Thursday, January 16, 2020

Hard Pass: NATO in the Mideast

Trump had a short line in his speech about Iran about more NATO in the Mideast and has even fancied a new name for NATO: NATOME as in NATO in the mideast.

Nope, it ain't gonna happen (which I have said before).  I am currently in Berlin, doing my last bit of fieldwork for the Dave/Phil/Steve project on comparative civil-military relations--what role do legislatures have?  I had an instructive conversation yesterday that made me feel better about my core beliefs on this.  So, first, let me explain my core beliefs and then what I learned yesterday.

NATO operates by consensus, and I think it is damn near impossible to reach consensus on NATO doing much more in the Mideast.  Currently, NATO is running a training mission in Iraq (as discussed by Stefanie von Hlatky in both ep 15 and earlier episode of Battle Rhythm as she visited there for her research).

Why is consensus highly unlikely?  Let me count the ways:
  1. Trump didn't warn the NATO troops in Iraq that their risk levels were about to go way up due to the drone strike on Suleimani.  He essentially placed these folks at much greater risk without any warning.  They are likely to be most displeased, and Justin Trudeau's statements have heaps of this displeasure in between the lines.
  2. The Europeans come to this pre-miffed--already upset at how Trump has handled Iran.  They find the JCPOA to be far more attractive than the alternatives, so they see tensions with Iran mostly the fault of Trump.  That Trump has repeatedly threatened European countries and companies with sanctions if they don't go along may not be something that gets much play in the US but gets much play, anger, resentment in Europe.
  3. Each member of the alliance has its own domestic politics to consider.   This is especially true for most of Europe where any deployment requires a vote in parliament--only the US and Canadians (maybe Turkey?) seem to be immune from this.   To get any vote through will require the most enthusiastic party to expend tremendous political capital to try to get other coalition partners (most European countries are run by coalition governments) and perhaps others (in some places, the governing coalition tries to get the main opposition parties on board so that there is national backing [and all are implicated, making these things lesser campaign issues]).  Given that Trump is toxic, and voting for such a mission would make a party look like it is standing with Trump, I just don't see it happening.
Maybe that was all in my head, a product of my Trump Derangement Syndrome and confirmation bias.  And then I talked with a Bundestag staffer yesterday.  The topic, of course, was mostly the research project, with me asking questions about how the Defence Committee operates in Germany.  But we got distracted by the on-going discussions about Iran--that many politicians could not talk to me this week because they are busy with extraordinary sessions dedicated to the Iran issue.

It was very clear from that conversation that my basic assumptions and assertions are on target here--that it would be very, very difficult to get Germany to agree to support a NATO decision to extend its efforts in the Mideast.  While Germany has opted out of other NATO operations (Libya), this time not only would other countries also opt out, but I am pretty sure they would fight against NATO deciding to do anything in the first place (more like 2003 than 2011).  Don't expect a consensus on NATO doing more.


1 comment:

Rob Chasen said...

Just cause you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, and just cause something confirms your biases doesn't mean it's wrong.