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Posts from the ‘Europe’ Category

European NATO Defense Spending- Worst of Both Worlds?

By Taylor Marvin

French Dassault Rafale aircraft on the French carrier Charles de Gaulle. Photo by Pascal Subtil.

French Dassault Rafale aircraft on the French carrier Charles de Gaulle. Photo by Pascal Subtil.

European NATO members in combat over Libya are rapidly depleting  their armament stocks and are tactically hampered by their small number of available strike aircraft. From The Washington Post:

“Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time, according to senior NATO and U.S. officials.”

This is really just another reminder that European NATO member defense budgets are essentially optimized for nothing. If NATO is a pure defense pact tasked with defending the European continent then the UK, France, Germany and other member states all overspend on their defense budgets and could better use the money somewhere else. But if NATO is a global peacekeeping force that intervenes in foreign humanitarian crises with no direct impact on European security member states’ military spending is insufficient, because their defense budgets don’t support the requirements of fighting expeditionary wars or projecting power internationally. In many ways, major European NATO members’ preference for high but not expeditionary levels of military spending minimizes the practical returns on their defense budgets.

Update: I amended the title of this piece soon after it was posted.

Knife to a Gunfight

By Taylor Marvin

Libyan rebels. Source: Voice of America.

Libyan rebels. Source: Voice of America.

From the New York Times:

“With only weeks of fighting experience, they lack an understanding of the fundamentals of offensive and defensive combat, or how to organize fire support. They fire recklessly and sometimes accidentally. Most of them have yet to learn how to hold seized ground, or to protect themselves from their battlefield’s persistent rocket and mortar fire, which might be done by simply digging in.

Prone to panic, they often answer to little more than their mood, which changes in a flash. When their morale spikes upward, their attacks tend to be painfully and bloodily frontal — little more than racing columns down the highway, through a gantlet of the Qaddafi forces’ rocket and mortar fire, face forward into the loyalists’ machine guns

And their numbers are small. Officials in the rebels’ transitional government have provided many different figures, sometimes saying 10,000 or men are under arms in their ranks.

But a small fraction actually appear at the front each day — often only a few hundred. And some of the men appear without guns, or with aged guns that have no magazines or ammunition.”

Any NATO strategy that relies on the rebels to militarily break the stalemate isn’t going to succeed. Qaddafi’s forces are proving themselves to be much better organized and more ingenuitive than the rebels, and are apparently adopting unconventional tactics in a successful attempt to avoid NATO close air support assets. Despite their enormous personal bravery, the rebels’ lack of a command structure seems to have prevented them from adopting even rudimentary military tactics and adapting to their tactical situation, despite having been in combat for over a month. If NATO sticks to its commitment to avoid boots on the ground, the rebels are likely not going to be able to take advantage of coalition air support and win decisive victories to force an end the civil war. This is troubling. It’s an open question how long domestic politics are going to allow France, the UK, and US air power to remain committed in Libya, and any war of attrition longer than a few months will favor Qaddafi’s forces, who are more disciplined, better equipped, and more numerous. Given the rebels’ lack of formal command and volatile moral, it’s not impossible that if the war lasts much longer individual fighters will begin to reconsider their chances of victory and go home, potentially fatally weakening rebel defensive capabilities. Until NATO is willing to be realistic about the capability discrepancy in Libya it doesn’t have an exit strategy.

“Kinetic Military Action” and Hypocrisy

By Taylor Marvin

The USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile against a Libyan target.

The USS Stout launches a Tomahawk missile against a Libyan target.

Mark LeVine and Reza Aslan get the motives behind the intervention in Libya spectacularly wrong:

“Yet it is impossible not to recognize the rank hypocrisy in supporting the rights of anti-government protesters in Libya, while turning a blind eye to the same in Bahrain, where government troops have massacred dozens of unarmed civilians; in Yemen, where the regime of president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been firing live ammunition into peaceful crowds; in Saudi Arabia, whose military has been sent into neighboring countries to brutally suppress people’s demand for the most basic rights and freedoms; in the Palestinian territories, where non-violent demonstrations for an end to Israeli settlements have been completely ignored by an American administration who, until recently, vowed that a settlement freeze would form the basis of its Middle East policy.”

