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May 9, 2004
NATO Won't Go To Iraq: LA Times

The Los Angeles Times reports more news on the efforts to internationalize the efforts in Iraq, this time with NATO. According to Paul Richter, diplomats and defense officials tied to NATO will not consider joining the Anglo-American efforts until, oddly enough, after the US presidential election:

The Western military alliance had expected to announce at a June summit that it would accept a role in the country, perhaps by leading the international division now patrolling south-central Iraq. But amid continuing bloodshed and strong public opposition to the occupation in many nations, allies want to delay any major commitment until after the U.S. presidential election in November, officials say.

NATO suffers from the same disease that has crippled the UN -- namely, the reluctance to commit troops to anyplace where they might take fire. Unsurprisingly so, as the same member-nations that decry the lack of international input in Iraq are the same who drag their feet to send troops to Afghanistan, where NATO had already accepted a large role. As Richter points out (well down into the body of the article), requests for more support there get the same result with a different set of excuses:

In addition, NATO has struggled to provide enough troops and equipment for its mission in Afghanistan, which holds a considerably higher priority with most members than any future assignment in Iraq. NATO officials have been trying to cajole members for months to contribute more to the Afghan effort, but continue to be rebuffed by officials of governments who say they are overstretched in other peacekeeping missions and do not have equipment designed for southwest Asia.

Even so, most members take the view that "Afghanistan is where NATO's credibility is on the line," said a NATO official. "In Iraq, it's the U.S.' credibility that's on the line."

If NATO won't support the mission where they admit their own credibility is at stake, why bother asking them to take on Iraq? Why should we continue to bang on doors that simple economics and domestic politics should clearly demonstrate will remain closed to us? Europe, with the exception of the UK, has never invested serious money in its own defense, instead relying on the US and to a lesser extent the UK to defend them instead. In fact, our a significant portion of that American defense infrastructure remains in place. This lack of investment enabled Western Europeans to build the socialist entitlement systems that now strangle their economies. They don't have the resources to build large armies, even for peacekeeping, and won't have them until they make significant changes to their internal economics. Moreoever, the changes required will enrage their populations as pensions upon which they relied will disappear. Under those circumstances, what likelihood does any US administration have of receiving militarily significant assistance in Iraq?

One other issue deserves mention. Richter reports that the NATO diplomats intend on waiting until after the American election to make a decision. Why? I could understand if they wanted to wait until after an Iraqi election, in order to speak with popularly-elected officials there instead of appointees; that would make some sense, although I think it communicates a dangerous lack of self-confidence for NATO. It seems our allies want to dabble a bit in our domestic politics, something to keep in mind during the next few months.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 9, 2004 10:32 AM

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