The Legacy of WWII and its Effects on European Security Policy

By Lana Robbins

Introduction

In “Remembering the Second World War in Western Europe 1945-2005,” Berger maintains that “the memory of the Second World War possessed such an overwhelming ethical force that it led to traumatization.”[1] Many argue that such traumatization provided the unifying force for European integration, but what effect did it have on European security policy? As WWII demonstrated that war is a preventable phenomenon that can result in lasting social and economic problems, this paper argues that the legacy of the Second World War has driven European states to adopt a holistic approach to conflict prevention, to participate in collective security, and to use force sparingly and within a legal context.

Holistic Approach to Conflict Prevention

WWII did not spontaneously occur. Rather, it was the inevitable product of years of political, social, and economic instability and conflict. Consequently, instead of attempting to control conflict with brute military force, European approaches to conflict prevention have often emphasized addressing the roots or causes of conflict. As Ian Manners, a political science professor at the University of Copenhagen, describes in “The Normative Ethics of the European Union,” EU policy emphasis is “placed on development aid, trade, interregional cooperation, political dialogue and enlargement as elements of a more holistic approach to conflict prevention” in order to ensure that war and its devastating consequences become “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”[2] As a result, non-military methods of conflict prevention are often prioritized before military methods, as Alyson Bailes, a former English diplomat, asserts that European nations view military methods as “a last-resort adjunct of other, ‘peaceful,’ diplomatic, political, economic and humanitarian measures.”[3] Such a view of military methods is exemplified by NATO’s response to conflict in the Balkans in the late 1990s. When Albania’s Deputy Defense Minister, Perikli Teta, exercised the country’s Partnership for Peace emergency consultation rights and asked the North Atlantic Council in March 1998 whether the deployment of NATO troops would contribute to stability in the Balkans, the allies responded by declaring that there was no “urgent requirement”[4] to use force and by sending “civil emergency and humanitarian assistance…military training, and aid in securing ammunition stockpiles and other military depots” instead of military forces.[5] However, when such an approach proved inadequate at precluding conflict, the North Atlantic Council authorized the use of air strikes in October 1998 and the establishment of a NATO-led peacekeeping force, the Kosovo Force, in June 1999.[6] Recognizing that previous non-military conflict prevention efforts were insufficient, the Kosovo Force continues to operate under NATO leadership today, demonstrating Europe’s commitment to not only a multi-faceted conflict prevention approach, but its commitment to the endurance of peace and the prevention of devastating conflict as well. Within the European Security and Defence Policy, “ten out of 14 operations launched up to mid-2007 were non-military ones – police operations; observer and planning missions; assistance missions in the fields of border control, internal law and justice (Eurojust-THEMIS in Georgia) and security sector reform (EUSEC Congo); and rear-echelon support and advice for the African Union’s deployment in Darfur, Sudan,”[7] suggesting that multi-faceted conflict prevention is a prevalent trend expected to continue. Europe’s tendency to commence conflict prevention efforts with peaceful methods before transitioning to peacekeeping is substantiated by the research of Vincenzo Bove and Leandro Elia, professors of government and economics at the University of Essex and University of Calabria respectively, who find that from 1999-2009, “the main driver of NATO and EU peacekeeping [was] the conflict intensity”[8] rather than identity with affected populations or propensities for swift military action. Consequently, it appears that European states and security organizations will continue to pursue a holistic approach to conflict prevention in the future in order to minimize casualties, promote development, and retain respect in the international system.

