What Is the Point of NATO?
PARIS — The fog around NATO’s future deepens as the treaty organization approaches its 60th anniversary.
Judy Dempsey, central European expert for the International Herald Tribune, reports that the United States has all but concluded that it is time for the American command in Afghanistan to take over complete control of the (illogically) divided dual Western force in Afghanistan, which is now part NATO and part American (the latter Operation “Enduring Freedom,” according to the grotesque names the Pentagon has long chosen to assign operations that once were given such human-scale titles as “Anvil,” “Torch,” etc.)
The dual force is the result of the initial failure to get NATO seriously involved in Afghanistan. In the accepted, if informal, Allied scheme of things, the U.S. is supposed to wage wars for freedom and the Europeans clean up the smashed crockery and build schools and democratic institutions. In Afghanistan, while the bureaucratically indivisible attention of Washington was on Iraq, the Taliban came back into Afghanistan and the NATO units there had to react.
So they did, but in a predictably riven way, with the separate governments involved placing their own units under different mission definitions and operational limitations. Some, like the Canadians, fought; others went on building schools. The American forces present were mainly separated geographically from where NATO was operating, and were in gung-ho, if unsuccessful, pursuit of Osama bin Laden and what Donald Rumsfeld used to call the Bad People.
The overall situation has seen some amelioration, but remains an unsatisfactory way to run a war. And now Barack Obama has (for disastrously misconceived reasons, in my view) decided that he too will be a war president, just like George Bush, and his victory will mean a triumph in Afghanistan — and even, although this was not part of the initial calculation, Pakistan as well, or so it now seems.
Possibly even three Pakistans. Thanks to a pro-Israeli, neoconservative plan put forward in New York, designed to destroy Pakistan as the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, important circles in Pakistan now seem convinced that the United States intends to divide Pakistan into three new states, the largest one being a new Baluchistan in the southwest, where there have always been separatist tendencies.
The second large part would be handed over to Afghanistan, gratifying long-standing territorial ambitions, and the new state, incorporating all of the troublesome North West Territories dominated by the Pathan tribes, would in gratitude crush the Taliban. The third state would be a truncated territory along the Indian frontier, obviously under the military domination of New Delhi, Washington’s new best friend in South Asia.
One can see why this might play well with the American command in Afghanistan, infuriated by present-day Pakistan’s unsatisfactory cooperation with American plans, and it might also evoke interest from the Obama White House, whose ambition to undertake grand Asian geopolitical remakes, with all their political and military implications, remains untested.
In Pakistan, such a plan would generate the same hostility, but perhaps not the same incredulity, as the plan to divide a declining United States that was recently published by a Moscow think tank.
Its new (dis)United States would consist of a Florida, Arizona-New Mexico, Nevada and California arc given back to Mexico; a Midwest given mostly to Canada; and a Pacific Northwestern block of states plus Alaska for Russia. The residual U.S., composed mostly of Rust Belt states, plus northeastern WASP Land (with Wall Street!), would be left to its own devices. (I am not making this up, incidentally.)
Forgetting the hypothetical partition of Pakistan (which is a scheme, like other neoconservative schemes, that nonetheless should be taken seriously), NATO today, approaching its 60th birthday, faces the prospect of sending home all of its units not willing to fight under the American rather than the NATO flag.
They will go home to “defend” Europe. From whom? A Russia that no longer has European ambitions, has no ideology, has yet to solve the deep questions of its national political future, and at this moment wishes only to be left alone to sell oil? From threats to Europe’s Middle Eastern energy sources? In that case, NATO’s long-term interests suggest making better friends with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
What the major NATO countries don’t need is an expanded NATO or American war in Central and South Asia. If or when Gen. David Petraeus comes around to NATO headquarters in Kabul and says, “Look, guys. The time has come for the bunch of you to shape up or ship out,” they might do well to reply: “Sir, our bags are packed. It’s been grand working with you, but take our parting advice. There’s no future for any European soldier in this country.”
Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services Inc.Wait, before you go…
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