This isn’t hypocrisy; this is the US intervening when it’s in its interests and abilities to do so. Despite credible humanitarian justifications for US actions in Bahrain and Yemen, hypothetical interventions in these countries fail any reasonable benefit-cost analysis. Bahrain is the home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Yemen is an increasingly ungovernable state with deep ethnic divisions and a strong al Qaeda presence. Wars, or in the administration’s terms a “time-limited, scope-limited kinetic military action,” aren’t required to be morally consistent- just because one humanitarian crisis meets the administration’s benefit-cost threshold for military action doesn’t make it hypocrisy if others do not. This criticism also ignores that fact that the humanitarian situation in Libya is much worse than in Yemen or Bahrain — while these governments have killed hundreds of their own citizens, Qaddafi credibly threatened the death tens of thousands. The US didn’t intervene in Libya just because of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe, it did because, in addition to moral concerns, the continued existence of the Qaddafi regime was undesirable to the US. The stability of Yemen and Bahrain, on the other hand, is highly valuable to US interests. This may be immoral, but that doesn’t make it false. Believing the US acts, or should act, for any other motivation is hopelessly naive.

Of course, LeVine and Aslan refrain from advocating US military actions against the governing despots in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. But how much diplomatic influence does the US actually have over these rulers? While the US is a large source of funding for the Yemen’s government, it’s not clear if the US could diplomatically deter crackdowns against protesters. Attempting to would incur diplomatic costs for the US, for uncertain gains. Criticizing the administration for “inconsistency” in its response to crackdowns against protesters across the Arab world isn’t just unrealistic, but spectacularly bad policy. Military interventions aren’t an all or nothing choice — the US intervenes when its cost-effective, in its interests, and has a reasonable chance of a desirable outcome. Demanding that the US ignore the vastly different political and military environments in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain in pursuit of a different moral position is a recipe for unintended adverse involvement in very dangerous situations, and is much more reminiscent of the type of magical thinking that led to the Iraq war than LeVine and Aslan are prepared to admit. There are very good reasons to criticize President Obama’s decision making on Libya — it’s an open ended conflict that’s most likely end-state is a costly stalemate, the intervention seems to fail any reasonable cost-benefit test for the US, and the administration’s decision makers seems to have grossly overestimated the military capabilities of the rebels and strategic effectiveness of aerial strikes. But criticizing Obama for hypocrisy ignores the reality of international politics and limited US influence in the region, and is a poor argument.

A No-Fly Zone Over Libya?

By Taylor Marvin

Art by Mohammed Shamma.

Art by Mohammed Shamma.

An amphibious assault ship with a 400 strong Marine contingent is steaming towards Libya. Does this mean that the US is preparing to intervene in the increasingly bloody conflict between Qaddafi and his own people? Probably not- the carrier USS Enterprise, currently stationed in the Red Sea, isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that the US doesn’t have the capabilities to quickly demolish Libya’s air force and extensive air defense network. US Navy aviation assets outclass any potential Libyan resistance, and Air Force F-22s already stationed in North Africa would likely be completely undetectable by Libya’s network of ancient anti-air radar stations. So why isn’t the US intervening?

A growing chorus of voices in the West are calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, in an attempt to quickly stop atrocities by pro-government forces and weaken Qaddafi’s rule. Secretary Clinton says the option is “under active consideration.” Marc Lynch sums up the argument:

“By acting, I mean a response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors”

To advocates of a no-fly zone, Qaddafi’s ongoing atrocities create a moral imperative for the US to stop. Daniel Larison doesn’t agree:

“It is a standard interventionist tactic to try to rush a policy decision so that intervention seems to be the only appropriate choice. ‘There is no time to think through what we’re doing! We have to start doing it immediately!’ This is all the more strange when it seems as if Gaddafi’s hold on the country seems to be getting weaker every day.”

Andrew Exum echos this caution:

“I have been working under the suspicion that most of the good-natured people clamoring for a no-fly zone in Libya have not thought very hard about what, exactly, that might entail. Most of the people insisting the United States DO SOMETHING are either ignorant about the risks and complexities of contemporary military operations or gloss over those risks and complexities.”

