February 10, 2008
By ERIC MARGOLIS
At this week's NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, an angry U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates accused some Europeans of not being prepared to "fight and die" in Afghanistan in the battle against the Taliban.
The undiplomatic Gates is quite right. Most Europeans regard the Afghan conflict as a) wrong and immoral; b) America's war; c) all about oil; or d) probably lost.
To many Europeans, the NATO alliance was created to deter the real threat of Soviet aggression, not to supply foot soldiers for George Bush's wars in the Muslim world.
While Gates and the Harper government were pleading for more troops, the commander of the 40,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, landed a bombshell. If proper U.S. military counter-insurgency doctrine were followed, McNeill admitted, the U.S. and NATO would need 400,000 troops to defeat Pashtun tribal resistance in Afghanistan.
When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, they deployed 160,000 troops and about 200,000 Afghan Communist troops -- yet failed to crush the mostly Pashtun resistance. Now, the U.S. and NATO are trying the same mission with only 66,000 troops, backed by local mercenaries grandly styled the Afghan National Army.
Canada's calls for 1,000 more NATO troops, and the U.S. decision to send 3,200 marines, will not alter the course of this war, which is turning increasingly against the western occupiers. In fact, the war is spreading into neighbouring Pakistan, a nation of 165 million, stretching U.S. and NATO forces ever thinner.
A primary reason for Gates's recent call for U.S. troops to begin attacking pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen inside Pakistan is due to their growing attacks on allied supply lines to Afghanistan.
As this column has reported, over 70% of U.S./NATO supplies come in by truck through Pakistan's tribal belt known as FATA, including all of their oil and gas. Attacks by pro-Taliban tribesmen against these vulnerable supply lines are jeopardizing western military operations inside Afghanistan.
HUNTERS NOW HUNTED
The hunters are becoming the hunted. Cutting off invaders' supply lines is a time-honoured Pashtun military tactic. They used it againstAlexander the Great, the British and Soviets, and are at it again.
What angry Gates fails to see is that by pushing NATO into a distant Asian war without political purpose or seeming end, he is endangering the very alliance that is the bedrock of U.S. power in Europe.
Europeans increasingly ask why they need the U.S.-dominated military alliance, a Cold War relic, in which they continue to play foot soldiers to America's atomic knights, to paraphrase the late German statesman, Franz Josef Strauss.
Why does the rich, powerful European Union even need NATO any more? The Soviet threat is gone -- at least for now. Nuclear-armed France and Britain are quite capable of defending Europe against outside threats. Why can't the new European Defence Force take over NATO's role of defending Europe and protecting EU interests?
In short, most Europeans see no benefit in playing junior members in an alliance whose historic time has passed and that serves primarily as an instrument of U.S. power. Washington's sharpest geopolitical thinker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, calls NATO a "stepping stone" the U.S. uses to project power into Europe.
By pushing NATO towards a bridge too far, the Bush administration may end up fatally undermining the alliance and encouraging anti-American forces in Europe.
In fact, it's becoming evident that the cash-strapped U.S. needs the EU more than the EU needs the U.S.
Final point. If impassioned claims by U.S. and Canadian politicians that the little Afghanistan war must by won at all costs, then why don't they stop orating, impose conscription, and send 400,000 soldiers, including their own sons, to fight in Afghanistan?
Of course they won't. They prefer to waste their own soldiers, and grind up Afghanistan, rather than admit this war against 40 million Pashtun tribesmen was a terrible mistake that will only get worse.
February 10, 2008
February 10, 2008