The amount the United States spends on its defense and foreign involvement is always hotly debated; depending on what side of the aisle is arguing, priorities for what the US should achieve in the international sphere differ. There is a balance when it comes to spending money on international organizations. It is important that the US take the lead when it comes to funding organizations such as NATO, the IAEA, the UN and other international organizations, in order to remain a leader in world politics, security, and humanitarian efforts; however, the balance also lies in making sure that the money spent abroad adds value to the US, its allies, and the rest of the world.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is essential to the security of the US and its European allies. Originally establish to deter communism during the Cold War, today the treaty lives on to provide international security for its member states. The most significant provisions to NATO are Article V, stating that if one member is attacked, all members must retaliate, and the 2% GDP defense spending provision. This provision requires that each state spend at least 2% of their total GDP on defense spending.
NATO is different from most international organizations when it comes to funding. Instead of directly investing into the organization, member states contribute to the organization by contributing military assets to training missions and rotational deployments. The US is a huge contributor to NATO when it comes to supplying the organization with training, funding, and rotational deployments. With a $650 billion defense budget, the US is above the 2% threshold, at 3.62% of GDP going towards defense spending (1). The only other states out of the 28 members to exceed 2% are the United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, and Greece. The rest of NATO spends less than 2% , including France and Germany, which come in at 1.80% and 1.18%, respectively (2). The 2% provision is one that is not actively enforced by NATO, as it is extremely unlikely that NATO will drop or suspend any state for geopolitical or strategic reasons.
Many voices on both sides of the aisle in the US claim that the US spends too much on NATO and European security. However, the US has a vital role to play with its allies in Europe. First, Europe is America’s closest economic and cultural partner, and maintaining similar security interests is key to future conflict resolution. In addition, NATO still provides a formidable deterrent against Russian aggression. Many Eastern European NATO states are highly concerned with Russia’s destabilizing abilities, proven by direct and indirect involvement in Ukraine. If anything, the European members of NATO should be increasing their defense spending to reach the 2% threshold. The terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris should serve as a wake up call that defense spending is not only utilized with fighting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or deterring Russia, but to ensure security for Europeans in their own cities.
In addition to NATO, the US also is a large contributor to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). This international organization promotes the safe and civil use of nuclear energy, and works to prevent nuclear material from being made into nuclear weapons. The IAEA is essential to this process of oversight and prevention; they are directly involved in the inspection of nuclear sites. The US picks up a bulk of the tab for the IAEA. Of the IAEA’s €360 ($405) million budget, all funded by its member states, the US contributes around 25% on average every year (3). The IAEA will continue to play an increasingly central role in international security, ensuring that Iran adheres to the JCPOA. The JCPOA requires that the IAEA inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities and maintain continued transparency (4). This is crucial for the US, as Iran would not allow solely US inspectors to examine their facilities. In addition to the normal budget, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in 2010, the US announced that it would give $50 million over the next five years to the IAEA’s Peaceful Use Initiative, intended to help with the clean up of Fukushima and the cure of Ebola. The bill for the IAEA seems steep compared to what other countries spend, but this amount is small for the US. Plus, supporting the IAEA is crucial to ensure the success of the JCPOA, and it shows that the US is a leader when it comes to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
The US also funds the UN and its peacekeeping missions more than any other member. Peacekeeping expenses are apportioned by the General Assembly, in which a formula is applied to each country based on wealth and other metrics. The five Security Council states are required to pay more because of their increased responsibility to peace and international security; however, there is not set quota for Security Council members to pay. According to the UN, the US paid for about 28.38% of the $8.37 billion budget for peacekeeping operations last year. This is to be expected, as that percentage is consistent with US commitment to many international organizations; however, what is surprising is that the other four Security Council members pay much less. Aside from the US, the highest contributing member of the Security Council is France, at 7.22%, and Russia the lowest, at 3.55% (5). This indicates an imbalance in funding and power in the UN. It is unacceptable that other Security Council members pay so much less, while maintaining equal power regarding security issues. Anything but unanimity within the Council prevents UN involvement in a conflict area. If Security Council members are going to yield so much power, there should be a threshold, such as the 2% provision enforced by NATO, that requires a certain percentage of funding. It is important that the US remain the leader when it comes to funding, but other countries must also show that they are behind the UN in providing stability throughout the world.