He’s right- establishing a no-fly zone is a complicated, expensive military operation, and one that has the potential to easily slide into an open-ended commitment of significant military resources. Consider the example of the US/European effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Northern and Southern Iraq from the Gulf War to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. Operation Provide Comfort and its successors Operations Northern and Southern Watch involved thousands of US and European airmen and soldiers, and dozens of aircraft. American aircraft were regularly fired upon by the Iraqis, and a friendly fire incident between US fighter jets and US Army transport helicopters killed 26 allied soldiers. There’s no reason to think a no-fly zone over Libya would be any less costly. Initially, any sustained US or NATO air presence over Libya would require the destruction of Libya’s air defense network, the second most extensive in Africa. While this is easily within the capabilities of the US military, it would probably be the largest US Air Force operation since the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, with a real possibility of lost US planes. Given the relatively large numerical size of the Libyan air force, it’s also likely that enforcing a no-fly zone would tie up a significant portion of US military resources, potentially for a long time. If the developing civil war in Libya evolves into a stalemate between the opposition-held east of the country and government-controlled Tripoli the US commitment to protect the opposition government could stretch for years, much like the decade long no-fly zone over Iraq. This doesn’t mean a no-fly zone isn’t justified, but it isn’t a decision that should be advocated lightly.

Nearly all of America’s wars of the past half century have been accidental. In Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq tragedies appealed to our most noble sentiments- America, with its unparalleled military power and public morality, could stop horrible conflicts. It’s hard to ignore this urge, especially under the constant assurances of pundits and analysts claiming how simple a humanitarian operation will be, and how it can’t be compared to the last quagmire America stumbled into. Maybe they’re right, and Libya is different- maybe the US can stop a madman from burning his own country quickly and easily. But history suggests that simple operations quickly become less simple once they’re actually begun. Anyone who can’t appreciate this is living in a fantasy world. That’s why the seductive reasoning of idealists like Christopher Hitchens can be so dangerous:

“Unless the administration seriously envisages a future that includes the continued private ownership of Libya and its people by Qaddafi and his terrible offspring, it’s a sheer matter of prudence and realpolitik, to say nothing of principle, to adopt a policy that makes the opposite assumption. Libya is—in point of population and geography—mainly a coastline. The United States, with or without allies, has unchallengeable power in the air and on the adjacent waters. It can produce great air lifts and sea lifts of humanitarian and medical aid, which will soon be needed anyway along the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, and which would purchase undreamed-of goodwill. It has the chance to make up for its pointless, discredited tardiness with respect to events in Cairo and Tunis. It also has a president who has shown at least the capacity to deliver great speeches on grand themes. Instead, and in the crucial and formative days in which revolutions are decided, we have had to endure the futile squawkings of a cuckoo clock.”

This optimism is a dream. That doesn’t make it false, but Hitchens’ assurances that a unilateral US intervention in Libya (and unilateral is what it would be) would “purchase undreamed-of goodwill” is based on the West’s own desires, not a clear-headed assessment of history and the tangled politics of warfare. No ones suggesting a ground invasion of Libya. But the last time I heard such a bipartisan call for war- and that’s the only term for military operations that kill people- and assurances of grateful thanks from the oppressed was 2003. The overarching lesson of the last half century of American foreign policy is that conflicts, especially civil wars, are easy to enter but hard to leave. Maybe Libya is different, but caution is rarely overrated.

The Challenge of Eliminating Land-Based ICBMs

By Taylor Marvin

Soviet R-36 nuclear missile launch. The R-36 could carry over 10 nuclear warheads, giving each missile the potential to kill millions of people.

Soviet R-36 nuclear missile launch. The R-36 could carry over 10 nuclear warheads, giving each missile the potential to kill millions of people.

At Slate Fred Kaplan critiques President Obama’s new defense budget, specifically the funding of new nuclear missiles:

“Is anybody thinking about the idea of phasing out the ICBMs? These are the weapons that, over the decades, have spurred first-strike temptations to begin with. They are at once the most accurate and the most vulnerable nuclear weapons. That is, they are capable of destroying, and being destroyed by, the other side’s ICBMs. In other words, their very existence creates temptations of pre-emptive strike in the event of a crisis. They are the weapons, in fact, that generated the nuclear arms race of the 1960s to 1980s. Now that the Cold War is kaput and the notion of first-strike scenarios more improbable than ever, let’s get rid of them—rather than plan to build more of them—while the climate is clear.”

