Daniel Korski

About Daniel Korski

Daniel Korski is a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yemen as well as in the United States. He is also a Senior Advisor to the Project on National Security Forum.

Can NATO “Re-brand”? What do you think?

During the Cold War, when Western and Warsaw Pact tanks were facing each other, the idea of a “selling” NATO’s role to allied publics would have been ludicrous because everyone knew why it was important. Now, in the run-up to the Alliance’s 60th anniversary, NATO has realised how important it is to communicate its role and worth to publics in European and North America.

But doing so at a time when the only kind of security ordinary people think about is their job security is a real challenge. As my colleague Nick Witney has said: “Defense is no longer a business of manning the ramparts or preparing to resist invasion. It has to be about an attempt to project stability. It is a hard doctrine to get people to believe in.”

To help NATO communicate better, it has hired an executive from Coca-Cola to manage the way the alliance is seen around the world and launched a an internet-based service called NATO TV as well as a Media Operations Centre (called the “MOC”) with the sole task of improving communications about NATO’s Afghan mission. 

Next week, I will attend an internal NATO meeting to discuss ways to overcome NATO’s communications challenges. And this is where you come in. I’d like to solicit the help of you, the rarified group of people who make up the Global Dashboard readership.

For I’d like to tell the assembled defence communicators what security-tracking, information-seeking, well-informed people like yourselves think are the biggest communications challenges for NATO — and perhaps how to overcome  these.

So here are a couple of questions I’d love to get your in-put on, which I will duly pass on at the NATO meeting.

  1. What are NATO’s greatest challenges now and over the next five years?
  2. What are the most serious threats to your country’s national security and what role do you think NATO should play in addressing this?
  3. What aspect of NATO’s communications do you think works well? 
  4.  What do you think of NATO TV? How can it be improved?
  5. If you were in charge of NATO communications, what would you do?

I look forward to hearing what you think.

EU fails to appoint Bosnia envoy – again

The EU’s attempts at finding a replacement for the bloc’s envoy in Bosnia has moved from drama to tragedy, with Emyr Jones Perry rejected alongside the latest candidate, Valentin Inzko (the Austrian ambassador to Slovenia, since you ask). Meanwhile, as James Lyon notes in the IHT,

The oft-repeated EU catechism is that Bosnia must tackle reform processes on its own, and that after the transition Bosnia’s feuding politicians will magically resolve their quarrels. Brussels assumes that the lure of EU membership will somehow induce nationalist politicians to bury ethnic agendas and pass reform legislation guaranteed to weaken their own patronage systems. They fail to note that the current trajectory will remove the last remaining international obstacles to renewed conflict.

To move out of the current funk, a serious EU envoy has to be picked who, with a US Presidential Envoy to the Balkans, can begin to charting a new transatlantic course. So here’s my initial list of nominees for the job:

Horst Teltschik, GE
Wolfgang Ischinger, GE
Jan Pronk, NL
Jean-Marie Guenno, FR
Michael Steiner, GE
Salomon Passy, BU
Des Browne, UK
Michael von der Schulenburg, GE
Soren Jessen-Petersen, DK

It is easy to find more senior candidates, but they are unlikely to take the job . So the key is to find someone strong, but willing to live in Bosnia.

Reach for the Sky

In the Times today there is a story about one of the greatest British counter-insurgents, Emma Sky. Military commanders describe the Arabic-speaking, British Council official as a modern-day Gertrude Stein.

Now working for General Ray Odierno, the diminutive, Left-wing Sky initially got to know the 6 foot 5 inches warrior when they both worked in Tikrit immediately after the 2003 invasion. In between her stins in Iraq, she served as British General David Richard’s adviser in Kabul. Since about 2007 –- when Sky took her current post as a key aide to the MNF-I commander — no British official, including successive British ambassadors in Baghdad, has been as influential on US counter-insurgency policy or, indeed, on US Iraq policy.

Last year,  Sky published an article for RUSI called Moving Beyond Counter-Insurgency Doctrine, a must-read for counter-insurgency devotees and anyone who wants to understand US Iraq policy medio-2007.

Whenever she finishes her assignment in Iraq, the British government would do well to immediately (create and) offer a post as the Defence Secretary’s Special Adviser for Counter-Insurgency, from where she will be able to bring many of the lessons from US operations in Iraq into the British military and bureaucracy — something that is sorely needed.

Irrational Exuberance Lives On

Irrational exuberance is alive and well. Spawned by Obama’s candidature and sustained despite his recent setbacks, many people still seem to believe that all manner of foreign policy challenges can be overcome.

One of the most interesting parts of Barack Obama’s rise to power was the frenzied enthusiasm he garnered along the way. Even the mob-fearing Germans turned out in their thousands to hear him deliver unwelcome policy missives (“The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda”). At times, Obama’s presidential candidacy verged on a cult of personality.

