Skip to content

"America Wrong, Europe Right" on Afghanistan

Washington Post blogger William M. Arkin says that the "non-lethal European approach" in Afghanistan is right, while the US approach is wrong: "The notion that we can just ship the Iraq surge strategy to the country and win is thoughtless. " He blames Defense Secretary Gates for creating the public image that "if there were more shooters from Europe, somehow the war would be going better."

Arkin, who also served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst in West Berlin from 1974 - 1978, opines:

Complaining about the Europeans is old sport for the Cold Warrior. From decades-old bitching about "burden sharing" to 1990's frustrations with NATO's fighting spirit in the former Yugoslavia, to the era of freedom fries after 9/11, conventional wisdom is that rules of engagement and strategies authored in Paris and Berlin are to blame for American loss. Afghanistan is just the latest refrain, and the normally judicious Gates has taken on an almost Rumsfeldian tone in calling the Europeans weak. Jump on the bandwagon if you like. I'm sure all three presidential candidates could happily articulate some version of Gates' lament on Afghanistan as diversion therapy. But the truth is that hesitant Europeans are right. More firepower isn't going to "win" the war in Afghanistan.

His full article is available at Afghanistan: America Wrong, Europe Right. The Washington Post has his bio.

I disagree with Arkin's praise for Europe's policy. I think our civilian and diplomatic efforts are far too small and insufficient. Compared to Kosovo, we are just spending pocket change on Afghanistan. Germany and other European countries are not compensating their lack of combat troops with state-building.

I agree with Arkin that we are not going to save the Afghanistan mission, if we continue to debate only which country has how many combat troops in southern Afghanistan. Yes, I know War for Dummies: Step 1, Fighting Is Necessary, but Fighting is Not The Most Important Thing.

Gates is secretary of defense, thus he has to talk about troop numbers. I am not blaming him for doing his job. And he is right to criticize Europe. But what is Secretary Rice doing? Where are the Bush administration's diplomatic initiatives for Afghanistan?

I have argued in The Moderate Voice that we need to debate fresh and controversial policy alternatives, which include negotiations with the Taliban, the replacement of the Karzai government, military incursions into Pakistan, the involvement of Iran and Russia as well as complete NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Every option -- and not just proposals for more troops -- has to be put on the table and discussed on its merits. And then we need to provide sufficient resources to implement them. If an international Afghanistan Study Group recommends more forces as part of a bigger package, then Germany should send them. NATO missions should not be a pick and choose projects. Since Europeans do not like the Bush administration's "coalitions of the willing," they/we have to empower NATO.



clock building videos on : clock building videos

Show preview
Buy the best clock kit manufacturer that is available and in stock in addition at great prices get it now only!


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Don S on :

Don't you think the headline on this blog entry is just slightly misleading, Joerg? If the WaPo had puyblished this as a editorial (not a columnist or a guest columnis piece) the headline might be justified. But a house blogger writing from his copious experience as a Cold-War era 'intelligence analyst' 30 years ago is not quite the same thing! In determining how committed a paper is to a viewpoint it might be wise to bear this rule in mind: 'Paper' editorials have primacy, followed at a remove by the opinions of regular columnists, followed at a remove by 'guest' pieces, followed at a veeeerrrryyy long remove by the clown - er I mean paid blogger.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

You are right. I have deleted the Wash Post reference from the headline. For the record: My original headline was: [i]Wash Post: "America Wrong, Europe Right" on Afghanistan[/i] And changed upon your request, 15 minutes after publication.

Joe Noory on :

I think it needs to be pointed out just how facetious the Post's editoral writer's line is on that: the Europe is so right on it, and America is so wrong on it, with a ultimate end to it being having people out in the streets demanding abandonment, how then could Europe be so right as to commit to something so wrong, and America continue to commit to the continued participation of Europe what was so right? US wrong, Europeans right, (and Australian deemed neutral as they aren't politically useful to his argument)... even though they're all doing roughly the same thing! This guy problems arent in policy or implementation, they're psychiatric.

Don S on :

The man has a long career as a defense analyst, but one who has a pattern of working against the defense policy of the US. His right - but not exactly unbiased, is he? In fact the opinion expressed here is perfectly predictable and probably long held, rather than anything at all surprising. No? Excerts from the Arkin bio: "Arkin served as Senior Military Adviser to Human Rights Watch, the largest international human rights and law organization in the United States, and was a columnist for The Los Angeles Times" "He contributed to the yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 1984 - 2002" "After leaving the Army, he co-authored the first volume of the Nuclear Weapons Databook series for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an unclassified reference book on nuclear weapons, which the Reagan administration sought to suppress on secrecy grounds. He then co-authored Nuclear Battlefields in 1985, revealing the locations of all U.S. and foreign nuclear bases worldwide. Nuclear Battlefields was also condemned by the Reagan Administration." "n the late 1980s, Arkin conceived Greenpeace International's "Nuclear Free Seas" campaign." "Arkin headed Greenpeace International's war response team in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and co-authored On Impact -- Modern Warfare and the Environment: A Case of the Gulf War, the first comprehensive study of the civilian and environmental effects of the war."

Kevin Sampson on :

Human Rights Watch? Talk about agenda-driven. And not exactly the most truthful people in the world.

Sue on :

Arkin also once described American soldiers in his WaPo blog as "mercenaries" who were "obscenely" pampered by the government. So that tells you where he is coming from.