This is a good idea. Land-based ICBMs are extremely destabilizing- unlike ballistic missiles launched from submarines they are accurate enough to target an enemy’s arsenal, making then the only weapon system with the potential to destroy a good portion of an opponent’s nuclear force on the ground. Submarine launched weapons (SLBMs), on the other hand, are extremely stabilizing. They can’t be targeted by an enemy, and their invulnerability make a successful first strike impossible. Money spent on ICBMs is wasted, because spending on land-based missiles doesn’t provide any more marginal deterrence over naval nuclear forces. Eliminating both American and Russian land-based ICBMs would be a very good way to cut the world’s nuclear arsenal, reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war, and save money in both countries. However, there are reasons to think this won’t happen anytime soon:

  1. The Obama administration’s difficulty passing the recent New START treaty in the Senate demonstrate that a vocal portion of the Republican party does not approve of cutting the US’s nuclear arsenal at all, despite nearly the entire US military and diplomatic establishment’s support for the treaty. While a good portion of this opposition was politically motivated, it’s worth remembering that the New START treaty was fairly limited and broadly uncontroversial- eliminating an entire leg of the US’s nuclear triad will be very unpopular in parts of the American political establishment. Given the structure of the Senate, even limited opposition to eliminating US ICBMs could be fatal.
  2. Submarine-launched missiles are fielded by the US Navy, while ICBMs are operated by the Air Force. Something tells me that the Air Force won’t be happy to give up such a politically important and well funded asset. Services value the importance nuclear forces give them; in the late 1940s the US Navy went to great lengths to acquire carrier launched bombers and end the Air Force monopoly on nuclear weapons. Even in the post-Cold War era the Air Force will exert significant political pressure to retain the ICBM mission.
  3. The United States will not unilaterally eliminate a significant portion of its nuclear arsenal- cuts to US land-based ICBMs must be matched by comparable reductions in the Russian arsenal for this measure to be politically acceptable. However, there are reasons to suspect that the Russians won’t agree to such a drastic restructuring of their nuclear arsenal. Russia nuclear forces are much more biased towards land-based missiles than the US’s. Russia currently fields roughly 1,500 land-based warheads on 500 individual missiles. America’s number of land-based missile roughly corresponds with Russia’s, but the US’s only fielded ICBM, the LGM-30, only carries one warhead, so the number of US land-based warheads is limited by the number of individual missiles. The maximum current American SLBM arsenal is 1,700 warheads on 280 missiles, fielded on 14 class submarines. Russian SLBM forces are much more limited– the Russians currently field only 625 warheads on 175 missiles. Additionally, sub-launched ballistic missiles are more expensive than their land-based counterparts. The unit cost American LGM-30 Minuteman missiles, currently the only ICBM in the US arsenal, is $7 million, while the cost of the US Navy’s current SLBM, the UGM-133 Trident II, is $30.9 million. Russian missiles show a similar price difference. Eliminating the ICBM portion of the Russian nuclear triad while still maintaining nuclear parity with the US would require the construction of a significant number of new missile submarines, as well as procuring expensive additional SLBMs. This is a significant cost- the unit price of Russia’s new Borei class ballistic missile submarine is about $890 million, while the equivalent US Ohio class cost $2 billion. Given modern Russia’s chronic difficulty financing new military acquisitions it is unlikely that the Russians would agree to such a drastic and expensive restructuring of their nuclear forces. This inevitable Russian unwillingness bear the cost of nuclear force restructuring rather than simple reduction means the US will not eliminate its ICBM arsenal anytime in the foreseeable future.

