Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 07:44:59 AM EST
NATO in Afghanistan has come under severe attack not only from a major ally, the US, but also from different quarters, political and otherwise.
At the outbreak of the US invasion and bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 to boot out the Taleban government in place (that the US once supported hugely), I couldn't see from where I sat, how the American bomb and awe tactics of the time could solve a highly complex problem that was Afghanistan through the use of extreme violent force after all, the Russians had already tried and failed miserably. But the harm was done.
We all know that America realised that they couldn't go it alone and asked NATO for help through the UK. The political and military situation on the ground further changed after the UN mandated NATO to get into the thick of things and which has forever altered the entire Afghan picture. (See UK House of Commons Research: Operation Enduring Freedom and the Conflict in Afghanistan). The rest is history as we know it today -- NATO is now expected to pick up the pieces.
There are many arguments for and against NATO intervention and continuing operations in Afghanistan but as I said earlier on in a comment in my previous diary, Afghanistan's killing fields, assuming that European nations involved in NATO operations in the country were asked to leave the Afghans to their fate today, would that be the judicious thing to do? In my view, it wouldn't be for a very, very simple reason, something I stated in the same follow on comment:
Realistically, if we leave Afghanistan because we believe that it is fundamentally a "failed state", there is no guarantee that we will not find ourselves with the kind of Darfour debacle [and more] in our hands once again. Pakistan had borne the brunt of the Russian wars there that produced more Talebans, more extremists, more violence, etc. In the long run, the only way out of that kind of total and utter fiasco is to try to bring progress to the ordinary people of Afghanistan, education, health services, infrastructure, etc.
I received the following "missive" on the issue from a friend working at NATO saying why he believes NATO should continue their job in Afghanistan. You be the judge.
Diary rescue by Migeru
This is the single biggest issue facing the world today. It may seem remoteand involve only a few million people, BUT it is the one country where the richare intervening to help a genuinely failed state and try to put them back on their feet.
There is a general acceptance from the whole world (including the UN) that this is right and should go forward. The richer nations are bearing the cost and
this is also broadly accepted. The rich does not only mean NATO but certainly includes Japan and Australia who are among the 37 - 40 nations involved in ISAF.
Having accepted that there is a mandate to rebuild Afghanistan, we should look at who is observing.
- Those countries sending soldiers and other supporters and aid workers are watching with great concern, especially at the cost in lives. There are calls from many voters for withdrawal and this can be understood at the personal level -- no one likes to see our boys dying far from home. Politicians feel under threat from voters who do not accept supporting this war that does not concern our country. It is here that we need statesmen who can communicate the relevance of our involvement and the absolute necessity to our countries. Our statesmen need to put across the higher higher humanitarian level discourse.
- Better off countries who are not contributing are watching with a neutral stance. They accept the need, but do not want to bear the pain.
- Poorer countries far from the conflict (e.g. some in S America) watch with interest. The issue has small direct consequence for them, but the result will tell them how they can expect the world to develop. Will the Western democracy with global free trade be the future or will it be something much darker?
- Poorer countries close at hand and with religious connections are watching with cynicism. Success doesn't necesssarily mean they must to bow to the will of the developing world but failure will spell upheaval as they see that they too can defeat the West as well.
Looking at this it can be seen that the real strategic battle is between keeping the Western way of life going and descending into some form of anarchy over time. It will not happen in one generation, but over time the cost of providing the necessary security in our safe and rich Western style nations will become prohibitive. We risk becoming isolated pockets, effectively living behind barbed wire fences. This will work till the money runs out.
A far better way is to spread our way of life into the developing world although this also is not cheap and this is exactly what we are attempting in Afghanistan. It is this effect that is being observed and measured so closely. It is to stop this that the forces of terrorism are working so hard against us.
The upshot is that we have a choice: Spend money and send soldiers and supporters into the world to protect our way of life and accept losses in both lives and financial terms, OR live on the fat for a time and then spend more and more on security at home and accept more and more attacks and loss of life at home. In other words small pain and then gain today against large pain and loss in the future.
As a long term thinker I go for the former; many will go for the latter.
NOTE: Html re-format for clearer text layout.
THE FOLLOWING IS THIS DIARY'S SUMMARY REBUTTAL
In defence of NATO
Indeed, the mission of NATO has changed. If we consider the mission in 1949 when NATO was created then there is no further need for NATO and everyone is in agreement with this. The question we now need to ask ourselves is whether there is still a need for NATO today?
Many in ET have expressed in no uncertain terms that NATO is no longer needed, no longer useful, unecessary, and so on. Fine. Whatever their reason, the starting point is whether we accept the following premise or not: that the world is not a stable place and there are still major threats to security, not least terrorism. There are those who may very well believe that these threats do not exist but this doesn't alter the fact today that the need for defence has not gone away -- it has just mutated.
At that level of the debate, it is important to recognize that Europe as an entity is still not very well organised to effect its own defence in military terms despite progress in the ESDP; that Europe is still fragmented in military terms and invests little in defence matters. The fact is Europeans recognise the need to combine for defensive purposes. All this points to a need to develop greater cohesion within Europe in defence matters.
That said, European nations still find it difficult to trust each other in defence matters and wish to retain defence to a national level. Many nations also distrust the capability and willingness of Europe as an entity to provide a sufficient defence for European interests. This points to the need for European nations to look for external allies and most nations see this as the over-riding priority.
At that level, NATO is ideally placed to fill this role. This may very well seem simplistic to many and it begs the question of why should NATO operate outside the North Atlantic area. The answer to this is if the UN and other global organisations want to use military forces for security operations and peacekeeping then they need an organisation to do this. It happens that the world's richest nations have just such an organisation and are prepared to use it to support international peace and prepared to pick up the bill as they see it as being in their interest.
With regard to NATO in Afghanistan and as this diary remarked earlier, if Europeans truly think that their respective nations should not be involved in ISAF in Afghanistan, one thing that can be done is to demand that their respective governments withdraw their support for the United Nations' backing there and leave the Afghans to their fate. Is that the judicious thing to do?
In fine, to many, NATO may very well not be needed, but that there is an underlying need for a new military organisation to support the UN's international security measures and manage peacekeeping all round the world. Why re-invent the wheel and ask poorer nations to pay? Lets keep NATO.