Contributions for this issue were received from Alessandra Bertino, Gianni Bonvicini, Silvia Colombo, Marina Izzo, Jacopo Leone, Adriano Metz, Rosa Rosanelli, Nicolò Sartori, Chiara Sulmoni.
Afghanistan : a military history from Alexander the Great to the war against the Taliban / Stephen Tanner. - Updated version. - Philadelphia : Da Capo, . - vii, 375 p. - ISBN 978-0-306-81826-4
Eight years of war and the victims, both military and civilian, are constantly on the rise. The only entity to appear unarmed in Afghanistan is the international community, while a persistent refrain invites the US to learn from the past and avoid the Soviets' tactical mistakes. With military options dominating public debates, Stephen Tanner's book acquires particular interest. Originally published in 2002, it appeared in its updated version in 2009, and provides a comprehensive picture of a conflict that will impact significantly on the stability of the region and, ultimately, on NATO's credibility.
For over 2500 years, Afghanistan has been paying dearly for the strategic position it holds at the centre of the Asian continent. From important trade route and favourite target of the Great Empires' expansionist ambitions, to chessboard where regional and international powers exerted their influence, to ultimate frontier of the war on terrorism: from time immemorial, this land has been at the crossroads of armies, warriors, cultures and ideologies. Afghanistan's history can be read as a military history because this has always been the site of intense battles - and of intense resistance.
From Alexander the Great to 2008. With the help of classical works, contemporary analyses as well as letters and memoirs, Tanner vividly reconstructs in clear detail the scene of fierce battles and assaults, pointing out tactics and strategies and discussing the weight that innovations such as gunpowder, Stingers and Predators have had on the outcome of hostilities. The author shows how, in a war between a regular army and the insurgency, the logistical aspect greatly favours the guerrillas, much more mobile than conventional troops with their tanks and the air force required to monitor the enemy's movements on both a desolate and contorted land. This book also explores geography and territory, indicating their importance for combat operations and penetrates the mentality of the warrior who has been somewhat shaped by this challenging "terrain".
But Afghanistan also explores what lies beyond the front line. It illustrates the historical, political and diplomatic background of foreign invasions and intestine power struggles, shedding light on the dynamics and principles of alliances and underlying factors that could strongly limit the mechanisms of democracy today, such as ethnic rivalry, tribal rule and the assertion of local over central authority.
Tanner devotes considerable time to the Taliban fundamentalist movement and briefly discusses the issue of negotiations between its so-called moderate exponents and the government, an option that Western powers currently consider a premise for a viable exit strategy. The author underlines how the "warrior of religion" did not emerge with the Soviet invasion or al-Qaeda but already featured in the 19th century Anglo-Afghan wars (the ghazi). He takes the opportunity to correct a common Western misperception: the mujaheddins of the '80s and '90s are seen as "freedom fighters", but the literal translation is "soldiers of God". Jihad against the invading non-believer is an integral feature of this land's history of resistance. On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that the Taliban movement is a specific result of the political and social anarchy of the '90s.
In his last chapter, Tanner tackles the religious and nationalistic drives characterizing Pashtunistan - the heart of the Taliban insurrection. (The Pashtuns are the country's largest ethnic group: Karzai himself is a Pashtun). Weapons, fighters, ideological convictions - and NATO supplies - all pass through here. This is the frontline that generals in their hunt for al-Qaeda affiliates are intent on reclaiming. Strategies adopted here will be crucial for the future security of the area and for the outcome of the war on terror.
