So Much for Europe

by , November 05, 2009

NATO ministers were hot to trot for Gen. Stan McChrystal’s Afghanistan escalation scheme, but Europe isn’t likely to send any more troops to the fray.  Opinion polls in most European countries show clear majorities in favor of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says, "Honestly in Europe there is not great enthusiasm for sending more troops to Afghanistan." 

NATO members currently field 42,000 troops in Afghanistan.  American troops there currently number 67,000.   

It’s a wonder NATO and Europe will play with us at all.  Donald Rumsfeld infamously referred to "old Europe" as "irrelevant."   

Rumsfeld’s successor has been just as insulting.  Robert Gates has a track record of crying for more help from NATO and then complaining about the kind of help he gets.  (They don’t know how to do counterinsurgency, dag nabbit.) 

Polls indicate that two-thirds of Germans want their troops pulled out of Afghanistan.  McChrystal has made the Germans the collateral damage scapegoat over the bombing of two fuel tankers in Afghanistan that killed as many as 70 people.  That’s rich considering that as head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), McChrystal was likely directly responsible for more collateral damage deaths of civilians than any other person alive today. McChrystal also has torture issues and Pat Tillman cover-up issues.  But he’s "King David" Petraeus’s fair-haired boy, so the Senate ignored his shortcomings at his confirmation hearing.  John McCain thinks McChrystal is the gnat’s whiskers, and insists that President Obama should cater to McChrystal’s every demand chop chop.   

More than 10,000 protesters marched in London on Oct. 24 demanding British troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan.  3,000 Parisians marched against the war in September.  Nobody in Europe digs the Afghanistan scene, man.   

John Kerry, whose track record with winning strategies is underwhelming, says that further U.S. troop increases must meet three conditions: reliable Afghan troops to partner with American forces, local political leaders, and civilian advisers to speed development. Harvard’s Graham Allison notes that, "none of these three will be in place soon." 

None of them will be in place ever.  Afghanistan is a region, not a nation.  All politics is local in Afghanistan.  Support your local warlord.  Leave a bribe and go away.   

In April, Obama tried to convince a NATO summit that allowing terror havens to exist in the Afghan region is "a threat not just to the US, but to Europe."  The Europeans must have yawned like old tabby cats.  They’ve seen a boatload more terrorism on their soil than we have.  They’ve seen a lot more war on their soil than we have too, and they’re sick of it.  Plus, one suspects, they know good and well that the worst way to combat terrorism is with armed force.  Terrorism is a policing matter.  

The NATO cats were all het up for McChrystal’s plan to occupy Afghanistan because it gave NATO a phony baloney reason to continue existing, just like a Long War in Afghanistan gives the U.S. Army a reason to expand.  But somewhere along the line, cooler Euro heads seem to be prevailing.  Let’s not jump off the roof just because the Americans did.  They still haven’t learned their lesson about the futility of war.

As I’ve said before, I wish we had not intervened in World War I.  We would have become a sole superpower so much faster, and have set a truly new world order in place.  

World War I was the ultimate expression of what our founders sought to escape from: balance of power elbowing gone amok.  The great European nations — democracies versus monarchies — would have bled themselves white if we hadn’t intervened.  Our interference merely led to an interminable armistice that gave rise to the monster Hitler, and another World War, and a half-century Cold War after that.   

World War I was sold to the American public as the "war to end all wars."  Ahem.  Wars don’t end war; they set conditions for the next war.  We’re not going to end Islamo-hooliganism by blowing the western half of Asia and parts of Africa to smithereens.  We’ll just make more Islamo-hooligans.   

The Europeans have had it with our fist-centric brand of world leadership.  The Russians and Chinese are laughing behind our backs.  Osama bin Laden and his eight or ten al-Qaeda chums are rubbing their hands in delight at how we’re immolating ourselves strategically.   

That is the saddest part of our current policy calculus.  Bin Laden’s scheme was to goad us into pouring blood and treasure into unwinnable enterprises from which we couldn’t extract ourselves.  George W. Bush and his neoconservative puppeteers were a perfect foil.  (Hey stupid, come here.  Who are you calling stupid? I’m going to come over there and…act stupid.)  Obama hasn’t changed much in our foreign policy.  We’re still banging our heads against a brick wall because somebody dared us not to.   

An Afghan national police officer opened fire on British troops Tuesday Nov. 3, killing five of them and wounding six others.  McChrystal wants to train up 400,000 characters like this.  "We will not let this event deter our resolve to building a partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to provide for Afghanistan’s future," McChrystal said. 

The Europeans have the right idea, Stan.  You don’t.   

Bring.  Troops.  Home.

Read more by Jeff Huber