It is apparent that when it comes to funding international security, the US plays a leadership role. The continuation of funding for the three most important international security organizations is crucial for US security and world leadership. However, it is also important that other states in these organizations increase their funding, especially in NATO. It is becoming less acceptable for European NATO members to not focus at least 2% of GDP on defense spending. The Cold War is over, but that doesn’t mean NATO is obsolete, or that it cannot redefine its mission. Deterring Russian aggression is still important, as Putin recently demonstrated his ability to redraw borders in Eastern Europe. But, the Paris and Brussels attacks show that counter-terrorism is viable option for a 21st century NATO. The IAEA is also crucial to the US and its security, as the success of the JCPOA greatly hinges on the IAEA’s ability to successfully provide oversight into the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. The US must remain a leader in international security, even if that means being the leader in funding as well. Other states, such as NATO allies and the other four Security Council states, should provide more to these international security organizations if they want the same amount of influence in the future; however, this does not mean the US should lead from behind. It is crucial that the US continue to fund and be an example of a country that takes international security and stability seriously, for itself and its allies.
(1) Kattosava, Ivana. "Which NATO Members Are Falling Short on Military Spending?" CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 June 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/15/news/nato-spending-countries/>
(2) "Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2008-2015)." NATO Public Relations, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 June 2016. <http://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2016_01/20160129_160128-pr-2016-11-eng.pdf#page=6>
(3) Epstein, Susan B., and Paul K. Kerr. IAEA Budget and U.S. Contributions: In Brief (n.d.): n. pag. Congressional Research Service, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 June 2016. <https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R44384.pdf>
(4) Gaspar, Miklos. "JCPOA Implementation Day Ushers in New Phase for IAEA in Iran: Director General Amano." International Atomic Energy Agency. N.p., 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 20 June 2016. <https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/jcpoa-implementation-day-ushers-new-phase-iaea-iran-director-general-amano>
(5) "Financing Peacekeeping. United Nations Peacekeeping." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 20 June 2016. <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/financing.shtml>
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West and Central Africa continue to be an integral part of France’s foreign policy and military strategy in order to combat Islamic terrorism and instability in its former colonies. Unlike its former colonial rival, Britain, France is still playing a military role in its former colonies of West and Central Africa. Behind the United States, France has the second largest diplomatic network in the world, and also maintains nine permanent military bases outside of France (1). It is clear that France considers itself one of the major players internationally and still wants to maintain military readiness around the world. France’s presence and campaigns in West and Central Africa are examples of military success, and they play an important role in stabilizing the region.
Operation Serval was a French military operation in Mali in 2013 that aimed to stop jihadists from creating an extremist Islamic caliphate. Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) had originally been based out of Algeria, but due to counterterrorism missions, AQIM was pushed into many surrounding countries that lacked a strong military or government (2). Between January and April 2012, Mohamed Ag Najem and Bilal Ag Acherif, leaders of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA), a group that opposed the government, joined with three jihadist groups and gained control of northern Mali. The operation by the French started on January 11, 2013, even after a UN resolution was passed to allow deployment of an African-led International Support Mission.
France’s original military strategy was designed to hold the jihadists outside of Bamako; however, the strategy changed after attacks on French forces on January 14. The new strategy aimed to move as fast as possible and use the element of speed and superior technology to destroy the jihadists and to prevent them from escaping the country. This strategy is much more effective for multiple reasons: First, not allowing insurgents to escape is vital to the long-term success. Insurgents have the ability to blend into the populace, especially if they are being pushed back. A great example of this was when the U.S. invaded Iraq: Even after U.S. forces were present, insurgents would fight briefly or set an IED and blend back into the populace. Also, insurgents have the ability to flee to surrounding failed states, especially in West and Central Africa. This was apparent when the United States first started to combat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan.
The French strategy proved to be successful, but was politically risky for President Hollande because the French public is generally very wary of higher casualties. During the height of the conflict, French forces topped out at around 4,000 (3). This operation was considered by many to be a military success because with a relatively low number of forces, France was able to destroy and push back the jihadists.
After Operation Serval concluded on July 15 2014, Operation Barkhane began as the replacement operation just two weeks later on August 1. This operation is meant to be a permanent counter-terrorism force in Central and West Africa. The counterterrorist force consists of 3,000 troops stationed in five countries known as the G5: Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Operation Barkane has 200 armored vehicles, 20 helicopters, 10 transport/reconnaissance aircraft, 6 fighter aircraft, and 3 drones (4). The French defense ministry stated that the two main objectives of Operation Barkhane are to prevent terrorists from holding territory in the region and assist the G5 countries with counterterrorism through training and support (5).