Afghanistan helps overcome the inaccurate image of a people and country which stereotypes often depict as hostages to immobility and backwardness, but who have always been proud and dynamic in spite of their tragedies. And while foreign powers once again ponder its future, Afghanistan keeps counting its dead - in much the same way it has been doing for the past two thousand years. Western aid workers leaving the Afghan capital symbolize its complicated future. In the meantime, whether out on patrol in armoured vehicles or cycling along a market road on any regular day, many lives are still being lost. Analysts discuss their data on TV and in the papers, while the destiny of the Afghan people does not make it to the front page. (Chiara Sulmoni, also in Italian)
The Arab state and neo-liberal globalization : the restructuring of state power in the Middle East / edited by Laura Guazzone and Daniela Pioppi. - Reading : Ithaca Press, c2009. - xii, 388 p. - ISBN 978-0-86372-339-1
In order to understand the changes that took place in the Arab world at the turn of the millennium and that have accelerated in the last decade, new analytical paradigms are needed that take account of countries' internal dynamics as well the new opportunities and challenges posed by globalisation. This is the aim of this book, which brings together the contributions of 15 international experts in economics and social sciences on four main case studies: Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The most original and scientifically significant aspect of the text is the conceptual grid that underlies the case studies and that is outlined in the introduction. The approach contrasts with certain widespread views that postulate a linear transition in Arab countries, on the one hand, from a state-controlled economic system to one in which market forces are free to act thanks to the liberalisation and privatisation policies put in place as of the 1980s and, on the other, from an authoritarian political system to a democratic or semi-democratic one. These views of the changes underway in the Arab world are based on the theories of democratisation proposed in the early 1990s after the end of the Cold War and the wave of democratic transformations in Latin America.
From this point of view, the slower pace of change in the Arab world was interpreted as a sign of opposition there to processes of deregulation and the reduction of state power generated by globalisation. The exceptionalism of the Arab world, especially cultural, became the dominant paradigm of analysis. To explain the absence of democracy and the poor economic performance of the Arab world, the accent was put on cultural and religious factors.
The analytical framework proposed here completely overturns this view which, the authors claim, does not do justice to the complexity of the interdependences between national contexts and regional and international variables as manifested in the Arab world. Their analysis, which focuses on the "state", meaning the power structure that is able to extend its control beyond its formal institutions and functions, is broken down into three dimensions: political, economic and security.
From the political perspective, few attempts have been made to introduce pluralism and openness, but the state has not withdrawn or reduced its presence; it has simply been restructured in a neo-patrimonial and pseudo-entrepreneurial way, with the increased privatisation of fundamental services. This dynamic has been accompanied by the crisis of political ideologies - with the exception of the those based on religion - and of political participation through party politics, while mobilisation for reasons of ethnic and religious identity has increased. In the economic sphere, the same dynamics of privatisation and semi-liberalisation of the markets has led to a proliferation of partnerships between the public and private sectors and to growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth at the national level.
Finally, the Arab world is increasingly affected by new internal challenges to security, such as unemployment, migration and conflict, that are rooted in the structural shortcomings that Arab societies have to deal with. This book represents a vibrant account of the situation of the Arab world at the beginning of the third millennium and an absolutely essential intellectual instrument for approaching this part of the world in an unbiased way. (Silvia Colombo, also in Italian)
Crisis in Kirkuk : the ethnopolitics of conflict and compromise / Liam Anderson and Gareth Stansfield. - Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2009. - viii, 298 p. : ill. - (National and ethnic conflict in the 21st century). - ISBN 978-0-8122-4176-1
This book, written by two experts in Kurdish nationalism and the political developments of the de facto Kurdish state, provides an interesting analysis of the relationship between constitutional engineering and the political events that have taken place in Iraq since 2003, in which the status of Kirkuk is a central point.
The book is divided into two parts: the first, introductory part, is made up of a chapter providing a historical background on Kirkuk province, while the second presents the "dueling ethnopolitical narratives" of the three major resident communities (Arab, Kurd and Turkmen). This presentation is directed at a clearly identified reader: in fact the authors are convinced that the United States has to separate fact from fiction in the narratives of the city's ethnic groups (95).
