Monday, February 11, 2008

Has America Betrayed the NATO Alliance?

Konfusion in Kabul, Part II

Here is an unusually frank and disturbing opinion from Eric Margolis of the Edmonton Sun, Europeans See What America Cannot.

I am presenting it because it contains some points of view which I have projected as being held by many Europeans. I have felt that I have not encountered this opinion, because - like too many Americans - I am monolingual and do not travel.

In any event, here is what Margolis says, in part:

. . . . . Most Europeans regard the Afghan conflict as
  • wrong and immoral;
  • America's war;
  • all about oil;
  • probably lost.
To many Europeans, the NATO alliance was created to deter the real threat of Soviet aggression, not to supply foot soldiers for George Bush's wars in the Muslim world.

While Gates and the Harper government were pleading for more troops, the commander of the 40,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, landed a bombshell. If proper U.S. military counter-insurgency doctrine were followed, McNeill admitted, the U.S. and NATO would need 400,000 troops to defeat Pashtun tribal resistance in Afghanistan.

When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, they deployed 160,000 troops and about 200,000 Afghan Communist troops -- yet failed to crush the mostly Pashtun resistance. Now, the U.S. and NATO are trying the same mission with only 66,000 troops, backed by local mercenaries grandly styled the Afghan National Army.

Canada's calls for 1,000 more NATO troops, and the U.S. decision to send 3,200 marines, will not alter the course of this war, which is turning increasingly against the western occupiers. In fact, the war is spreading into neighbouring Pakistan, a nation of 165 million, stretching U.S. and NATO forces ever thinner.

A primary reason for Gates's recent call for U.S. troops to begin attacking pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen inside Pakistan is due to their growing attacks on allied supply lines to Afghanistan.

As this column has reported, over 70% of U.S./NATO supplies come in by truck through Pakistan's tribal belt known as FATA, including all of their oil and gas. Attacks by pro-Taliban tribesmen against these vulnerable supply lines are jeopardizing western military operations inside Afghanistan.


The hunters are becoming the hunted. Cutting off invaders' supply lines is a time-honoured Pashtun military tactic. They used it against Alexander the Great, the British and Soviets, and are at it again.

What angry Gates fails to see is that by pushing NATO into a distant Asian war without political purpose or seeming end, he is endangering the very alliance that is the bedrock of U.S. power in Europe.

Europeans increasingly ask why they need the U.S.-dominated military alliance, a Cold War relic, in which they continue to play foot soldiers to America's atomic knights, to paraphrase the late German statesman, Franz Josef Strauss.

Why does the rich, powerful European Union even need NATO any more? The Soviet threat is gone -- at least for now. Nuclear-armed France and Britain are quite capable of defending Europe against outside threats. Why can't the new European Defence Force take over NATO's role of defending Europe and protecting EU interests?

In short, most Europeans see no benefit in playing junior members in an alliance whose historic time has passed and that serves primarily as an instrument of U.S. power. Washington's sharpest geopolitical thinker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, calls NATO a "stepping stone" the U.S. uses to project power into Europe.

By pushing NATO towards a bridge too far, the Bush administration may end up fatally undermining the alliance and encouraging anti-American forces in Europe.

In fact, it's becoming evident that the cash-strapped U.S. needs the EU more than the EU needs the U.S.


Final point. If impassioned claims by U.S. and Canadian politicians that the little Afghanistan war must by won at all costs, then why don't they stop orating, impose conscription, and send 400,000 soldiers, including their own sons, to fight in Afghanistan?

Of course they won't. They prefer to waste their own soldiers, and grind up Afghanistan, rather than admit this war against 40 million Pashtun tribesmen was a terrible mistake that will only get worse.

I have always personally argued that our post 9-11 invasion and reconstruction of Afghanistan was warranted, if not mandated, by the NATO charter. However, Bush's detour into Iraq, away from the effort to capture Osama bin Laden ('dead or alive'), has fatally weakened and corrupted this Afghanistan mission.

I'm sure that NATO's "1st Tier" original members never envisaged that the alliance would
  • Come to the armed defense of one member who was attacked by a non-member
  • Tolerate the besieged NATO member capriciously launching an unprovoked aggression against another country
  • Continue its effort in behalf of its original member while that member continued expending the preponderant amount of its own resources on its unnecessary invasion and occupation of the third country.
The situation, as I see it, is that NATO has been assigned to pulling our chestnuts (Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, etc.), out of the fire in Afghanistan while we Americans are blowing our assets and resources, extinguishing fires we have needlessly set in Iraq.

Bush and Cheney are driving this once-great alliance into the ground.

7 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

Cross-posted in European Tribune.

Amazon Books is not as yet carrying the 3rd Edition of Eric Margolis's War at the Top of the World.

2/11/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Indicted Plagiarist said...

From this morning's NYT Editorial:

.... Nearly everything about President Bush’s botched war of choice in Iraq has made it much harder to win Afghanistan’s war of necessity. The fact that Mr. Gates is permitted such truth-telling is a measure of how bad things have gotten in Afghanistan and how much the United States needs more outside help.

.... The intra-NATO resentments have gotten so bitter that Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has said that he will withdraw his 2,500 troops — the Canadians have suffered heavy losses — as scheduled next year, unless other members ante up another 1,000 troops.

.... Mr. Gates might get further if he also acknowledged that even before NATO got involved, Washington never had enough troops in Afghanistan or a coherent strategy for stabilizing the country. That is probably too much to ask from Mr. Gates, who on Monday proved that he is still a full team player by suggesting that troop reductions in Iraq may not come down much below their presurge levels.

Having told at least one difficult truth on his way to Europe, Mr. Gates should be prepared to tell a few more when gets home. He can start by telling President Bush that a good part of the problem in Afghanistan is manufactured in Pakistan, which continues to give Al Qaeda and the Taliban sanctuary in its border regions .... Mr. Gates should also tell the president that so long as American forces are tied down in an unwinnable war in Iraq, there is little hope of winning in Afghanistan.

2/12/2008 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

Hi Vigil,

Good to have post it in the European Tribune for an American viewpoint.

2/12/2008 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

It's a Canadian viewpoint, Hills. Unfortunately, as Margolis says, it's something that my countrymen cannot see.

2/12/2008 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...


Actually, an American, you, posted the article, and with your follow on comments the loop becomes complete.

In that context, for a European, your post in Eurotrib reflects an American viewpoint anda good one.

2/12/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

The swashbuckling of Dubya and his gang of thieves and renegades has yet to be known. We are seeing only the tip of the iceberg. Once he is out of office, and no longer has a stranglehold on the government, what we learn will fill volumes.

2/12/2008 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

I remember reading the first edition years ago, its a fantastic book. Another gem is "Factions & Fables, The Arab-Israeli conflict" by Clifford A. Wright. Its been out of print, but you can get it for 7 bucks used on Amazon.

2/12/2008 01:48:00 PM  

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