Another contributor to our little blog, this time ripping one of my previous posts to pieces, the bloody cheek!
This is a riposte to my post about Afghanistan from Mark Nixon
I will drop my response (along with the dummy) in comments.
On December 9th, ADMIN posted Afghanistan, Who is Pulling Their Weight and concluded his piece with: “It is simply too easy a cop out, either NATO is a collective where all nations pull their weight in both blood and treasure or not.” Worryingly, the thrust of the argument is remarkably similar to the official UK approach to encouraging greater participation by European NATO allies.
As ADMIN points out, it is indeed “a widely help opinion that some NATO nations are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan”. But is there any solid basis for this opinion or is merely a UK-centric delusion that has only gained credibility through frequency of repetition. If you repeat a lie enough, it will become a truth, allegedly!
With this post, I hope to demonstrate that the (statistical) evidence produced to support this conclusion is beyond flimsy; and little more than UK-centric self-delusion of self-importance and self-righteousness. It’s an argument and approach that has proven to be more likely to dissuade than persuade our allies from greater participation. It is thus, counter-productive. Putting it bluntly, ‘we’ are simply demanding that more body bags leave Afghanistan with German, French, Greek etc bodies inside. Hardly the best way to encourage greater support, is it?
Firstly, I’ll look at the argument presented by ADMIN – which, as I’ve already mentioned is very similar to HMG’s line behind closed doors – and then I’ll present an insight into the non-UK-centric understanding of the issue and why there is reluctance on their behalf to become more involved.
As gown-ups, I’m sure we all accept the truism that one can ‘prove’ almost any argument with clever use (manipulation) of statistics. ADMIN has been rigorous in analysing the statistics ONLY pertaining to Afghanistan. The UK only has 9,500 troops committed to Afghanistan because it has walked away from its commitments elsewhere: Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq for example, and opted out of other international missions in Chad and Lebanon to name just two. Is it fair to expect other countries to back-fill our premature departure from other missions AND match our commitment in Afghanistan? More on this later.
Then, considering the content of the statistics, all that is presented is a comparative analysis of current effort. There is no analysis of what outcomes that effort has achieved, or is likely to achieve. Moreover, there is no analysis of what constitutes the benchmark of pulling one’s weight.
I would argue that the resources and effort required to achieve the stated and desired results require a MASSIVE uplift and that the UK is no less guilty in this respect than any other. In fact, probably more guilty, given that the UK’s effort to desired outcome ratio has far greater divergence than the effort to desired outcome ratio of other NATO members. Is it an honest argument to measure others against ‘ourselves’ when ‘we ourselves’ have failed to produce? 10,000 troops may sound alot, but the weight of evidence suggests it is far from adequate to achieve the stated political and military goals.
Now consider this. Greece is presented as the prime slacker within NATO. Imagine that the Greek government decided to uplift their 145-strong contingent to a 1,000-strong BG in Kandahar. Instantly, they move from almost bottom position to 7th in the table of deployed to population ratio (1:11,260) – above Canada. They would still be near the bottom of the deployed to armed forces (0.6%), but given that the Greek military is artificially large due to conscription, this is hardly a surprise. Now, further assume that shortly after arrival a disaster struck the contingent and they lost 50 personnel in a Chinook accident. Suddenly, they leap into 1st place in the casualties to deployed (5%), 3rd place on the casualties per head of population (225,200) and 4th place in total casualties incurred. Almost overnight, the go from ‘worst performer’ to one of the ‘best’.
But ask yourself what have they achieved other than filling body bags? In what way has ‘success’ in Afghanistan been advanced? The statistics presented are not a guide to who is pulling one’s weight, they are a guide to who is suffering on the butcher’s bill.
Moreover, I would argue, that given the incoherence of policy aims, the collective inability to define and achieve mission success, those making the greatest effort are the greatest losers and the greatest fools. Those lurking in the bottom 10 are thus the wisest of the fools. Perhaps the only truly wise are those not represented in Afghanistan at all.
