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Neocons and Liberal Interventionists vs. the Debt Crisis and the Realists

Secretary Gates apparently said today that European countries should increase their defense spending, because the United States has a debt problem and is not willing anymore to pay for Europe's defense.

Well, one of many reasons the US has such huge debt is the enormous defense budget, which is so much higher than those from other major powers. European nations are not spending more on defense, because we have debt problems as well and can't afford the US debt levels, because we cannot print dollars.

Besides, the US has not spent a fortune in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to protect Europe, but because of its own perceived self-interests. Thus I take issues with these statements by Secretary Gates as reported by the BBC:

Continue reading "Neocons and Liberal Interventionists vs. the Debt Crisis and the Realists"

Europe and China: Weapons for Investment?

Atlantic Community:

EU countries mired in debt are getting help from an unlikely source: China. The ascendant superpower is buying up large amounts of European bonds and investing heavily in euro zone countries. Moreover, there is talk of a reversal of the long standing EU arms embargo on China. Is this all a coincidence?

Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and now managing director at Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University commented: "If all this were to play out - that is, lifting the embargo, subsequent sanctions, etc. - it would be a new low point in U.S.-E.U. relations." (HT: NATO Source)

I agree. I hope the EU does not lift the arms embargo. In my opinion NATO countries should not sell any arms to non-NATO members.

Survey Finds NATO Remains Popular in the US

Given waning support for the Afghanistan mission, a sentiment among many Americans that the US is putting far more relatively into both Iraq and Afghanistan than it's partners, and regular arguments from media pundits that NATO no longer has relevance in a post-Cold War world -- I was surprised to read this in The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' 2010 national survey of public opinion on foreign policy:
Americans... continue to show support for involvement in NATO, one of America’s most enduring military alliances. Only 13 percent favor decreasing the U.S. commitment—essentially unchanged from 2004. Sixty-six percent (66%) favor keeping the current U.S. commitment to NATO “what it is now,” while 10 percent would like to increase it (down 4 points from 2004). (p.15)
The report is titled Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities.  Overall, the 83-page survey finds that American's still support a strong international role for US foreign policy, including militarily.  The following excerpt comes from the introduction to chapter one, titled "Reevaluating Priorities across a Changing Global Landscape":
With a painfully slow recovery, persistently high unemployment, and diminished tax revenues, the United States has fewer resources to direct toward international efforts.

Abroad, Americans see a shifting international environment in which the United States is less dominant, China’s power is growing, and the world is gradually moving toward a more multipolar order. Yet while such a change does engender some anxiety, this international realignment is not something that Americans are inclined to resist. In fact, they have favored the United States playing a less hegemonic role in the world for some time now, and thus they appear ready to adapt to it.

Overall, Americans are standing by their internationalist views and major commitments, even as they scale back their ambitions and become more selective in what they will support in terms of blood and treasure. (p.11)

U.S. Generals Indicate No Quick Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Recent statements from top U.S. generals are dashing hopes in the US and among European Allies that the war in Afghanistan will wind down in the next year, despite President Obama's stated intentions to begin troop reductions in July 2011.

Consider comments from the top U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, General James Conway, reported by Daily Times:
In recent months, US officials have played down expectations of any large withdrawal of troops in July 2011. Conway echoed those sentiments, saying he believed Marines would remain in the south for years. He said that Afghan forces would not be ready to take over security from US troops in key southern provinces for at least a few years.

“I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us,” he said, referring to Marines deployed in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Conway said some Afghan units somewhere might be able to assume the lead for security in 2011 but not in the south.
Further statements by General David Petraeus regarding the Afghanistan drawdown make it clear that the July 2011 date does not signal a hard end of the war, writes GlobalSecurity.org:
Petraeus also repeated his view that the drawdown in U.S. and NATO forces, scheduled to begin in July 2011, will not result in a swift withdrawal.

"July 2011...is the date when a process begins. It is not the date when the U.S. forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and a light to turn out," Petraeus said.
General Petraeus discusses the July 2011 drawdown in a video interview with the BBC, found here.

In the article "Why Europe Fears
Petraeus's Urge to Surge", Financial Times argues that European leaders not only desire a more expedient withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also want to pursue a different strategy for ending the conflict based on negotiations with the Taliban:
In discussions with European generals, diplomats and officials – each involved in their government’s Afghan policy – a common fear emerges. That US president Barack Obama will not be able to refuse demands from Gen Petraeus to extend the surge well beyond July 2011; that the general will continue to push for a continuation of military strategy; and that he will decline any suggestion of opening negotiations with the Taliban – something that many Europeans are very keen on.
...
European officials are coming to the consensus that they would like the Nato summit and Mr Obama’s Afghan policy review – both at the end of the year – to reach a position where negotiating with the Taliban is the political strategy around which military strategy is determined.

Troop withdrawals, which Mr Obama says will start next July, would then take place according to the pace of talks between the US, the Taliban and the Afghan government; not on the basis of hard-to-gauge battlefield success. Europe also wants the US to press Afghanistan’s neighbours not to interfere in its affairs.

Gen Petraeus wants to convince Washington, Nato and Europe to do just the opposite, determining withdrawals on the basis of the military, not the political, situation.

Thousands of Classified Reports on the Afghanistan War Leaked

An extensive series of previously classified reports on the Afghanistan war effort titled the Afghan War Diary (AWD) has been made public by the website WikiLeaks. 

The NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel were leaked the reports several weeks ago.  Each has spent the past month analyzing the reports and writing articles with their key deductions.  According to the New York Times editors' note:
The articles published today are based on thousands of United States military incident and intelligence reports — records of engagements, mishaps, intelligence on enemy activity and other events from the war in Afghanistan — that were made public on Sunday on the Internet. The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper in London, and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the material several weeks ago. These reports are used by desk officers in the Pentagon and troops in the field when they make operational plans and prepare briefings on the situation in the war zone. Most of the reports are routine, even mundane, but many add insights, texture and context to a war that has been waged for nearly nine years.
The NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel have all vetted the reports and come to the conclusion that the material is authentic. 

You can download the full set of reports from the WikiLeaks website, here.

New York Times coverage is found here.
Guardian coverage here.
Der Spiegel coverage here.

"Let's Cut Defense Spending"

Strange world: Atlantic Review is not just as a reference in an MA thesis, but is also referenced by E.D. Kain of the neoconservative (?) National Review Online to make the argument that the US should cut defense spending. He is linking to our blog in this paragraph:

Americans provide defense for Europe and much of Asia, allowing Europeans to spend almost nothing on defense while spending lavish amounts on generous entitlement programs. And it is not at all clear that these countries actually want our military bases anymore. Europe has largely put war behind it with the advent of the European Union, and save for the Korean peninsula, Asia is largely moving toward a peaceful, global economy as well. Refocusing our defense priorities into regions that have more direct implications for our own national security, such as Africa and the Middle East, would force Europe to take into account not only the defense of its own soil, but the vast expense associated with that defense. Governments already burdened with extraordinarily high rates of taxation will be forced to make cuts in their welfare programs in order to shore up their defense apparatus.

I disagree. I bet that Germany will not increase defense spending, if the US closes another military base. Previous closures did not lead to increase either. Many Americans like to think that US military bases abroad are protecting the host countries, while majorities (?) in the host countries see the bases as serving primarily US interests.

Whatever the US does, German defense spending declines for domestic reasons. Last week, the German legislative even voted to shorten military service down to six months for budgetary reasons. To me that sounds more like a military internship than part of national defense. Quite a few politicians want to maintain the military service since it supports recruitment for professional soldiers. In the 60s and early 70s the military service was three times as long as it is today.

An interesting statistic that the National Review Online author did not get from us: "Each troop we send to Afghanistan costs the public $1 million per year. That's $1 million siphoned out of the U.S. economy and shipped overseas to the mountains of Afghanistan and the Iraqi deserts." Aha! Since this is the National Review I am tempted to ask the author whether the economy is more important than security? They seem to be moving towards the European position on war versus economy. Is America becoming a post-heroic society just like Europe, this was actually the topic of the blogpost to be referenced in an MA thesis.

NATO's Niche

How will a military alliance continue to function if many of its members are opposed to armed interventions and if modern security threats have moved beyond concerns over territorial integrity?

Answer: Turn the military alliance into something completely different.

That at least seems to be the conclusion of the group of experts tasked with creating a draft of NATO's new strategic concept. Their findings, released this week, envision a NATO defined by a host of new responsibilities from multilateral weapons procurement to cyber defenses to expeditionary actions. In her presentation as the group's chairperson, Madeleine Albright said "NATO is more than a military alliance; it is also a political community."

I would agree with Albright's perspective on NATO. Since NATO's efforts in the 1990s to encourage democratization in Eastern Europe, the alliance has assumed greater responsibilities in political, economic, and security fields. NATO's scope has certainly expanded beyond preserving the territorial integrity of its members, though this remains a central aspect of the organization's DNA. In this sense, the group of experts are merely highlighting what is already the case: NATO is no longer simply a defensive alliance.

But what is NATO exactly? If not a military alliance, then what? Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that NATO should become the "the forum for consultation on global security." Secretary Albright sees the alliance developing "partnerships" with key countries, with Russia on the top of that list. And some EU leaders simply hope that NATO can act to help member states streamline military expenditures and reduce redundancies. I believe NATO must be careful to not try to be everything to everyone. It must seek to focus only on those areas where it can provide real added value to its members states and the international community.

What do you think? What is NATO's niche in the international community? How should the forthcoming strategic concept envision the future of NATO?

DOD Releases Afghanistan Report

The US Defense Department delivered a report to Congress this week providing an update on progress in Afghanistan from the period October 2009 to the end of March 2010.  Titled "Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan", the congressionally mandated report is extensive at 152 pages and covers everything from troop numbers in country to the details of ISAF counter-narcotics policy.

I have not read the entire report yet, but here are some highlights from the Executive Summary:

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Violence is up but Afghanis feel more secure

“Polls consistently illustrate that Afghans see security as improved from a year ago. At the same time violence is sharply above the seasonal average for the previous year – an 87% increase from February 2009 to March 2010.”  The report says that while violence has increased, this is largely due to increased ISAF activity.
 
US, partner-country, and Afghani force levels are increasing

US presence:
 “On March 31, 2010 there were approximately 87,000 U.S. forces and approximately 46,500 international forces in Afghanistan… force levels expected to approach 98,000 by August 2010.”

"The President’s strategy is dependent not only on the application of military capability, but also on increased civilian capacity. Since January 2009, the Department of State (DoS) has more than tripled the number of civilians on the ground in Afghanistan to 992. The increase in civilian personnel is a reflection of the President’s strategy to increase civil military cooperation at all levels of operations."

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