Participation in Collective Security

If early manifestations of Japanese and German aggression such as Japan’s invasion of Manchuria and Germany’s annexations of Austria and the Sudetenland had been addressed with a preponderance of power rather than with appeasement, a conflict as bloody and traumatizing as WWII may have been preventable. Accordingly, as tensions between Soviet and western powers re-emerged and clashes over peace agreements occurred in the aftermath of WWII[9], European states recognized the need for a collective security organization that would give every potential aggressor “a credible signal in advance that the risk inherent in an aggression is a predictably intolerable risk.”[10] In March 1948, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom created the Western Union, a mutual defense organization, by signing the Brussels Treaty.[11] The Western Union eventually gave rise to NATO in April 1949, whose treaty affirms that an armed attack against one member is an attack against all members.[12] Today, twenty-five of NATO’s twenty- eight members are located in Europe, demonstrating the importance of collective security to European states. In keeping with its original purpose, NATO has historically been what David Yost, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, describes as “a defensive and reactive organization.”[13] However, Yost asserts that events in the Balkans and the War on Terror have forced the alliance to make more “proactive decisions” despite differing strategic cultures “owing in part to [allies’] distinct national historical experiences with the results of employing force,” suggesting that the legacy of the Second World War may be losing its influence over NATO policymaking.[14] Nevertheless, according to a poll by The German Marshall Fund of the United States, NATO continues to be seen as “still essential” by 58% of EU respondents in comparison to 55% of Americans[15], suggesting that although NATO may be adopting a more forceful approach, Europeans continue to see the organization as integral to the region’s security.

Using Force as a Last Resort and in a Legal Context

Europe faced a dramatically altered landscape after the war as WWII brought physical, economic, and social destruction to the continent. The war resulted in the destruction of infrastructure, a loss of labor, and large scale immigration. East Germany encountered such large obstacles during reconstruction that it failed to exceed Germany’s 1914 level of average absolute productivity in 1989[16] while large refugee migration flows impacted the trajectory of British politics.[17] Subsequently, as post-WWII reconstruction demonstrated the difficulty of post-conflict reconstruction and development, European states have traditionally utilized force sparingly and within the context of international law.

German Basic Law exemplifies the institutionalization of post-WWII reservations surrounding force as Russell Miller, a professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law, asserts that the “ever-present memories of German atrocities and suffering in the Second World War hardened the pacifist sentiment evident in the Basic Law” [18] and “made the use of force in Germany almost exclusively a question of democracy and law.”[19] German Basic Law dictates that the country’s armed forces can only be deployed to defend Germany and to “the extent expressly permitted” by the Basic Law[20], resulting in the constitutional regulation of Germany’s use of force and reflecting that war, sacrifice, and death “cannot be attributed with positive meaning”[21] in Germany due to the fact they “have proved abortive.”[22]

Following the war, NATO avoided the use of force at all possible costs, pursuing a strategy of deterrence and diplomacy during the Cold War in order to avoid a Third World War.[23]However, changing security conditions in the Balkans in the 1990s necessitated NATO intervention, resulting in NATO’s first involvement in UN sanctioned peacekeeping in 1992.[24]NATO’s involvement in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping in the Balkans commenced a slippery slope of force for the alliance as it pursued the use of force in Kosovo in 1998 without an UNSC resolution explicitly authorizing the alliance’s utilization of force.[25] The allies agreed that there was a legal basis for force in Kosovo as article forty-two of the UN Charter permits states to “take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace or security,”[26] but they were unable to come to a consensus on an official legal justification for their use of force, resulting in each ally being “responsible for formulating its own national justification, and some allies cho[osing] to make reference to both humanitarian necessity and to UN Security Council resolutions.”[27] Although NATO eventually used force in Kosovo, France and Germany, two states dramatically affected by WWII, were hesitant to intervene as they contended that an explicit UNSC authorization was needed for any demonstration of force other than in self-defense, demonstrating their respect for and trust in the international legal system.[28] France and Germany continued their strict interpretation of international law during the 2002-2003 debate on the use of force in Iraq, maintaining that an additional UNSC resolution authorizing the use of force was necessary and expressing reluctance to approve security measures intended to defend Turkey from a possible Iraqi attack due to their belief that Iraq’s WMDs could be controlled by means other than force.[29] Despite disagreements about the legality of the use of force in Kosovo and Iraq, NATO pursued what has been hailed as “a model of intervention” [30] in Libya, permitting UNSC sanctions, an arms embargo, an asset freeze, and a UNSC resolution justifying the use of force in Libya consistent with the responsibility to protect to occur before pursuing intervention.