ADMIN premises his argument and conclusion that others are not pulling their weight on the basis that other NATO members are obliged to be involved in Afghanistan. This is a falsehood. Let’s look again at Article 5 of the NATO Charter, in particular the parts I have underlined:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
In other words, each members state is only obliged to assist with whatever action it sees necessary to restore and maintain security in Europe and the North Atlantic. If Greece decides security has already been restored and only 145 troops are required in Afghanistan to assist in maintaining that security, then that is their decision. There is NO obligation to do any more. No member state is obliged to meet the level of effort that another provides. Every member determines its own level of effort and has no obligation to meet the demands of others.
Moving on to the second element of this post: the perceptions of the non-UK/US centric minded.
The UK/US accusation is that other NATO members are now unreliable and untrustworthy allies. This accusation is based upon their ‘failure’ to support UK/US intervention efforts more robustly. What the UK/US fail to grasp is that those very same NATO members will not increase their assistance because they see the UK/US as unreliable and untrustworthy allies and have no desire to be dragged into their ill-conceived foreign policy adventures. Who is right and who is wrong?
I consider that the rebuilding of Germany post-1945 should be the model for nation building. The economy and society were rebuilt in a manner that ensured the German people didn’t resort to further military means to ‘right’ self-perceived injustices as they did in the late 1930’s. The model provides benchmarks in respect of level of resources (financial and other), political capital, military effort and duration required of the international community.
In Bosnia in 1995, then Kosovo in 1999 and later Iraq, the UK proclaimed it was in for the long haul in nation building. None of the issues is anywhere near resolution. Nevertheless, the UK is already effectively out of the Balkans and Iraq and leaving it to others to worry about the long term. On each occasion, it left on the basis of others back-filling. It has also decided not to be part of UN/EU missions in Chad and Lebanon. The UK has gained a reputation for being very keen to trash places and then make a hurried exit to avoid the long term consequences of their actions. Many NATO members are fed-up being duped into these quagmires.
The UK/US has a problem of credibility. There is a significant credibility gap between their intervention theory, policy and intervention practice; a huge gap between the rhetoric and the results; and a MASSIVE credibility gap in their sincerity. Today, Tony Blair was on the BBC World Service opining over the Iraq invasion. He clearly stated that he would have taken the UK to war even in the knowledge that Iraq had no WMD – all he would have done is change his arguments as to why it was necessary. He opined on his (continued) belief that Saddam was a threat to regional security – bar Kuwait perhaps, none of Iraq’s neighbours believed that. He opined on how removing the ‘threat’ in Iraq would remove threats elsewhere, and so it went on. Many NATO members see UK foreign intervention policy as self-serving self-delusion and wish to take no part in it. Today, we heard more evidence to suggest they may well be right.
The current ‘strategy’ for Afghanistan seems to be to build Afghan security forces as quickly as possible and then exit. If I’m not mistaken, that was the Soviet Union’s exit strategy too. Look how that fared. Most analysts suggest the number of forces required to bring about a genuinely favourable environment for pull-out requires a massive uplift in forces. The UK could, if it chose to, do FAR more in Afghanistan than it already does – military, politically and financially. But it chooses not to. The UK is perceived as going round with the begging bowl to save it having to dig into its own pockets. The 10,000 UK troop level is an artificial ceiling based upon lack of political will to succeed. The UK is perceived as requiring help to reinforce failure not to bring about success.
And finally, even though there is no stated Alliance obligation for NATO members to up their footprint in Afghanistan, the argument has been made that they have a security imperative and a moral obligation to do so.
But have they?
It may well be the UK’s considered (no laughing in the stalls please!!!) opinion that international terrorism can be eradicated in Afghanistan, that the world’s drug problem can be resolved in Helmand and Europe’s immigration worries reduced, but is this ‘fact’ or ‘self-delusion’?
The evidence and arguments are at best incoherent, at worst a deliberate falsehood. Most NATO members simply do not accept the arguments that receive a good hearing in the Red Lion.
To sum up, it may well be the case that many, if not all (the UK & US included), are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan. But that can only be determined when a credible and universally recognised benchmark is presented as to what pulling one’s weight actually entails.
Mudslinging – that others are not doing as much as oneself – is neither helpful nor particularly honest given the issue and the historical background.