remaking global order : the evolution of Europe-China relations and its implications for East Asia and the United States / Nicola Casarini. - Oxford [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 2009. - xvii, 244 p. - ISBN 978-0-19-956007-3
The emergence of the EU as a global actor, the rise of China as a great power, the challenge to Europe's historic transatlantic alliance, the creation of conditions for a new world order: these are the topics featuring in the enthralling volume, The Evolution of Europe-China Relations and its Implications for East Asia and the United States. The book is the PhD dissertation of Nicola Casarini, Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence at the time and now researcher at the Paris-based EU-ISS.
Even if a rising China and an even more evident EU external actorness represent two macro phenomena of particular significance in the current international scenario, the literature exploring the development of transatlantic relations in view of tighter EU-China cooperation is still lacking. Casarini investigates EU-China relations taking into consideration the three different dimensions of EU foreign policy, the former first pillar (trade, development and aid); the intergovernmental dimension, related to the more political and security dimension; and the foreign policies of the individual member states, especially the larger ones. In so doing, he underlines the contradictions in terms of vertical consistency (EU/member states) and coherence between the different policies.
The research is conducted at a systemic level, bearing only on relations between institutional actors, namely the states, and excluding, for instance, NGOs and other non-state actors. The author mixes primary sources and secondary literature with interviews carried out in Europe, the United States, China, Japan and South Korea between 2004 and 2009. Furthermore, the methodology chosen is rigorously pursued: throughout the volume, the author defines the initial conditions and the related outcomes identifying the processes that link causes and effects and using IR theories to interpret them. The limit, however, is not the lack of any micro level analysis, but rather the unbalanced emphasis on the European perspective, without enough focus on the Chinese approach to relations with Brussels.
The book consists of three parts describing the three main phases that have characterised the EU-China relationship in the last three decades. First, Casarini looks at the evolution of China-EU relations from the EU's establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1975 up to the drafting of the first EU document on China in 1995, the beginning of the EU's constructive engagement policy towards Beijing. The author points out the change in the nature of Sino-European relations, which were initially based on commercial considerations and then moved into a securitisation discourse which opened up the second phase of the relationship leading to the strategic partnership of 2003. In the second part, Casarini analyses what he considers the only time in recent history that Europe tried to challenge the transatlantic alliance by creating the conditions for a new multipolar world order. Indeed, the EU-China cooperation on the Galileo satellite system as well as the proposal to lift the EU arms embargo on China are interpreted as Europe's answer to the US post-Cold War strategy of predominance. In accordance with Waltz's theory, the EU's strengthening of economic and security-related ties with Bejing is a 'soft balancing' strategy aimed at countering the US' 'unipolar moment'. In the last part, the author explains the EU's subsequent realignment with the US position which peaks in the exclusion of China from the second phase of Galileo implementation in 2008. The EU's inability to reach a compromise between balancing US primacy and placating US concerns regarding East Asia's strategic aims is seen as a conflict between different worldviews, between an idealistic and a realistic, Hobbesian approach.
While Europe has not yet worked out a policy towards China, this book, with its extraordinary clarity and original questions explains why China still represents one of the most important challenges for EU foreign policy and its role as a global actor. (Alessandra Briganti)
The United States and NATO since 9/11 : the transatlantic alliance renewed / Ellen Hallams. - London and New York : Routledge, 2010. - x, 166 p. - (Routledge studies in US foreign policy). - ISBN 978-0-415-55368-1 ; 978-0-203-86522-4 (ebk)
After the terrorist attacks on American soil on 11 September 2001, the US declared 'war on terror' and NATO invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty. But the US' subsequent decision to bypass the Alliance, due to its experience with NATO's interventions in the Balkans and, in particular, its preference for an ad hoc 'coalition of the willing', caused frustration among some European allies and the deterioration of the transatlantic relationship. The result was the marginalisation of an alliance that had been at the very heart of the transatlantic community for more than 50 years.
In her book, Ellen Hallams investigates whether and in what way NATO is still crucial for the United States and Europe, highlighting not only what works but also the challenges and critical issues. From the origins of the transatlantic community up to NATO's ongoing transformation, the book focuses on US attitudes towards the Alliance and examines the advantages that NATO has to offer the security of the transatlantic partners.
On the one hand, the Balkan experience provided the opportunity for interaction and development of common long-term solutions, with reference both to organisational aspects such as the establishment of the North Atlantic Council and doctrinal and procedural ones like the set-up of an integrated command structure. On the other, however, it brought into relief the military capability gap between the US and Europe. After 9/11, it was evident that NATO could hardly offer the US the quick and efficient responses it sought. The European NATO allies' lack of capabilities constraining decision-making and war-fighting processes were therefore decisive factors in the US decision to bypass the Alliance. Thus NATO was left in the background and merely used by the Bush administration as a toolbox from which to choose the assets it needed to go ahead with its mission.
Subsequent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq revealed, however, that the benefits the US could obtain from ad hoc coalitions, namely operational freedom and flexibility, were counterbalanced and compromised by the difficulties in carrying out postwar reconstruction and stabilisation activities. In a sense, the decision to bypass the Alliance after 9/11 led to a key decision: the transformation of NATO. The US oriented this process of transformation after 1990 with the Bush administration itself providing NATO with the capabilities required to face the challenges posed by international terrorism through the use of its military structures for purposes of reconstruction and stabilisation. Thus, the author exhorts the US to work wherever possible with NATO, despite the problems and difficulties, rather than through a 'coalition of the willing' to deal with international security threats and challenges. The advantages of employing the Alliance outweigh the disadvantages, especially in terms of military structure and post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction capabilities. Indeed, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have revealed a number of issues that will have to be addressed in the near future, such as further enlargement, the relationship with Russia and, last but not least, NATO's evolution as a transatlantic alliance or a global alliance of democracies. It is clear that the combination of all these factor makes the NATO transformation process even more necessary and decisive for enhancing the Alliance as "the most effective and reliable tool of transatlantic cooperation". (Alessandro Ungaro)