Lothar Rühl


The incidents of 2013 have illustrated several fundamental strategic doctrines on crisis control and conflict termination with political or military means:

The doctrine on the use of military power as „the last resort” after “all others have been exhausted” delays and weakens international crisis and conflict control. The use of military means will lose its deterring and curative effect, if – according to the doctrine of “gradual increase” of the military intervention or the enforcement of the forces put into action – one starts with a mandate and forces as limited as possible and proceeds with it („incrementalism“). In a crisis one should not try to stabilize every situation, status quo and regime or every constitution of a country. In some cases, however, a change was and is necessary, e.g. of a forces ratio like in Croatia and Bosnia 1995, in Kosovo 1999, in Libya 2011, and since 2011 in Syria. Even in Afghanistan, the stationing and fighting activities of international forces, which have happened since the fall of the Taliban caused by the US intervention for “stabilization” at the end of 2001, was only possible on the basis of the new forces ratio created and finally consolidated by this intervention, and of the new political conditions with all their weaknesses. Whether the “stability” achieved by this will outlast the withdrawal of the US combat troops along with the international protection force ISAF until the end of 2014, and whether the new state order provided by the international intervention will prevail, still is an unanswered essential question of the entire operation after 13 years of troop stationing. For this reason, the general conception of “stabilization missions” as universally applicable purpose of military interventions is detrimental and politically misleading. A military intervention will most easily create the conditions for future political problem solving and conflict termination, if– like in 1990/91 for the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraq occupation – it is carried out with overwhelming superiority both of forces and of operational capabilities. Because of the charter constraint concerning the agreement of the five veto powers in the Security Council, the United Nations appear to be hardly appropriate as an instrument for rapid international crisis management. This already became apparent when Russia and China refused drastic sanctions against Syria in 2012/13. On the other hand, an effective threatening background existed, when the US threatened to attack selected targets in the governmental forces because of the use of chemical weapons in August in the outskirts of Damascus, which were controlled by rebel groups and shot from areas controlled by the governmental forces. Because of this threat, Moscow, Peking and Damascus finally agreed on disposing of all chemical weapons of the Syrian armed forces. An escalation of a national conflict or crisis can not only be caused by an intervention from outside, but also by internal escalation dynamics within the confrontation of native enemies, like on the Balkan, in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Lebanon, and, above all, in Afghanistan and Syria. With the new Iranian president Rohani, an easing of tension with the USA, and thus of the conflict situation in the Golf Region as well, appears to be in the offing. For the USA, Europe with its control of the North-Atlantic counter coast and of the Mediterranean still is the most important overseas ally, although the centre of gravity of the geopolitical and strategic interests of the USA has shifted to the West-Pacific/Asia area, which begins in the Middle East and has its West Pole in the region around the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Horn of Africa.