Decriminalization, American Style

By Taylor Marvin

Nine years ago Portugal, facing mounting drug use rates and addiction-fueled urban decay, decriminalized all drugs. Trafficking drugs remained illegal but possession of all drugs, including highly addictive and dangerous heroine, could be legally used. The move was intended to encourage addicts to seek medical help without fear of arrest and allow police to ignore personal drug use while focusing on apprehending traffickers and major dealers. The anniversary of this policy is attracting a good deal of media attention– nearly a decade on Portugal’s experiment seems to have worked. Previously decaying inner city neighborhoods are much safer now, drug seizure rates are up 500 percent, and addiction rates have fallen. As could be expected with the removal of the risk of legal punishment for drug use the number of young people experimenting with drugs has slightly risen, but the portion of these experimenters who actually become chronic users seems to have fallen dramatically. After a decade long experiment the policy seems to be a good one- as libertarians have insisted, the small social costs of decriminalizing the consumption of all drugs is far outweighed by the never-ending social and financial price of expensive and ineffectual prohibition.

As positive as Portugal’s experience with wholesale decriminalization seems to have been, its hard to imagine the more conservative and religious US taking similar steps in the foreseeable future. Despite America’s self-identification as a bastion of personal freedom truly libertarian policies like narcotic decriminalization are rare here, and barring a major shift in American political ideology likely to remain so. However, public enthusiasm for marijuana legalization is the highest it’s ever been and, because of wide support for legal pot among younger voters, likely to become more so in the future. Individual states voting passing initiatives to legalize marijuana is possible in the next decades, and national legalization isn’t unimaginable. But if Americans do vote to legalize pot and not harder drugs, legislatures will have to decide where to draw the line on the legalization spectrum. If drugs like heroine and meth are, justifiably, too dangerous to decriminalize while pot isn’t where should the line be drawn? Given America’s messy encounters with drug politics this will be a contintious issue.

Source:  Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse. The Lancet

Source: "Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse." The Lancet.

Here’s a possible solution. From The Lancet, this figure charts individual drugs’ potential for dependence and physical danger. Why not legislate that drugs below 2 on either the dependence or harm scale are safe enough to decriminalize, and the more dangerous drugs above these lines remain illegal? That would allow individuals the freedom to experiment with the drugs that rarely cause permanent harm, saving billion in prohibition costs, while truly horrible substances would remain prohibited. Of course the nearly century-long prohibition of heroine and cocaine hasn’t done anything to keep these drugs off the streets, but this policy would allow the federal government to maintain that these drugs are too dangerous to receive tacit state approval, even if prohibition is billions of dollars more expensive and arguably more socially harmful than decriminalization and well funded recovery programs. There’s one other problem with this decriminalization scheme: if American politicians insist, with good reason, that methadone and barbiturates are so addicting that citizens can’t be permitted to legally buy them then tobacco must be as well, because it’s nearly as addicting as cocaine. So if we want an evenhanded drug policy either tobacco is too dangerous to legally sell, or you should be able to buy hard depressants and synthetic opioids in any gas station. Something tells me we’re in for a long debate before we find an answer.

American vs. French Protesting

By Taylor Marvin

Lexington has a pretty low opinion of French protesters:

“It is not hard, if you really try, to find good things to say about America’s tea-partiers. They are not French, for a start. France’s new revolutionaries, those who have been raising Cain over Nicolas Sarkozy’s modest proposal to raise the age of retirement by two years, appear to believe that public money is printed in heaven and will rain down for ever like manna to pay for pensions, welfare, medical care and impenetrable avant-garde movies.”

The Future of the Royal Navy

British flagship carrier Ark Royal, slated for immediate decommissioning with no replacement until at least 2020. Photo by Ian Visits.

By Taylor Marvin

The UK continues to cut military spending in an effort to balance its massive budget shortfall. The Royal Navy’s getting the worst of it- the core of the British fleet will be reduced to non-carrier 19 surface ships, a cut that will definitively end the Britain’s status as an expeditionary naval power, probably forever. Whether you agree with the wisdom of these cuts or not it it’s obvious that they will have major implications for the balance of world naval power. War is Boring has a good older post on their significance.

“Under current plans, the Royal Navy circa 2020 will be a very strange force. There will be just six high-end warships to protect two 65,000-ton super-carriers, plus a mixed flotilla of old Type 23s and FSCs numbering just over a dozen. It’ll be a top-heavy force with too few destroyers to escort the carriers into a shooting war, and too few frigates to perform day-to-day patrolling during peacetime. It’s a fleet optimized for nothing.”