Reflective of the European tendency to eschew force, only 31% of Europeans agreed that war is sometimes necessary to obtain justice in comparison to 68% of Americans, suggesting that Europe will continue to restrict its use of force.[31] However, as Bailes maintains:

Choosing operations that require relatively little force and risk, or where the professional military component is minimized, means ignoring some of the literal and metaphorical cries for help that ought to mean most for a European sense of values: cases of manifest genocide, as in Darfur, or indeed, violent abuses of human rights and human security going on just over the EU’s new frontiers in Chechnya or the Palestinian territories.[32]

Therefore, although Europe’s propensity to minimize force can reduce conflict by attempting to remedy conflict with more peaceful methods first, such a propensity can also result in the failure of European states to fulfill their responsibility to protect.

Conclusion

Memories of the Second World War have clearly impacted the trajectory of European security policy by inspiring the adoption of holistic approaches to early conflict prevention, involvement in collective security organizations, and the restrained use of force within a legal context. However, as memories of WWII begin to fade and political elite become further distanced from the war, it is likely that future generations will lack the drive to continue such policies, and may even pursue aggressive policies that place European peace in jeopardy. In a 2005 interview, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg and the son of a WWII soldier, expressed doubt that European integration and its unifying aim of peace will endure the next generation of political leaders, commenting, “I don’t think the generation after us will be able to put together all of those national biographies in a way that the EU will not be split back in its national components with all the dangers entailed.”[33] Consequently, European leaders should remember not only the trauma, but the lessons of WWII, and should continue to pursue preventive multi-faceted security policies that restrain the use of force in order to preclude conflict in Europe and around the world.

 

Bibliography

Bailes, Alyson. “The EU and ‘Better World’: What Role for the European Security and Defence Policy?,” International Affairs 84, no. 1 (2008): 115-130. Accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144718.

Berger, Stefan.“Remembering the Second World War in Western Europe, 1945-2005.”

Bove, Vincenzo and Leandro Elia. “Supplying Peace: Participation in and troop contribution to peacekeeping missions,” Journal of Peace Research 48 (2011): 699-714. Accessed March 8, 2014. Sage, http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/48/6/699.

Bowley, Graham. “Can EU, born from war, survive peace?.” International Herald, May 7, 2005. Accessed March 9, 2014. http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/docview/318489339?accountid=11243.

“Chapter VII: Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression,” The United Nations. Accessed March 8, 2014,http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml.

Daalder, Ivo and James Stavridis. “NATO’s Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention,” Foreign Affairs 91, no. 2 (2012): 2-7. Accessed March 8, 2014. ProQuest,http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/docview/923213994?accountid=11243.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Transatlantic Trends,” (2013): 1-48. Accessed March 8, 2014. http://trends.gmfus.org/files/2013/09/TTrends-2013-Key-Findings-Report.pdf.

Hedetoft, Ulf. “National Identity and Mentalities of War in Three EC Countries,” Journal of Peace Research 30, no. 3 (1993): 281-300. Accessed March 7, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/424807.

Lutz, Dieter. “A New European Peace Order as a System of Collective Security,” Journal of Peace Research 21, no. 2 (1984): 169-180. Accessed March 7, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/423939.

Manners, Ian. “The Normative Ethics of the European Union,” International Affairs 84, no. 1 (2008): 45-60. Accessed March 8, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144714.

Messina, Anthony. “The Impacts of Post-WWII Migration to Britain: Policy Constraints, Political Opportunism and the Alternation of Representational Politics,” The Review of Politics 63, no. 2 (2001): 259-285. Accessed March 8, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1408668.

Miller, Russell. “Germany’s Basic Law and the Use of Force,” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 17, no. 2 (2010): 197-206. Accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/GLS.2010.17.2.197.

