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War for Dummies: Step 1, Fighting Is Necessary

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed frustration with America's European allies, as reported in the Washington Post article, "Pentagon Critical of NATO Allies":

"I am not ready to let NATO off the hook in Afghanistan at this point," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee. Ticking off a list of vital requirements -- about 3,500 more military trainers, 20 helicopters and three infantry battalions -- Gates voiced "frustration" at "our allies not being able to step up to the plate."

In the speech, Gates commends those allies who have largely fulfilled their commitments in the war, specifically Australia, Britain, and Canada. The new Defense Minister of Australia, which is not a NATO member-state but nonetheless a significant contributor to the ISAF mission, echoes Gates' frustration about the Europeans (ABC News):

Australia's new Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon will deliver a blunt message to NATO countries meeting in Scotland on Friday, telling them that there will be no more Australian troops sent to Afghanistan until European countries increase their commitment.

Also, Spiegel Online published a great interview with German Major General Bruno Kasdorf, the highest-ranking German officer at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. This passage caught my eye:

Spiegel Online: From the outside, it often looks as if the aggressive waging of this war is further enflaming the insurgency.
Kasdorf: I repeat: Pulling out of OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led military operation in Afghanistan] would not be helpful. It bothers the Americans when Europeans accuse them of waging the war in a brutal fashion. If there were no OEF, the insurgency would gain strength in the country and they would consider themselves unopposed here, which could also threaten ISAF's success. Here at ISAF we don't have the forces to go after the extremists alone.

German anathema of the use of force to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda reminds me of a guest lecturer I had back in college. He was a pacifist professor who said that if he met bin Ladin, he would give him a hug. The entire class laughed when he said this, because the professor just did not seem to understand: there are some problems you cannot solve with hugs alone.

The best strategy to bring stability to Afghanistan is not black or white; it is not a choice between American bullets or German hugs. The two go hand-in-hand, and trying to frame one as necessary while the other as not is no less naïve than defining countries as "with us or against us". The world is more complex than these basic dichotomies allow.

What frustrates Americans is not only that Germany (and other Europeans) want to cherry-pick the popular and less-dangerous reconstruction projects (though that plays a major role in American and Australian frustration) - but also that these same allies give the impression they are on a higher moral ground than those who are taking on the most dangerous, and equally necessary, combat missions.

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Pat Patterson on :

Watch it Kyle! Too much logic and reasonableness might make my head explode? Thanks for the post.

joe on :

Well with a little bit of luck Canada will tell the other member nations to step up and share the costs or they are going to step out. Given I do not see Germany or France or Spain or Italy doing this, then Canada will withdraw its forces and NATO will be dead.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I hear you, Kyle, but re your statement: "Germany (and other Europeans) want to cherry-pick the popular and less-dangerous reconstruction projects" I would like to point out that Karsten Voigt, the German government's Coordinator for German-American Cooperation, says that Germany was asked to go to Northern Afghanistan, when NATO first took over. When NATO started, the idea was to divide Afhganistan and that each region is under the responsibility of one bigger NATO nation and a few smaller NATO nations. See video here: [url]http://atlantic-community.org/index/articles/view/Withdrawing_German_Troops_Could_Destabilize_Northern_Afghanistan[/url] German government officials also pointed out that Canada wanted to go into the South and East. They wanted a tough region in order to prove their support to the US, after all the American complaints about Canada not go into Iraq. Canada did not want a soft and "girly" region. That is for Germany. Canada wanted to fight. After a few years, the Canadians now get second thoughts. Fair enough. [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/868-Fischer-One-day-well-be-the-ones-asking-for-help,-and-no-one-will-help-us.html[/url] Canada and others want to undo the regional command structure of Afghanistan. Fair enough. "these same allies give the impression they are on a higher moral ground than those who are taking on the most dangerous, and equally necessary, combat missions." Some Americans also claim higher moral ground, because they work harder, i.e. fight more, while these sissies from Germany sit around a drink beer, or so the saying goes... At least the German troops do not need to anthropologists to realize that they should not kick in more doors than is really necessary: "Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unit's combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February" [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/862-The-Pentagons-Embedded-Scholars-in-Afghanistan-and-Iraq.html[/url]

Don S on :

Der Speigel: "From the outside, it often looks as if the aggressive waging of this war is further enflaming the insurgency." The phrasing of this question is revealing. Germany sees itself as being 'on the outside' in Afghanistan. Ir at least Speigel does, although General Kasdorf probably wouldn't agree. It almost appears as if Germany asked itself whether it wanted to be 'inside or outside' of NATO itself - and the answer was 'outside'. The nature of a viable alliance is that it's not a choice of the day menu. Each member has to be prepared to contribute to the dirty work when needed - and Germany hasn't done that for NATO.

Consul-At-Arms on :

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/12/re-war-for-dummies-step-1-fighting-is.html

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