NATO Allies Want a Plan, Not a Plea


Spencer Ackerman writes:

From a White House press release:

Vice President Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium next week to meet with the North Atlantic Council, the principal forum for NATO’s 26 member states. The purpose of his trip is to consult with allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to ensure that their views help inform the strategic review ordered by President Obama. The Vice President also will meet with NATO’s Secretary General, with senior leaders of the European Union and with officials of the Belgian government.

Whether NATO countries believe, like Canadian PM Stephen Harper, that Afghanistan is an American preoccupation and not a core NATO interest is something Joe Biden will literally find out.

I think this misconstrues the nature of NATO skepticism about recent U.S. requests. The skepticism from the NATO allies is, like the skepticism from the progressive community in the United States, driven not be a lack of belief that “Afghanistan” is a core interest but by a lack of clarity over what “Afghanistan” is. For reasons that are 100 percent the fault of George Bush and 0 percent the fault of Barack Obama, the new administration finds itself taking over a situation in Afghanistan that bears little resemblance to the one prevailing when our initial war aims were framed. Consequently, it’s become unclear what the American and NATO missions in Afghanistan really are. Hence the ongoing strategy review process. But unfortunately, in some respects Obama seems to be putting the cart before the horse in terms of making commitments of American resources and requests for NATO resources before getting clear about what we’re trying to do. What I think Biden will find it, is that insofar as the Obama administration wants to get substantial cooperation from allied nations he’s going to need to persuade them that he has achievable goals and not just a domestic political imperative.