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Bullshit on Europe?

Dan Drezner divides Secretary Clinton's major foreign policy speech into "the good, the bad, and the BS portions." (I am wondering if he follows Harry Frankfurt's definition of bullshit) And Clinton's statements on Europe fall into the BS portion:

The whole section on strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties to Europe almost caused me to lose my cornflakes.  I mean, c'mon.  Is forcing the Europeans to cut down their number of seats in the IMF an example of strengthening alliances?  I see the intrinsic merit in occasionally dissing the Europeans, but don't tell me that anything transatlantic has been "strengthened" over the past 18 months.

Good question! What has been strengthened in transatlantic affairs over the last 18 months?

The German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends 2010 survey just made the - cough -- totally surprising - cough -- discovery that Obama's popularity has not lead to converging opinions about how to address several global challenges. Apparently, it takes more than presidential popularity to make the European kids follow the lead of the US godfather? Wow, so perhaps George W. Bush's personality was not the main reason why Europeans opposed the Iraq war. Do you think that maybe - just maybe - Europeans have different national interests and preferences. And the world affairs is not a popularity contest? Oh, I am going on a limp here.

Europeans are full of bullshit as well: According to the same survey 62% of EU respondents ("large majorities") said that "NATO should be prepared to act outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security," while at the same time 64% of those respondents "thought that their country should either reduce or withdraw troops" from Afghanistan.

I think Europeans (everyone?) expresses more support if a request or question is phrased in broad and very abstract terms and concerns the future (NATO out of area), but when you get more specific and concrete and refer to the presence (Afghanistan), then people withdraw their support. I guess, this holds true to both big politics and personal relations...

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Zyme on :

I agree to your termperamental explanation with regard to the importance of interests vs leading figures. Of course the people in Europe provide far less support for the Afghanistan missions than for out of area missions in general: They don't see the point of this mission. But this does not necessarily mean that they would not support any mission. I think as soon as missions (or wars?) are waged for clearly visible European interests, support will be higher. But this is probably not Nato's job. Instead, what do we have a common European security policy for? Let's get moving!

Kevin Sampson on :

Excellent post, Zyme. I agree that Europe does not see Afghanistan as being in their interests, never the less, it does meet the criteria for being a NATO mission. Maybe not the mission NATO was conceived to carry out, but then, neither was Yugoslavia. And the European ambassadors voted unanimously to invoke Article 5 of the Charter. If Europe ever finds itself in a position where it is considering invoking the Charter itself, I hope it is prepared for some push-back if any resulting confrontation is not seen as being in our national interests.

Joerg Wolf on :

Kevin, what obligations do we still have today -- 9 years after 9/11 -- because of Article 5? Legally speaking! Not morally, or out of solidarity. If you mention an article of a treaty, then we got to discuss in legal terms. Some folks argue that Article 5 does not bind us anymore since most leaders of Al Qaeda have been killed or left Afghanistan since 9/11. IMHO, Article 5 does not include an obligation to stay in Afghanistan until it is a stable democracy In your opinion how long do we have to fight insurgents in Afghanistan (who were not involved with 9/11) to fulfill the obligations of Article 5? What needs to be achieved in your opionion to please those obligations?

Joerg Wolf on :

Just FYI here the official wording, with emphasis added: NATO - Official text: The North Atlantic Treaty, 04-Apr.-1949 Article 5 The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action [b]as it deems necessary[/b], including the use of armed force, to [b]restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.[/b] Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. [b]Such measures shall be terminated[/b] when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security . http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm

Kevin Sampson on :

Nothing, as you point out, participation is voluntary. But that’s a double-edged sword. Regarding your claim that the Afghan insurgents (presumably Taliban) were not involved in 9/11, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by a suicide bomber TWO DAYS prior to 9/11. By all accounts the hit team was provided by al-Qaeda. Massoud was the only real obstacle to the Taliban extending their rule over all of Afghanistan, which they could probably have done had they simply given up bin Laden & Co. Afghanistan is known for its constantly, and rapidly, shifting loyalties and alliances, yet the Taliban stood by bin Laden and today are dodging Hellfires in the boonies of Pakistan. They may not have been involved in the execution of 9/11 but were certainly aware of it and almost certainly had a quid pro quo arrangement with al Qaeda. I'd say that counts as involvement.

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