France’s Veil Ban

By Taylor Marvin
On September 14, France’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban face-covering veils in public. The bill enjoyed wide public support in France: according to a recent survey , 82 percent of the French public supports the ban, with most supporters citing concerns over women’s rights and the erosion of France’s secular society. What is interesting is just how deep the support for the law is across French society. Unlike many other social legislations, the ban enjoys wide support among both French youth and the elderly and is backed by both the French political left and right. It’s important to remember what this law is at its core—France has just banned the public wearing of a specific type of garment, a restriction largely unprecedented in Western democracies.

While France is the first state to move towards a formal ban, restricting Islamic facial coverings is not unheard of in most European societies. While the ban is most popular in France, Britain, Germany, and Spain, all support the restriction by wide margins:

Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project

It is interesting to note how much lower the support for such a ban is in the United States: here, only 28 percent of the population supports a restriction while 65 percent disapprove. Moreover, American approval for a ban on facial veils remains low despite increased anti-Muslim sentiment and recent public opposition to mosque construction. What contributes to the vast differences between American and European support for a veil ban?

Differences in veil ban approval on both sides of the Atlantic seem to be rooted in demographics, not overall political culture. Support for the ban tends to be correlated with the percentage of Muslims in each country’s society:

Source: The Pew Forum

Support for restrictions on Muslim religious clothing is likely tied to demographics because a popular narrative of a minority religion’s threat to the social status quo is more credible in societies with a large and visible minority population. This view is supported by European demographics: France, where support for the ban is nearly universal, leads Europe with a 5-10 percent Muslim population (accurate statistics are hard to come by because most liberal democracies don’t request religious census information), while in Germany and the UK, where the ban is less supported but still widely popular, Muslims number between 5 and 2 percent of the population. Spain’s 2 percent Muslim population likely contributes to its lower support for a ban. In America the Muslim population is much less than one percent of the population, despite its high media profile and controversial image in public society, and this small size likely contributes to the strong public opposition to a ban.

However, national culture does probably play a role in shaping public support for a veil ban. The American Muslim population is much more integrated into wider society than their European counterparts. Many European Muslims, especially in France, live in ethnically segregated areas and suffer from incomes far below the national average. Additionally, despite a recent rise in public acceptance of anti-Muslim attitudes in American society, anti-Muslim sentiment and concern over the future of Islam in Europe are much more prevalent in Europe than the US. All of these factors likely contribute to the wider European approval of a public veil ban, while the American history of wide immigration and the US’s varied ethnic makeup seem to help blunt these concerns.

The wide European support for a veil ban tell us a lot about the problems of integrating a growing and highly visible minority into democratic societies. France’s veil ban is unjustified and wrong. While France’s concerns over women’s rights and a secular society are valid, a broad ban on a specific type of clothing is clearly a violation of individual rights. If a woman chooses to express herself and her beliefs by adopting a certain manner of dress, a liberal government clearly has no justification in stopping her. Additionally, while a commitment to public secularism is an important part of French national heritage and public culture, no one can argue that this commitment requires restricting private citizens’ right to express their religious views. Women’s rights are clearly an important guarantee of any liberal society. However, restricting the veil does not strengthen this goal. Continuing to permit the veil would not legalize domestic abuse, and a women’s freedom of choice over her own wardrobe is clearly a fundamental part of her own personal liberty.

Ostensibly, the French proposal to ban the veil is based on French values and civil traditions. No one would deny that countries have a right to restrict the habits of immigrants, even if this contradicts immigrants’ cultural values. There are some cultural practices that have no place in liberal societies—female illiteracy or sex-specific abortion come to mind. However, banning the veil clearly does not meet this criteria. Instead, this ban is rooted in Europe’s long challenge of adopting to a multicultural society inhabited not exclusively by European ethnic groups and cultural practices. While European nations do have a responsibility to protect their liberal traditions and a right to preserve their basic social traits, this can’t infringe on the private rights of their own citizens. The veil ban is clearly such an infringement, and has no place in the liberal, pluralistic societies Europeans pride themselves in building.