This operation is essential to making sure that terrorist organizations do not take advantage of the failed or weak states in the region. West and Central Africa face multiple security threats that not only threaten the security of Africa, but also that of Europe and the United States. Boko Haram continues to be a security threat to the region, and although they are primarily operational in and around Nigeria, they could expand to other African nations with a weak military. In addition, drug trafficking is causing instability in the region as anywhere from a quarter to two-thirds of the cocaine that is sent from South America to Europe makes its way through West Africa (6). France’s operations in the region may also include counternarcotics and anti-drug trafficking in the future, in order to prevent drugs from flowing into Europe.
The question regarding France and counterterrorism in the future is how much of a role France will play. By all indications, France is a major factor in counterterrorism, as the Paris and Brussels attacks have awoken the French public to show that they are vulnerable to attack. Operation Serval was a military success in pushing jihadists out of a weak state, while Operation Barkhane is still evolving to stabilize the West and Central Africa region. France’s posture in the region is incredibly important because it is a western country with a strong enough military to train and improve African militaries. Counterterrorism and counternarcotics in West and Central Africa are not only incredibly important for the security of Africa, but also for France and the rest of Europe.
(1) Tertrais, Bruno. "Strategic Posture Review: France." N.p., 15 July 2013. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/13091/strategic-posture-review-france>.
(2) Spet, Stéphane. "Operation Serval Analyzing the French Strategy against Jihadists in Mali." ASPJ Africa & Francophonie (n.d.): 66-79. 2015. Web. 13 June 2016. <http://www.au.af.mil/au/afri/aspj/apjinternational/aspj_f/digital/pdf/articles/2015_3/spet_e.pdf>.
(3) Shurkin, Michael. France's War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2014. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR770.html.
(4) Waddington, Conway. "Understanding Operation Barkhane." African Defence Review. N.p., 01 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://www.africandefence.net/operation-barkhane-under-the-hood/>.
(5) Larivé, Maxime. "Welcome to France's New War on Terror in Africa: Operation Barkhane." The National Interest. N.p., 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://nationalinterest.org/feature/welcome-frances-new-war-terror-africa-operation-barkhane-11029>.
(6) "Special Articles." Africa Economic Institute : West Africa and Drug Trafficking. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://www.africaecon.org/index.php/africa_business_reports/read/70>.
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This week brought another offensive on ISIL’s Eastern front near the Iraqi city of Fallujah by Iraqi security forces. It is estimated that the assault on the city will be hard fought by Iraqi security forces, and highly dangerous for the nearly 50,000 residents still stuck in the city, as ISIL is expected to use the civilian population to its advantage to shield against the incoming assault. ISIL knows they are losing ground and has adjusted their strategy accordingly, as Paul Salem, the vice president for policy and research at the Middle East Institute in Washington, mentioned in a Time magazine article, “I don’t think they expect to win, but if they can take tens of thousands of civilians down with them, that’ll make people pause when you think about Mosul and other places (1).” This poses a serious threat and delay to pushing ISIL back territorially if their policy becomes that of a “scorched Earth” policy. It will likely delay any offensive into Mosul, ISIL’s largest stronghold in Iraq, if it becomes clear that ISIL will take the civilian populace with it.
The fight for Fallujah is becoming more and more symbolic and political for the current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Fallujah is just 40 miles west of Baghdad, and is a sign of ISIL’s ability to hold major cities in the heart of Iraq. However, some in the U.S. military believe that Fallujah isn’t nearly as strategically significant as Mosul, indicating a worry that a failure or high casualty assault could lead to a halt in the offensive against ISIL’s Eastern front. On May 13th, Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, mentioned that “Fallujah doesn’t really have any tactical influence on Mosul (2).” This indicates that Fallujah is more politically significant for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to silence his many critics. However, control of Fallujah is important in order to show that ISIL no longer can have a stronghold so close to Baghdad. This assault must be carried out properly with minimal collateral damage, even with ISIL’s brutal strategy. A failure could hinder further operations; slowing the advance on ISIL to Mosul. The U.S. must ensure that proper consultation and air cover is given to the Iraqi security forces to ensure Fallujah is not seen as a failure.
(1) Malsin, Jared. "How a Victory Over ISIS in Fallujah Could Actually Hurt Iraq."Time. Time, 31 May 2016. Web. 05 June 2016. <http://time.com/4353000/iraq-battle-fallujah-isis/>.
(2) Bradley, Matt, and Ziad Jaber. "What's Really Behind the Stalled Fight for Fallujah?" NBC News. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 05 June 2016. <http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/analysis-fight-fallujah-highlights-abadi-s-political-battle-n584731>.
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Chadd Dunn is a senior at the University of Southern California double majoring in business administration and international relations. He focuses mainly on international economics,