The second part of the book illustrates the Kurds' political struggle to conquer their "Jerusalem" (from 2003 to mid-2008) and analyses the reasons for the failure of the legal instrument with which the Kurdistan Regional Government believed that it could obtain annexation. The Kurds' struggle for Kirkuk is described as a three-stage process, with each stage closely connected to the role played by the Kurds at the national level. The first stage witnessed the ascent of the Kurds who, while they were acquiring political power in Iraq, took control of Kirkuk with the US' blessing and proceeded to de-Arabise the disputed provinces. This was followed by the second, triumphant stage, in which they won the federal and provincial elections in January 2005 (boycotted by the Sunni), and finally the third stage of decline after the federal elections in December 2005, in which the Kurds' political weight was greatly reduced.
The authors describe how this process was strongly influenced by the institutional reforms introduced by the US and how these reforms were characterised by compromises over the central issue of the status of Kirkuk, which was never resolved. The ambiguous formulas led to the continuous postponement of the decision over Kirkuk and kindled tensions among the communities. But this ambiguity also reflected the US' ambiguous position, which originally pledged to support the Kurds in their demands and then, in the face of mounting Iraqi nationalism and international opposition (Turkey, Iran, Syria) acquiesced in putting off resolution. In the end, the lack of US support, the Kurds' diminished political influence, the growing Arab opposition and the wording of Art. 140 of the Constitution combined to postpone the referendum on the status of Kirkuk indefinitely and led to a stalled situation that the authors consider damaging to the disputed city and dangerous for all of Iraq.
The authors feel that a compromise solution has to be worked out. But this part of the book is not very convincing, if only because it is a kind of policy recommendation aimed only at the Kurds. Equally unconvincing are the conclusions: in order to defend the Kurds from "blatant myths that have come to pollute the discourse" (234) in the United States, the authors claim that in the battle for possession of Kirkuk, control of oil resources, the demographic balance and the peshmerga are of no import.
The analysis of the role the Kurds played on the political scene after the US invasion in Iraq is serious and well structured. The book is useful reading for anyone interested in understanding the causes that have and still do determine the difficulties in solving the problem of the status of Kirkuk and the tensions among the various communities in Iraq. (Alessandra Bertino)
Slow economy : rinascere con saggezza / Federico Rampini. - Milano : Mondadori, 2009. - 196 p. - (Strade blu. Nonfiction). - ISBN 978-88-04-59368-3
Wall Street : la stangata : cosa abbiamo imparato per non perdere piu soldi / Gianfilippo Cuneo, Fabio Tamburini ; prefazione di Lorenzo Pellicioli. - Milano : Baldini Castoldi Dalai, 2009. - 149 p. - (I saggi ; 398). - ISBN - 978-88-6073-671-0
The crash in Dubai dampened superficial optimism that the global financial crisis was over and insinuated doubts about the effectiveness of the reforms made to the global economic system. These two books help us understand the origin of the crisis and indicate how to draw lessons from it. In Slow Economy, Federico Rampini infoms us of things that we westerners should learn from the Orient. The book starts out with the image of a rickshaw, a buggy drawn by a man on foot or on a bicycle, a typical means of transport in the Far East, and now a craze in New York. In the asphalt jungle, the rickshaw outstrips the car, slaloms through the traffic, takes short-cuts. Zero CO2 emissions, zero noise pollution. This is just one of many examples, writes Rampini, of "frugal consumption" that comes from Asia."
The book's thesis is that, after the great recession that has hit the entire world, the West has to rethink its disastrous growth model, centred on consumption and debt. With an entire way of life vacillating between chaos and fear, the West should grasp an opportunity to save itself by looking to the East, to countries that have become indispensable interlocutors - China, India and others. This is where the Slow Economy comes in: it's the way to widespread and sustainable development, coming from a millennium of eastern wisdom based on savings and frugality. The same wisdom once had its roots in the West's peasant culture as well, though, just like those that now put Carlin Petrini's Slow Food in opposition to American Fast Food.
In a few chapters with evocative titles - "Frugal consumption", "The next energy shock", "Lost horizon", "Our optimism is contagious" - Rampini floats between memories and the future, recounting places and stories in which East and West have reciprocally influenced each other. He takes the reader on a journey to bring us closer to remote peoples and places in an attempt to draw some lessons that could transform the solution of this crisis into renaissance.
