Friday, March 30, 2007

The Afghanistan War and NATO's present and future

This paper from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) looks at the options for the future of NATO alliance: Recasting the Euro-Atlantic Partnership by Franklin D. Kramer and Simon Serfaty 02/01/07.

The ongoing Afghanistan War gets such poor coverage in the American press. But that war is a NATO operation, in which our NATO allies Germany, France and Spain are actively participating in line with their commitment after the 9/11 attacks to support the US war there to go after Al Qaida and the Taliban regime that was allied with and protected it.

But the Afghanistan War is getting more criticism in Europe and it drags on with little progress, and even a deteriorating military situation with the increased activity of the Taliban, although some of what gets called "Taliban" in the press could turn out to be local warlords or tribal groups, or other Islamic fundamentalists not specifically affiliated with the actual Taliban. Kramer and Serfaty write that among NATO countries, "there is a general consensus that progress in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan is far from satisfactory."

And they elaborate in a passage that is a real reminder that even "humanitarian" military interventions of the 1990s need to be re-examined realistically in light of subsequent developments:
Other interventions do not suggest that Afghanistan is an aberration. Based on the existing record, the Euro-Atlantic countries can hardly guarantee that their involvement in future interventions will necessarily resolve any given situation. Bosnia is still far from an effectively functioning state; East Timor has had significant problems; Haiti remains a miasma. Somalia and Iraq are worse. Kosovo is yet to be resolved. Each of these interventions has had significant international involvement, substantial resources, and long-term commitments. But none has had clear success.

To be sure, there are examples of positive results - the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo put an end to significant killings, and, despite the difficulties since then, those instances had great benefit for that reason alone. But Bosnia and Kosovo show the difficulty of moving from humanitarian efforts -"halt the killing" - to the broader requirements of creating a functioning polity; and other cases, such as Somalia and Iraq, show that interventions do not even always result in the end of killing (though, of course, non-intervention can result in a great deal more, as in Rwanda and now Darfur). (my emphasis)
Kramer and Serfaty in this article essentially take it for granted that the NATO alliance will continue on a long-term basis. They describe a number of major areas on which the US and Europe need to cooperate: "failing" states; "radical militant Islam"; weapons of mass destruction; energy cooperation; and, global structural competition. And they talk about how Europe's view of the world tends to differ from America's:

Europe, of course, faces these issues as well, arguably even more acutely than the United States. For most European countries, the impact of radical militant Islam is not only an external issue but also one of domestic concern. Unlike the United States, it is Europe that is within the range of Iranian missiles. When Russia puts its thumb on the gas pipeline, it is Europe whose energy is affected. And while the global markets have the potential to hurt the United States, Europe has already been enduring relatively high unemployment and lower growth rates for some time. In all these manifestations, Europeans face much the same issues as Americans do. Reflective of this fact, the European Security Strategy put forth by the Union and the U.S. National Security Strategy are remarkably, but not surprisingly, parallel.

In responding to the issues, however, the European and American processes are often different. This stems from an additional critical question faced by Europe - namely, the institutional finality of the EU. The Union (and the broader issues surrounding it) continues to raise serious questions of identity for Europeans, reflected in numerous levels of torn sovereignty, parallel structures, and political steps that have moved forward (the euro) and back (constitutional treaty). The EU, originally an economic project with political consequence, is now far more — a legislative and judicial sovereign entity (though not always with sovereign power), a diplomatic actor (though with parallel and often superior actors in member states), and a military power (though with quite modest assertion so far). Thus, theUnion is both sovereign in itself and composed of sovereign member states, which have not given up their economic capacities, their diplomatic endeavors, or control over security and military policy. (my emphasis)
Their formulation that the EU was "originally an economic project with political consequence" is likely to reinforce a common American misunderstanding; the description is arguably outright wrong. Moving toward greater political union was always the primary long-term goal of the EU and its post-Second World War predecessors institutions. The EU itself is first of all a political union. Their description makes it sound like the EU's political, diplomatic and military roles came about almost by accident - which is pretty much the opposite of the actual case.

But, otherwise, they do a decent job of outlining some important differences between US and European positions. The observation, "Unlike the United States, it is Europe that is within the range of Iranian missiles," raises an obvious question: why does Dick Cheney seem to consider Iran's alleged (and likely) efforts to develop nuclear weapons as a far more urgent issue than the nations of Europe who are much more at risk in that eventuality?

I would also note that the most controversial aspect of the current Cheney-Bush US official national security strategy, the use of preventive war (though it's euphemistically called preemptive war in official documents, presumably for legal reasons) is definitely not part of the EU member nations policy - even though Britain and some other EU members participated in the preventive-war invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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