Thursday, February 25, 2010

NATO Necessarily?

Fred Kaplan criticizes NATO's performance in Afghanistan and suggests that if countries do not want to participate, that it is ok.  He is arguing that Afghanistan should not be about saving NATO's reputation or giving it a mission in the aftermath of the Cold War.

I liked reading the piece because it highlights the topic that I have been obsessing about the past couple of years--what countries will and will not do in Afghanistan.  I do disagree with some points:
  1. The NATO nametag is not a deterrent to Muslim countries of the Middle East.  The intensity of the effort and the unpopularity of the mission are sufficient explanations.  Perhaps in 2001, but not after 2003.
  2. The piece suggests that NATO as an institution provides little added value to the campaign.  My guess is that there would be fewer troops on the ground if countries were not signing up to support an institution that they need.  Romania, Poland, the Baltics, and the like provide some forces, some more significant than the others.  Canada's participation would probably have been much shorter since supporting NATO has been a key motivation, and Canada has played a significant role.  
But I concur with the argument that we should not hector those that are leaving or those that have tight caveats.  We can try to finesse the caveats behind closed doors, but embarrassing countries is only going to backfire.

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