Rampini writes about the precious lesson that we can learn from Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan state that has a different way of measuring well-being: instead of gross domestic product (GDP), Bhutans measure gross domestic happiness (GDH). The International Football Federation says that the Bhutanese have the worst football team in the world, better only than Montserrat, but they are happier than the world champions.
The second book asks a lot of questions about the crisis, but above all delivers the answers. In Wall Street, Fabio Tamburini, a journalist who asks questions, and Gianfilippo Cuneo, a financial consultant and investor who answers them, explain, as the sub-title indicates, "what we've learned so that we don't lose any more money" (and perhaps even make some), starting out from the saying which now sounds a little like a postulate, "The savings industry has gone to pot".
Easy to read, almost written to be consulted when necessary, like a handbook, two of the book's seven chapters are dedicated to "what to do" after the crisis, illustrating the opportunities, but also the risks that the financial meltdown has left.
Gianfilippo Cuneo, with years at McKinsey and numerous entrepreneurial success stories in the '90s to his credit, is the founder of the Sinergia con Imprenditori investment fund, through which he has invested €400 millions in companies led by Italian businessmen. Fabio Tamburini, journalist, is the head of the economic/financial news agency Il Sole 24 Ore Radiocor. The interview is not supposed to be pessimistic, but Tamburini's clear-headedness and Cuneo's realism do not leave a lot of space for optimism. Not even the magic wand that the journalist offers him at a certain point manages to trigger the consultant's enthusiasm. What changes have to be made, even without consensus? "The changes come, reluctantly, when the system can't go on without them, that is, when it comes up against a greater constraint. But then, the virtuous behaviour doesn't last long … I don't think it would be difficult to introduce rules for efficiency and virtuous behaviour in Italy, but this should come from Europe, for example, linking the overall raises in the salaries of civil servants to a reduction in their numbers," or, more broadly, an increase in their productivity, as is the case in the private sector. Obviously, improvements like this don't happen accidentally. It takes studies, technology and determination." (133)
It looks like Winston Churchill's quip (quoted by Cuneo) holds for bankers, financiers, investors and entrepreneurs too: "Political skill is the ability to foresee what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And later the ability to explain why it didn't happen." (132) (Adriano Metz, also in Italian Slow economy, Wall Street)
Learning and change in European foreign policy : the case of the EU special representatives / Cornelius Adebahr. - Baden-Baden : Nomos, 2009. - 267 p. - (DGAP-Schriften zur Internationalen Politik). - ISBN 978-3-8329-4721-7
The primary merit of this volume, published in 2009, is that it takes an aspect of European foreign policy that has been neglected until now, namely the function of EU Special Representatives, and attempts, by means of a theoretical framework based on organizational learning (OL) theory, to analyse its value. Overall, the outcome is remarkable. The empirical research on the operational history and institutional development of EU Special Representatives represents a coherent contribution to the meagre existing literature, and arguably a milestone for future studies on the subject. Although limited in its ability to combine these empirical findings successfully with a solid theoretical discourse - in this regard the OL approach often appears under-substantiated and rather unnecessary - the analysis still reveals some important political dynamics.
Indeed, EU Special Representatives seem to occupy an essential position in the process of working out a shared European foreign policy, in at least three crucial ways. First, their work provides Brussels with precious information and analyses (policy input function) which could be used to further strengthen the authority and effectiveness of EU external actions, encouraging the development of common policies on overlooked geographic regions. Second, their very presence constitutes what the author defines as a "boundary spanning" force, able to connect the EU's internal and external boundaries as well as the political boundaries of conflicting institutional subjects. And third, EU Special Representatives also seem to be able to foster more efficient coordination between dissimilar member states' policies as well as within the EU's civil/military operations on the ground.
At the same time, there are reasons for concern. In its informed analysis of the appearance of EU Special Representatives during the '90s, the book repeatedly stresses the lack of a clear and comprehensive political strategy behind them. Indeed, the "learning by doing" modus operandi seems to pose an intrinsic, structural limit to improvement. The author's acknowledgement that member states themselves are one of the main obstacles to the strengthening of the role of EU Special Representatives clearly reinforces this impression.
