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.
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.