Reichel, Richard. “Germany’s Postwar Growth: Economic Miracle or Reconstruction Boom?,”CATO Journal 21, no.3 (2002): 427-442. Accessed March 8, 2014.http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2002/1/cj21n3-5.pdf.

“Washington Treaty,” NATO. Accessed March 8, 2014,http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_67656.htm.

Yost, David. “NATO and the Anticipatory Use of Force,” International Affairs 83, no. 1 (2007): 39-68. Accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4122039.

Notes

[1] Stefan Berger, “Remembering the Second World War in Western Europe, 1945-2005.”

[2] Ian Manners, “The Normative Ethics of the European Union,” International Affairs 84, no. 1 (2008): 48, accessed March 8, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144714.

[3] Alyson Bailes, “The EU and ‘Better World’: What Role for the European Security and Defence Policy?,” International Affairs 84, no. 1 (2008): 118, accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144718.

[4] David Yost, “NATO and the Anticipatory Use of Force,” International Affairs 83, no. 1 (2007): 53, accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4122039.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bailes, “The EU and ‘Better World’: What Role for the European Security and Defence Policy?,” 118.

[8] Vincenzo Bove and Leandro Elia, “Supplying Peace: Participation in and troop contribution to peacekeeping missions,” Journal of Peace Research 48 (2011): 712, accessed March 8, 2014. Sage,http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/48/6/699.

[9] “Washington Treaty,” NATO, accessed March 8, 2014,http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_67656.htm.

[10] Dieter Lutz, “A New European Peace Order as a System of Collective Security,” Journal of Peace Research 21, no. 2 (1984): 171, accessed March 7, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/423939.

[11] “Washington Treaty.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Yost, “NATO and the Anticipatory Use of Force,” 64.

[14] Ibid.

[15] The German Marshall Fund of the United States, “Transatlantic Trends,” (2013): 5.http://trends.gmfus.org/files/2013/09/TTrends-2013-Key-Findings-Report.pdf.

[16] Richard Reichel, “Germany’s Postwar Growth: Economic Miracle or Reconstruction Boom?,”CATO Journal 21, no.3 (2002): 440, accessed March 8, 2014.http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2002/1/cj21n3-5.pdf.

[17] Anthony Messina, “The Impacts of Post-WWII Migration to Britain: Policy Constraints, Political Opportunism and the Alternation of Representational Politics,” The Review of Politics 63, no. 2 (2001): 283, accessed March 8, 2014. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1408668.

[18] Russell Miller, “Germany’s Basic Law and the Use of Force,” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 17, no. 2 (2010): 200, accessed March 3, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/GLS.2010.17.2.197.

[19] Ibid., 206.

[20] Ibid., 200.

[21] Ulf Hedetoft, “National Identity and Mentalities of War in Three EC Countries,” Journal of Peace Research 30, no. 3 (1993): 288, accessed March 7, 2014. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org/stable/424807.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Yost, “NATO and the Anticipatory Use of Force,” 49.

[24] Ibid., 50.

[25] Ibid., 53.

[26] “Chapter VII: Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression,” The United Nations, accessed March 8, 2014,http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml.

[27] Yost, “NATO and the Anticipatory Use of Force.” 53.

[28] Ibid., 58.

[29] Ibid., 58.

[30] Ivo Daalder and James Stavridis, “NATO’s Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention,” Foreign Affairs 91, no. 2 (2012): 2, accessed March 8, 2014. ProQuest,http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/docview/923213994?accountid=11243.

[31] The German Marshall Fund of the United States, “Transatlantic Trends,” 6.

[32] Bailes, “The EU and ‘Better World’: What Role for the European Security and Defence Policy?,” 120.

[33] Graham Bowley, “Can EU, born from war, survive peace?,” International Herald, May 7, 2005, accessed March 9, 2014, http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/docview/318489339?accountid=11243.