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We need to appreciate each other!

Russell Berman responded to our criticism with an update below his Daily Beast article that is longer than his original article.

This is my response: Yes, the United States started an impressive surge in Afghanistan last year, while the European NATO members "just" increased their troops. This means that the share of European compared to US troops is today lower than it used to be. The US surge, however, is temporary and Obama is expected to declare soon how many troops he will withdraw. European countries are sovereign and are not obligated to follow every US policy decision.

Moreover, this does not change the fact that Berman was factually wrong in stating that the Obama administration "was completely unable to convince any European ally to increase troop commitments" and "some [European allies], like the Netherlands, have in fact already withdrawn." Professor Berman's claim that it is "hard" "to find Europeans on the front lines," is wrong and insensitive to the families of dead soldiers.

Such statements will not encourage Europeans to increase their support US led wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, which is Prof Berman's goal. Today, nearly ten years after 9/11, European countries have 37,000 troops in Afghanistan. That's an increase of 11,000 troops since Obama became president. Why is not Berman acknowledging this at all? Think about all the European families who have a loved one in Afghanistan!

Only if US think tankers appreciate the European contributions to Afghanistan, is there a chance that Europe continues to follow the US leadership and support the wars that the US political and think tank elite (but not the public) cares about.

Secretary Gates' strong criticism of European NATO members is largely valid, but not new. His criticism caused more buzz in the US press and think tank community than in Germany. Most folks here heard it before and shrug it off, which is sad, but that's how it is and a matter for another article. His lecturing is not effective.

As an outgoing defense secretary he played bad cop, while President Obama was the good cop, who charmed Merkel with awarding her the Medal of Freedom. Obama apparently hopes that Germany will act like a leader, if its chancellor is treated like one. I think this charming strategy is better than lecturing, but won't have much of an effect either. (Merkel is not Sarkozy or Berlusconi)

What we need is more mutual understanding and respect for the existing transatlantic cooperation, which should not be taken for granted at a time, when we do not have a strong common enemy like the Soviet Union. We need to reduce sweeping generalizations, Eurobashing and Anti-Americanism in the media.

Unfortunately, there is a strong perception in Europe that "transatlantic partnership" means that America starts wars and decides the strategy, while Europe has to follow without having any say and without any appreciation. This perception has to be changed.

Daniel Larison makes similar points in the American Conservative:

There are few worse ways to persuade European governments and publics that they have the wrong priorities than to lecture them on their insufficient support for Afghanistan and Libya. While the non-U.S. NATO allies pledged support to the U.S. after 9/11, European nations have no particular security interests in achieving U.S. goals in Afghanistan. If the American public has soured on the war in Afghanistan and doesn't understand its purpose, imagine how baffling it must be to Europeans to have their soldiers in Central Asia. European governments have continued to support the war in Afghanistan long after they were obliged to do so, and despite lending support that they don't have to provide they are routinely lectured for not doing enough.

CBS (via Outside the Beltway)

Sixty-four percent of Americans think the number of troops in Afghanistan should be decreased, according to the poll, conducted June 3-7. That's an increase of 16 points from last month and a record high for that question in CBS News polls. (...)

Half of Americans - 51 percent - think the U.S. should not be involved in the war in Afghanistan, while 43 percent think the U.S. is doing the right thing by continuing the decade-long fight. Public opinion has slowly shifted against fighting the war in Afghanistan since the fall of 2009, when 51 percent thought the U.S. was doing the right thing by fighting that war. Most Democrats and independents think the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, while most Republicans think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, as NATO forces escalate the intensity of their air strikes against pro-government forces in Libya, six in 10 Americans do not think that the United States should be involved in the conflict within that country. Just 30 percent of Americans think the United States is doing the right thing by taking part in the current military conflict in Libya now.


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