Although significant in the aspects mentioned so far, the main value of this book lies in its potential contribution to the imminent European External Action Service. Such a European diplomatic structure could indeed benefit from several of its empirical findings, thus avoiding some of the shortcomings of the Special Representatives' institutional design. The ability to coordinate their action with the Council and the Commission or the necessity to create an administrative support structure based in Brussels are just two of the positive suggestions made by this book.
This may not be a totally persuasive theoretical work, but it is definitely an informed, carefully researched empirical evaluation of an important and extensively neglected aspect of European foreign policy. Its additional learning value with respect to the future European diplomatic service constitutes another rare, positive feature. (Jacopo Leone)
Il ventennio costituzionale dell'Unione europea : testimonianze di un diplomatico al servizio della causa europea / Rocco Antonio Cangelosi ; prefazione di Giorgio Napolitano. - Venezia : Marsilio, 2009. - 306 p. - (Idee d'Europa). - ISBN 978-88-317-9905-8
Rocco Cangelosi's book is about the dream of a more effective and cohesive European Union - the European dream. The introduction recalls the road taken with much determination by the founding fathers, Spinelli, De Gasperi, Monnet, Schumann, etc. and concludes that even though the final target is still distant and will in any case be different from the one they imagined, the tormented ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon has finally given the green light to a new stage in the much-pursued and hoped-for integration process.
Actually, looking back over the long process of European institutional reform, from the Single European Act (1986) to Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and now Lisbon, the results achieved are far better than the ones expected. This is the feeling one gets from reading Cangelosi's book, composed of a number of essays and articles that the author wrote through the course of the years, twenty to be exact, that he spent in various prominent diplomatic positions inside the European Union.
Revisiting the difficulties the Union has had to deal with in passing from 12 to 27 members, in progressively adding foreign, defence and internal security policy to its original competences, in coping with a world that is radically different today from the way it was when it was born, in confronting wars and crises on its borders, one has to admit that on the whole the initial objective has been reached and important achievements have been made. In a letter written in response to the monographic issue of an Italian journal entitled, Europe is a bluff, Cangelosi asked how that can be when it has formed a market for 450 million consumers, has common regulations, a Court of Justice which, ever since the Cassis di Dijon sentence acts as a federating body like the US Supreme Court, has a legal and constitutional acquis, a single currency, a common trade policy, common foreign policy actions, a common space without border controls, common agencies in advanced sectors like the European Space Agency and common programmes such as Iter, Galileo, Erasmus, etc.
Now with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the long period of institutional reform and "constitutional" Europe, as the author rightly calls it, has probably come to an end. Another generation, another twenty years, will probably have to pass before Europeans decide to move towards closer Union again. But Lisbon will ensure Europeans a huge growth potential: the potential to transform itself into a credible international actor in a world that is still undergoing dramatic changes. In fact, Lisbon provides Europeans with a number of instruments, from the High Representative to the elected President of the European Council, from the External Action Service to structured cooperation in the field of defence, that can add substance to the EU's ambitions to play an international role.
But of course nothing is automatic in politics and, as Italian President Giorgio Napolitano points out in the introduction, "if integration stagnates or goes backward, there is no future for the role of Europe in the world either today or tomorrow" (page 9). Thus it is up to Europeans to help keep the "idealistic" option of Europe alive by making sure that the Lisbon Treaty does not remain dead letter, but rather a dynamic element in the EU's future, overcoming the difficulties that it encounters along the road to integration. Reminding us all of this, Cangelosi's book is already a small but significant contribution in this direction. ( Gianni Bonvicini, also in Italian)
L'America Latina nel XXI secolo : nazioni, regionalismo e globalizzazione / Gian Luca Gardini. - Roma : Carocci, 2009. - 155 p. - (Quality paperbacks ; 289). - ISBN 978-88-430-5108-3
In the midst of a new round of elections in many Latin American countries - which recently resulted in Piñera's victory in Chile - this book is valuable not only to experts and scholars in Latin American and EU external relations but to all those interested in understanding the political and international relations of this fascinating part of the world. The book exhaustively examines the politics of the countries of Latin America at the beginning of the new millennium. The work is broken down into three parts, the first analyses the political and economic dynamics of the countries of the region; the second, more complex and elaborate, looks at the specific characteristics of Latin American regionalism and paints a detailed picture of the main sub-regional integration projects, such as Mercosur, CAN, NAFTA, Alba and Unasur and their possible future developments. Finally, the third part investigates Latin America's international placement, from the evolution of its relations with the United States, its historical trade partner, through the emergence of an important new interlocutor, China, to relations with the European Union, the second biggest foreign investor and "main provider of development aid in the area" (126).