Joe Noory on :

I'm sure they'd be adored by these [url=]Belgian socialist basket cases[/url]. Asing their parliament to commit 4 measly fighter-bombers (okay, they come with crews too...) and this is what you get: "If the government decides to commit our country and our soldiers to such a dangerous, lost war, it is only logical that this decision is explained as quickly as possible in Parliament. In addition, because of this engagement, Belgium will become more than ever the target of terrorist attacks." It sounds like somebody needs a hug.

franchie on :

Joe, I understand you write on "no pasaran", a reference !

Merkel-2 on :

His highness, Mr Green Span once ascribe the whole iraq's scenery as oil driven activity in the name of justice. While Afghanistan is not Iraq. It's defintely not oil-rich state. So it is nothing related to president Bush's petroleum thristy. I still doubt president Bush has the will to shape the whole Islamic world by violence. Europe once fiercely opposite Bush's Iraq occupation. When Iraq was under US control, they back off from their position and easily reach a new agreements with BUSH. which says that US will not monopolize all the benefits there and Europe(Especially German , France...)'s intersets will be respected. obviously Europe know when is right time for their indispensable principle and when is right time bargaining for their economic interests. Afghanistan is a desperate poor country and flood with bloody race and religious conflicts. Europe will gain nothing from there. Soviet Union' troops retreated from there disgracefully. US's military occupation there may not last longer unless US did not take its cost into consideration. US obviously relcutant to shoulder the burden all by itself. Defence secretary Gates criticized Europe neglecting the least diplomatic politeness. There is no way to shape the Afghanistan as president Bush expected. Bush can not brain-wash Afghanistan people. There is no successive example in islamic world that secular strength can defeat the religious power. Bush and its troops regards as exotic evil , it can ever and never earn the local people's support. When their islamic brethrens was tortured in distant Cuba prison both physically and mentally. when their islamic belief was distorted ,defiled , how can the native Afghanistan people welcome Yankee with open arms. Bush 's anti-terrorist actiones make things worse instead of better. Although Bush had told so many lies to the public about Iraq and Afghanistan regime in order to demonize them . he still disclose a naked truth that the western powers can not afford the failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am from a developing coutry. As a outsider , I think althrogh US immorally initiate the war against Iraq and Afghanistan. they should definitely go on with this battle. because the religious radicals is another grave threat to the world peace ,even more destructive the neo-conservative US. I think Europe should encourage US getting more involved in Iraq and Afghanistan affairs. US is the only supperpowers in this world . it have huge resources to go on with this kind of military actions. When US realize it can not solely achieve its goals through militray strike and economic sanction ,maybe it will pay attention and respect to its Europe Allies. At this time putting more Europe troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will result in more casualty, and will not promote the equally partnership acrossed the Atalantic Ocean. To play the hypocrite as usual is most in Europe's interests. Europe have two masks and two sets of standards which will help them override moral problem.

Zyme on :

Well, care to tell us where you are from exactly?

Pat Patterson on :

I'd be willing to bet that in the years succeeding WWII most people in the world would probably say that the Germans and the Japanese were irredemably incapable of functioning in a democracy and to accuse Muslims of the same thing is tantamount to condemning that part of the world to the worst of governments. Surprisingly, to the lazy, many Muslims function quite well in democracies all over the world including being members of one of the biggest democracies in the world, India. Also as I write this Lebanon, Turkey, East Timor, Afghanistan, Malayasia and Tanzania etc., are still functioning as democracies. Maybe not to the point of the nightly broadcast of some sweating pol on TV having to explain a failed sewer project but democracies where the parties are trying to solve their difficulties without first grabbing an AK-47 as an opening gambit. A fairly recent poll from the Pew Trust reveals that not only do Muslims want democratic government but that they are also confident that it would work in their countries. [url][/url]

franchie on :

"which says that US will not monopolize all the benefits there and Europe(Especially German , France...)'s intersets will be respected. obviously Europe know when is right time for their indispensable principle and when is right time bargaining for their economic interests." I don't see how Germany and France share the benefits, Total has lost all its invest there while Hexxon, BP, Shell... are conforted

Joe Noory on :

You realize that Afghanistan is not on the Arabian Gulf, don't you? I don't see how ISAF has anything to do with Total losing access to the Iraqi oil fields or even piplines anywhere, because repugnance aside, if we really needed to deploy armies for citizens to do business the inefficienies of that sort of system would tank the economy. Total might be able to drive foreign policy in west Africa, but the near east is more geopolitically relevant than watching one Régime des Bananes deploy their forces into other Régimes des Bananes, and go to war over cocao or African oil consession.

Anonymous on :

you just told me , couac couac !

joe on :

Joreg, This guy which you seem to think a lot of his opinion is pretty much a nut job.

Andy on :

Joerg, Have you considered sponsoring a blogging symposium on the topic of Afghanistan strategy? Also, [url=]this is quite informative[/url] even if I'm not in agreement with all of it.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

That sounds like an excellent idea! What's the best way to proceed? Can you recommend any past blogging symposiums?

Andy on :

Joerg, Dave Schuler did one on Iraq about a year ago. Link is here I believe: Cheryl Rofler did one on nuclear policy recently - basically she called it a "blog tank" where bloggers presented their views then worked toward a consensus policy statement. Here are some of the posts: I participated in both these efforts - I'm sure there are others out there. I know a thing or two about Afghanistan, so if you get something together I'd be happy to participate.

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options