There were a few skeptics, to be sure. But most were curmudgeonly analysts or political adversaries. Few of the change-deniers seemed, well, seemed to be quite with it. In the main, people sang “Yes We Can”, swayed to Obama’s rhetoric and believed with all their hearts.

Little more than a month after his election, the sheen has not quite come off Obama, but his administration has taken a few direct hits. Tom Daschle, a former senator, was nominated as health secretary. As with two other Obama nominees, it subsequently emerged that he had failed to pay all his taxes, and he was forced to withdraw his name from consideration. The new treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, has proved les adept at handling the economy that hoped. His first press conference saw markets tumble.

Despite these set-backs, there is no shortage of exuberance. Even hard-bitten analysts believe that in 2009-2010, world leaders can agree on a new NPT regime, establish a follow-on to the Bretton Woods systems, re-start the Doha round of multilateral trade talks and hammer our a climate deal in Copenhagen. Some even think that the entire multilateral system can be re-ordered while the US deals with NATO’s Afghan mission, Iran’s nuclear programme, Pakistan’s potential collapse, Russia’s rise, and the threat posed by a festering Middle East.

However, the truth is this agenda is probably too broad for one president, even two terms and certainly for the many stakeholders that now have to be brought into any of the global deals. The multilateral system will not be revamped, but remain a mosaic. If we are lucky, the economic crisis will be contained, but do not expect a new kind of managed globalization. George Soros has called for a eurozone government bond market, but it is hard to see European governments accepting such an overtly federalist move (which, incidentally, they rejected when the ECB was originally set up).

As to the many structural issues –- the NPT regime, climate change, the trade talks –- one or two may be solved, but certainly not all and certainly not in the next two years. Politically, trade-offs will have to be made between Iranian help in Afghanistan or an Iranian nuclear bomb. Between European unity or European energy security. Perhaps even between our economic well-being and poverty-alleviation elsewhere.

Like in the NICE decade — non-inflationary constant expansion — in which people forgot economic gravity, so people now seem to have taken leave of their foreign policy senses.

But a new world awaits. It may not look much different than the 19th century: power politics, “concert of Europe”-style diplomacy, inequality of states, spheres of influence, and interests, not values, as the driving forces behind international politics.

Pirate-in-Chief

The new African Union (AU) chairman Muammar Gaddafi — Tony Blair’s friend, Nicolas Sarkozy’s partner, freer of hostages, and friend to the enslaved –- has said he believes piracy is a way for poor Africans to defend themselves against the greedy Western nations.

On his first official visit to the African Union headquarter in Addis Ababa, Colonel Gaddafi told the union’s staff: Piracy is “a response to greedy Western nations, who invade and exploit Somalia’s water resources illegally”. The Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution went on: “It is not a piracy, it is self defense. It is defending the Somalia children’s food.” So much for getting the AU to help in developing a comprehensive solution.

If the West do not like the Colonel’s views? Simple: “It is our planet and they can go to other planet”, says the Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Yeah, you tell them Colonel. They can go live in another solar system.

Bring on the envoys

Richard Holbrooke (the new US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan) and Sherard Cowper-Coles (his British counterpart) did not have South Asia to themselves for long. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today appointed Ambassador Bernd Mützelburg as his Special Representative for – you guessed it – Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On top of that, there’s also EU Special Representative to Afghanistan, Italian diplomat Etorre Sequi, and the UN Special Representative Kai Eide.

Hopefully this will lead to more international cooperation – or perhaps just a great spread in Envoy Magazine (possibly with Holbrooke behind the wheels of a GMC Envoy XL…)

Sri Lanka rejects Des Browne

So Sri Lanka has now rejected Gordon Brown’s appointment of Des Browne as a special envoy to the island. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the appointment was “unhelpful” and was made without consulting his government. A foreign ministry statement said the appointment was tantamount to an “intrusion of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs”.

No 10 have played this down, saying that they were still speaking to the Sri Lankan government about Browne’s exact role. But from Colombo Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama warned of “major repercussions” for relations with Britain over the nomination and said “there is no further discussion with London on the matter.”

Before this incident, the appointment of a Sri Lanka envoy only seemed poorly through-out. Now it looks downright humiliating for the Prime Minister who clearly wanted to make up for sacking his Scottish colleague.

What could have happened? There are a number of options. Perhaps No 10 did not check the appointment with the Sri Lankan government. But if true, this seems negligible beyond belief. Perhaps the Foreign Office did check, but the Sri Lankans changed their minds, or did not communicate as forcefully as they should have that they did not want the appointment. That is what happened over Paddy Ashdown’s UN appointment in Kabul. The final option is that Des Browne, who was quite poorly treated by the PM, was about to blow, spilling the beans on Brown’s weaknesses. To stop this, the PM may have panicked, and offered Browne something that was not really his to offer.

Either way, the non-appointment does not put Brown in the best of lights.