One of the most significant elements that emerges is the new emphasis placed on public policies, especially on social policy after more than a decade of rigorous application of the neo-liberal recipes originating from the Washington Consensus. In particular, the author points out that the priority which has been given to the social agenda recently is not an exclusive prerogative of the governments forming "pink wave", meaning the sensational electoral victory of left and centre-left coalitions, starting with the first election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 1998 and Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula in 2002. Contrary to most assumptions on this issue, Gardini claims that the innovative Latin American social agenda is an indicator of the radical change taking place in the policymaking of these countries. Not limited to leftist Venezuela, it is unfolding in Mexico as well, a country governed by the liberalist Felipe Calderon.
This new approach to public policy identifies the state as a crucial actor in the economic and social development. This is also why relations with the European Union are presently deemed so important by Latin American countries: the EU is considered a point of reference, both because of the different welfare state models and the particular features of its integration process. Accordingly, the European Union represents "a possible alternative to the North American influence, both as a political and trade partner and as an ally in multilateral fora" (127). While the subject is complex, the reading is easy. The book represents a complete text for those looking for a 360° overview of the social, political and international situation in this area. (Marina Izzo, also in Italian)
Darfur / Luca Pierantoni. - [Taranto] : Chimienti, c2008. - 125 p. - (Societas ; 5). - ISBN 978-88-6115-007-2
Darfur, by Luca Pierantoni, political coordinator of the European Commission delegation in Sudan from 2005 to 2008, is an essential read. It clearly explains - "calling things by their name" - what happened in what can be considered the greatest humanitarian and one of the most important political crises of this century. According to the author, this approach is necessary in a scenario characterized by policymakers' frequent unwillingness to make important yet unpopular choices in response to a public opinion that often doesn't know what it wants but demands that "something be done". Furthermore, journalists rarely invest the time and resources needed to write quality articles, and tend to modify or even distort news to make them more attractive to the average reader, thoughtlessly identifying "good" and "bad", stressing the role of Islamic groups, etc.
The book aims to provide a clear economic, political and geographic analysis of the situation in Darfur, refusing to label it a traditional war of independence or to explain it simply on the grounds of competing economic interests over oil. It provides a historical reconstruction of what has happened in Sudan since colonial times, underlining the interests and political manipulations that have contributed to (and profited from) the existing conflicts. Pierantoni starts out by focusing on Darfur's geographic features: a territory in the Sahel, as large as France, located in the western part of Sudan, where the growing lack of natural resources (especially water) and desertification have been causing disputes, pushing the nomad tribes (of Arab origin) ever closer to the territories of sedentary tribes (of African origin) and compelling them to stay for longer periods of time. Thus the crisis in Darfur cannot be reduced only to an ethnic dispute (Arab vs African), even if it is often portrayed as such.
