This new ECFR report, penned by Dan Korski and Richard Gowan, is a must-read for those wondering about how Obama's civilian surge, or ESDP for that matter, could work. In other words, it is a must for those interested in finding out how state-building could possibly work in the increasingly interdependent contemporary security context, in places rather different from Bosnia and more similar in general to Somalia, Gaza, or Afghanistan.
Tellingly, in a twisted sort of way, of the Obama team's civilian-surge idea and ESDP's civilian component, it is the latter that came much earlier, based on the recognition that crisis management may require a broad array of civilian capabilities that are distributed across ministries/departments of all kinds in the governments that could be contributors of civilians to foreign missions. What hasn't come with this recognition so far, for the majority of EU member states, however, is a willingness to tackle the challenges related to making these capabilities available in said foreign missions.
The ECFR report deals with both the challenges and the possible ways to solve them, largely within the confines of what one can realistically expect, in my estimation. At the same time, though, it is ambitious conceptually, as it goes way beyond just trying to deliver the civilian component to "Obama's war," beyond just trying to make something work this one and only time. It includes recommendations for setting up a system to comprehensively deal with failing states on the watchlist of the well-informed. It devises a "scalable assistance partnership" model, whereby EU Special Representatives could see a significantly increased role in guiding the EU's conduct in host countries, possibly with a direct say about military operations even, if ESDP missions are deployed there.
In order for this system to work, the EU still has a long way to go. This concerns some countries more than others - as many ECFR reports before, this report also comes up with its own categorisation of EU countries, classifying them according to their performance. "Strivers," "agnostics" and "indifferent countries" are offered a number of benchmarks regarding what they should do to catch up with the best achievers. Setting up a roster mechanism in order to have a list of truly and reliably deployable civilians with appropriate skillsets, establishing procedures for the proper debriefing of mission personnel and for documenting and disseminating lessons learned are among the tasks that a country like Hungary should be looking at.
There are recommendations for the European Union as a whole, too. EU Battle Groups should be developed into truly comprehensive, whole-of-government military-civilian "packages" - as logical as this may seem, especially for "civilian power Europe," this is still a task for the future.
But these were just a few examples of what is there in the report. Go read it - particularly if you are a strategic EU civilian!