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What happens when the U.N decides that a situation requires military intervention and the U.S. is unwilling or unable to to take a lead role? Looking to the nations of the European Union would seem to be a natural alternative. This in fact is exactly what has occurred over that past year regarding the African nation of Chad.

Unfortunately, the EU’s mission known as EUFOR CHAD is an example of how difficult it is to get the European Union to take any collective action overseas. The EUFOR CHAD mission was authorized by the UN Security Council on September 25, 2007 in conjunction with the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Eleven EU nations have pledged contributions to a EUFOR CHAD force that is expected to number 3700 troops.

The situation in Chad is a humanitarian crisis. The EUFOR CHAD deployment is designed to stabilize the security situation in Chad and the surrounding region in order to improve the distribution of humanitarian aid to the refugees and displaced persons from Darfur and in eastern Chad. It is a part of the EU’s “longstanding action in support of efforts to tackle the crisis in Darfur as part of a regional approach to that crisis.”

Missions like the one in Chad are exactly what EUFOR deployments are designed for. The U.S. military is tied down in Iraq. Given the world’s general perception of the U.S. right now, U.S. intervention probably wouldn’t be well received anyway. NATO is deployed in Afghanistan, a difficult mission which is straining the alliance.

A U.N. force is an option, but U.N. action tends to be slow moving. Moreover, without U.S. or EU nations carrying out the mission, the U.N.’s resources and ability to intervene in a war zone are minimal. The type of intervention necessary in Chad is dissimilar from U.N. peacekeeping missions such as that being carried out by Brazilian peacekeepers in Haiti.

Why then has eight months passed since the French foreign minister met with Chadian President Idriss Déby and opened the door to the possibility of the EUFOR deployment with few EUFOR CHAD troops deployed? It took approximately four months after that meeting for the U.N. to authorize the mission. Since then, EUFOR’s deployment has run into a series of mostly political snags. Some of these delays are the result of European politics. Some are the result of the European legacy (in this case, French) in Africa.

These deployment delays are unfortunate. They are also to be expected given the nature of the EU coalition and they will happen again.

In the last article I explained why I thought that it was important that America stand at the forefront of geo-political issues. How the ideas and concepts embodied in America are necessary drivers of world opinion. The EUFOR Chad deployment demonstrates the need for more than ideas and concepts however. The need for more than moral authority. It requires that policy actually be capable of being implemented.

Political, economic and military realities require that the United States be at the forefront of that implementation. When situations arise throughout the world that require the intervention of the international community, the United States is the key cog in that machinery.

Economically, the United States, the EU and Japan account for disproportionate amounts of the world’s wealth, economic production and foreign aid. With respect to public giving at least, the EU and Japan outpace the United States. As with any aid comparison between these countries, it is difficult to perform direct comparisons. The United States tends to significantly outpace the EU and Japan in private and NGO giving. Suffice to say, coordination of giving between these three countries/unions plays a significant role in economic development and humanitarian aid throughout the world.

Politically, no nation or group of nations can presently match the influence of the United States. The United States actions over the past century have done more to positively influence world development than any other nation. And its not even close. The United States is not burdened with the legacy of an empire, like much of Europe. It is not burdened with the internal shame of having started two world wars. It was on the winning side, and arguably the right side, of the major geo-political events during the last century. Its intentions are not generally subjected to the wariness that nations like Russia and China are.

This is not to say that the United States has always been correct. That the United States hasn’t been over-aggressive or stubborn. Nay-sayers can undoubtedly cite any number of historical events where we, as Americans, need to acknowledge mistakes in judgment.

But, even after Iraq, the United States’ legacy, on balance, is a positive one. This positive legacy, in combination with its economic and military clout, makes it the primary driver of both change and stability in the world.

Arguably, the nations of the European Union, given their combined size, resources and entrenched western liberal values, should provide a positive political counter-weight to the United States. Unfortunately, the nature of the EU alliance significantly reduces their clout. The EU is currently experiencing their equivalent of what the United States experienced during its experiment with the Articles of Confederation.

Through a new constitution and a civil war, the United States passed through that stage of development and became politically integrated. The EU is far from where we are integration-wise. As a result, their ability to influence international events politically is incrementally smaller.

Militarily, the United States is the only country in the world that has the ability to bring significant force to bear anywhere in the world on short order. I’m not saying this is a great thing. It is what it is unless we make political decisions to reduce this force.

As of 2003, the United States had active duty personnel stationed at approximately 820 installations in 39 countries. Seventeen of these installations are full fledged bases. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy and the U.K. all have over 10,000 U.S. Armed Services personnel on their territory. The United States Navy has more ship born troops than all but 40 countries have in their active duty armed services.

The Future

The United States will be required to continue playing the lead role in world affairs for the foreseeable future. It cannot and should not stand alone however. Where will guidance and support come from?

It is possible that the EU will become more fully integrated. That the political alliances behind EUFOR will become quicker acting, providing an effective alternative to U.S. intervention. I don’t think that is the case however.