In his attempt to explain where the actual responsibilities for this crisis lie, the author examines the political manipulations of intertribal conflicts perpetrated by the bordering countries (Libya and Chad) but also, at the national level, by the political parties close to the Khartoum government. The latter, believed, in final analysis, to be mainly responsible for the Darfur tragedy, continues to hinder the activities of international organisations on Sudanese territory. However, the international community is also strongly criticised. Indeed, Pierantoni complains about the system set up to protect the so-called "internally displaced persons", which consists of "enclosing people inside a fence", as well as about the behaviour of some western representatives who, hungry for personal exposure, travel to Darfur for a couple hours, have a photo taken and then fly out again. Taking this logic to the extreme, the whole Darfur tragedy, which cost one billion dollars in 2008, could be considered a "big business", providing work for thousands of people (but not the Darfurians).
The author finally focuses on recent events and the future prospects of the UNAMID mission in Darfur, which seems to be unable to establish peace by itself, something that would require an effective political agreement and a process of national conciliation. These measures are deemed particularly urgent and crucial for building a sustainable peace that does not last just long "enough to be mentioned by the Wall Street Journal" but can finally provide a normal life for those millions of people who are still waiting "for peace to come". (Rosa Rosanelli)
Energy security : visions from Asia and Europe / edited by Antonio Marquina. - Basingstoke and New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2008. - xxi, 288 p. - ISBN 978-0-230-21970-0
Energy security is emerging as one of the most over-used concepts in the international political debate. The impressive rise in oil prices during summer 2008 and the recurring gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine have directly affected European energy markets. Thus the need to discuss and conceptualise what energy security effectively means, and what the emerging geopolitical, economic and technical challenges posed by the increasing instability of energy markets and supplies actually are.
Energy Security, edited by Antonio Marquina, is a collection of papers presented by European and Asian energy experts and scholars at a meeting of the ASEM Education Hub Thematic network on Human Security.
In the first part, the book analyses the energy issue from an EU point of view. After describing the role of Germany as the EU's pivotal actor in defining European energy security policies, it investigates the complex relationship between the EU and Russia, Europe's key energy provider. It then addresses the so-called "China factor", examining the rise of the EU's main energy competitor and the possible sources of competition and cooperation between these two players. Finally, it identifies and evaluates emerging energy opportunities, focusing in particular on the EU's policies towards Central Asia and on the development of the "southeastern corridor" aimed at connecting the EU to the energy-rich Caspian countries.
The second part of the book is composed of rather disjointed chapters that examine national approaches to energy security in three European countries: Greece, Italy and Spain. In this section, experts offer comprehensive descriptions of each country's energy needs, responses and future security strategies, showing how even such similar countries can develop heterogeneous approaches to energy issues. In particular, the experts highlight how national interests largely shape European governments' decision-making and slow down the effective implementation of a common European energy policy.
The third part provides an overview of Asia's emerging role in the energy domain, starting with the two major regional players, China and Japan. Chinese policies cover two chapters, the first of which focuses on the international dimension of its "energy diplomacy", while the second provides an historical analysis of Beijing's domestic approach to energy. They are followed by an overview of Japanese national energy policies and Tokyo's footprint in Asian energy dynamics. The remaining chapters are devoted to two Asian mid-sized players, the hydrocarbon-rich Indonesia and the net-importer Philippines, and to an assessment of regional responses to the emerging energy challenges put in place both by northeast-Asian countries and by ASEAN states.
The book concludes by dealing with two general issues rarely addressed in the main debates on energy: nuclear energy and human security. The former is presented as a possible alternative to hydrocarbons in the production of electricity, in particular due to its relatively low cost and its low CO2 emissions. The latter is briefly described with an account of the different approaches adopted in Europe and Asia.
Energy Security is a good tool for understanding the national and regional dynamics related to energy security. It offers a wide and multi-faceted approach to the geopolitics of energy, and is completed by a remarkable amount of data and information - not always homogeneous - on energy in Europe and Asia. This is extremely useful for understanding the emerging geopolitical trends and predicting future developments in the energy relationship between the two continents. However, despite its good intentions, it actually fails to provide an initial (and necessary) conceptualisation of the idea of "energy security" and a coherent strategic analysis of energy issues. This is probably due to its rather fragmented structure, with each author using a different approach, which does not allow the reader to get a complete and consistent picture of the topic. (Nicolò Sartori)