Gates Slams Allies For Shirking

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"Gates Slams Allies For Shirking"

Robert Gates

I don’t really know what this is supposed to accomplish:

In a deliberately undiplomatic speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Gates called on European allies to put aside their domestic politics and work with the United States to secure the “semblance of normalcy” that he said was emerging in some parts of Afghanistan.

“Frankly, there is too much talk about leaving and not enough talk about getting the job done right,” Mr. Gates said. “Too much discussion of exit and not enough discussion about continuing the fight. Too much concern about when and how many troops might redeploy and not enough about what needs to be done before they leave.”

Speeches aside, there’s a free-riding problem built into the structure of American policy. We want out allies to share more of the burden, but we’re not willing to formally commit ourselves to collective action. Gates could say something like “we think a big deployment is in the collective interests of all NATO members, but we won’t lift a finger to do it unless everyone ponies up an acceptable level of support.” But he’s not going to say that. So how are NATO states not going to end up free-riding? Given the objective situation, I think what’s been remarkable about the Afghanistan War is how little Euroshirking there’s been. The Pentagon is actually quite effective at capturing European military bureaucracies, but over the extent of what this can accomplish necessarily erodes.

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