As we look to the future, it is important to understand the demographic trends occurring throughout the world. The United States is one of the only modern western countries that is growing. These demographic trends go far beyond Europe however. Even the developing nations that are expected to gain population over the next forty years are expected to match Europe in one key demographic category: The median age in all of these countries will rise significantly.

Using a combination of UN population data and
US Census data, here is a table of current and projected population and median age data for selected countries.

Nation 2005 pop. Median Age 2050 proj.
Median Age
United States 300m 36 400m 39
Mexico 104m 25 132m 39
Brazil 186m 27 254m 43
Europe 588m 38 557m 50
Russia 143m 37 107m 46
China 1.3b 33 1.4b 45
India 1.1b 24 1.6b 37
Japan 127m 41 102m 53
Indonesia 226m 26 296m 40
Iran 70 m 24 100m 43

Excluding Africa, this table is representative of the demographic trends expected throughout most of the world over the next forty years. These demographic changes may have a silver lining. There is significant sociological evidence to support the proposition that younger societies are more violent societies.

Henrik Urdal, a researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) has documented the connection between population pressures and violent political conflict. According to Urdal, “in countries where youth make up 35 percent of the total adult population, the risk of conflict, with all other factors being equal, increases by 150 percent” compared to most developed countries where youth make up only 17 percent of the adult population.

If this is in fact true, then its possible that as the world ages, it can expect to see a significant decline in violence. At least we can hope.

But the world is not going to turn into a peaceful garden full dancing, aging hipsters any time soon. We must expect that there will continue to be conflict in various parts of the world for the foreseeable future. Unless the world decides to turn a blind eye to these conflicts, then there will continue to be a need for coalitions of countries willing to step in.

Besides the United States, which nations are going to be willing to participate in these coalitions?

I find it difficult to believe that the EU’s military participation in humanitarian and other crisis will increase dramatically between today and 2050. European countries are on the verge of being overwhelmed by aging pensioners. By the year 2050, the dependency ratio (the number of people aged 65 years and older relative to those of working age) among EU member states is projected to reach 53 percent. Currently there are four people of working age for every person aged 65 and over. By 2050, there will be only two active workers per pensioner. The EU is going to have to make a choice between welfare spending and military spending. Welfare spending will win out.

More of the burden may be taken up by emerging nations. Brazil’s work in Haiti is one example. Latin American nations have developed reasonably stable democracies and are starting to inject themselves into world affairs. India is becoming a world power and has long been a stable democracy. As a former colony themselves, these two nation’s help may provide a less-divisive force in the former European colonies in Africa. There will also need to be a country with a large Islamic population, maybe Turkey, that is willing to step up.

Simply put, any number of nations will need to step into the void. For every problem spot there are going to be nations that see a need for action and those that don’t. For every crisis there are going to be nations whose help may be detrimental as a result of historical conflicts. Asian nations have no interest in seeing China playing a peacekeeping role in Asia. China has a growing presence in Africa however and their influence may prove invaluable. China’s efforts in Sudan have not been in the world’s best interest however.

UNSC Reform

If other countries are to be encouraged to take a greater role in world affairs however, they need to be integrated tighter into the power structure. There are any number of bodies and coalitions that are capable of shaping geo-political events. There is only one body which generally receives worldwide support however: the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Unfortunately, the rules governing the composition of the Security Council were written sixty years ago. They were written by the prevailing powers after World War II and no longer reflect global reality. Consequently, the UN Security Council must be reconstituted.

The UNSC consists of five permanent members originally drawn from the victorious powers after World War II: the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Russia. France was also given a seat for some reason. In addition, ten other nations are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Regions of the world have been allotted the following representation on the Council: Africa 3, Latin America 2, Asia 2, Western Europe 2, Other 2, Eastern Europe: 1 (from Asia and Africa alternately).

Most reform proposals for the UNSC involve the addition of five or six new permanent members (including Germany, Japan, Brazil and India, who all back each others admittance). Reform proposals usually include the elimination of the permanent member veto. The veto allows a permanent member to halt any potential UNSC action.

These proposals seem reasonable. The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years. There are now more nations capable of being positive agents of world stability. There are more nations whose voices need to be heard. Voices that will be able to diversify perspective on major issues. Voices that will give greater authority and legitimacy to the decisions that have to be made.

In order for reform to succeed however, the United States must give its full weight and backing to them. The UN is broken. Rather than railing on the present institution from without, as the Bush Administration has done, we must battle for reform from within. We should not be content with the status quo.

The world should, after Iraq, also see the benefits of pulling the United States tighter within the UN. Expanding the UNSC would have the simultaneous benefits of reigning in the United States’ go-it alone streak and diminish the power wielded by Russia and China. It is hard to see the downside of UNSC reform which yielded those results.

Articles In This Series:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Wrong Reasons to Support the Iraq Invasion
Part 3: Invading Iraq Was the Correct Choice
Part 4: America Must Remain Motivated to Engage the World
Part 5: The United States Has the Means to Lead the World
Part 6: The 2008 Election is a Historical Inflection Point: Will the U.S. Change Direction?