A centerpiece of Barack Obama’s foreign policy is convincing Europeans, particularly NATO members, to help with the effort in Afghanistan. George Bush, it was said, too long had practiced the politics of “go it alone.” We were assured that once we asked nicely, instead of arrogantly, the Europeans would fall in line.
From Obama’s campaign website, a promise:
Strengthen NATO: Obama and Biden will rally NATO members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization operations, streamlining the decision-making processes, and giving NATO commanders in the field more flexibility.
Obama even promised during his European campaign tour that NATO troop contributions would bring American troops home and (laugh) help the U.S. economy:
Barack Obama said Friday that persuading NATO allies to contribute more troops to Afghanistan could lead to U.S. troop cuts and help improve the U.S. economy, with reduced military expenditure being diverted into tax cuts to help middle class families.
You see, the lack of European support was all the fault of bad George Bush, who didn’t ask nicely enough:
“I can say affirmatively an effective U.S. foreign policy will be based on our ability not only to project power, but also to listen and to build consensus,” Obama said.
Sorry to disappoint, but this story line had little chance of success. The reason the Europeans don’t contribute more is that they don’t have more to contribute. European armed forces are notoriously lax, and often serve more as social welfare agencies.
Not surprisingly, comes this news headline: “US Defence Secretary ‘disappointed’ over Nato response to troop call.”
Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, pleaded with Nato allies today to send more civilian personnel to Afghanistan after expressing “disappointment” at their failure to meet his requests for troops….
Washington had hoped to capitalise on the new President’s appeal to bring further troop commitments from European allies but, so far, no pledges have been forthcoming. There is growing concern over the logistics of prosecuting the war with too few troops and diminishing supply routes into the country.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted yesterday to close the US airbase at Manas, striking a blow to efforts to find new supply routes after those from Pakistan come under attack by Taleban militants.
How troubling. Maybe some of the thousands of people who attended Obama’s campaign speech in Berlin will volunteer. More precisely, how pathetic that we have a President who still thinks that his personal charisma can sway the world, and who fiddles while America’s strategic position burns.