"In the war on terrorism, alliances are not an obstacle to victory. They're the key to it."
August 26, 2002 11:21 AM   Subscribe

"In the war on terrorism, alliances are not an obstacle to victory. They're the key to it." General Wesley Clark on the lessons of Kosovo and why diplomacy and international cooperation are essential to winning the war on terrorism.
posted by homunculus (17 comments total)
 
Can I vote "winning the war on terrorism" as one of the most vacuous cliches e'er to be promoted?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2002


Given the unprecedented level of power the American military now commands, alliances with Europe are (from the American perspective) growing ever-more pointless. The question is not can we act unilaterally -- there is no question that we can, and successfully too. The question is: are we willing to point out the military insignificance of our European allies to our foreign policy aims?
posted by mrmanley at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2002


I'll admit to being one of the Europeans "outraged" by America's recent enthusiasm for abandoning what its founding fathers called "the decent respect for the opinion of mankind" - and one who is reassured by this piece.

See this thread for a comprehensive essay challenging, like Clark, the assumption of the need for "unfettered American leadership" (and, in the thread, evidence supporting Clark's statement that "some Americans seem to take a certain delight in Europe's outrage" ;) )
posted by RichLyon at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2002


Given the unprecedented level of power the American military now commands

And what was that unprecendented level of power able to do about Sept. 11th? The point is that terrorism is not fought by having unprecendented levels of military power. In order to dismantle terror networks, we need co-operation from all over the globe. Europe has already been instrumental in this effort, regardless of the size of their military.
posted by cell divide at 1:00 PM on August 26, 2002


(MrManley - did you actually read the piece? His point is that the utility of a European alliance is not military but diplomatic, is significant, and without it the likelyhood of your success is reduced.)
posted by RichLyon at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2002


Because the Bush administration has thus far refused to engage our allies through NATO, we are fighting the war on terrorism with one hand tied behind our back.

Instead of two. Bwahahahahahahahahaha.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2002


cell divide:

Europe (especially France and Greece, but to a lesser extent Germany as well) has very little interest in furthering American aims -- they only want to be seen to be helping without actually doing much about it.

I can google some links to support this assertion if you'd like, but it's almost common-sense. Europe needs America more than America needs Europe, and that worries a lot of people on that side of the Atlantic. For all its economic power, the EU is a military midget and depends absolutely upon the US for its strategic defense.

European governments couldn't even deal with a genocide not four hours' drive from Paris and Berlin (the Bosnian conflict) -- America once again had to take the military lead and force an end to the conflict.

And I wish everyone would stop acting like ferreting out terrorists is just a favor that European governments are doing the Americans. Smashing terrorist networks is in their own best interest, and they shouldn't need US prodding to do it.

Lastly:
Europe also seems to be reverting to some old bad habits.
posted by mrmanley at 1:15 PM on August 26, 2002


Given the unprecedented level of power the American military now commands, alliances with Europe are (from the American perspective) growing ever-more pointless.

You lost me there, mrmanley, I don't see how that applies to al-Qaeda. I think Clark makes his point well here:

"As the president himself has warned, the struggle against terror requires far more than exclusively military actions. Indeed, as time goes on, the most important aspect of the war may be in law enforcement and judicial activities. Much of the terrorist network draws support and resources from within countries friendly or allied with us. Terrorists residing in Western Europe planned the September 11 attack, and the greatest concentration of their "sleeper cells" outside the Middle East is probably in Europe. Yet this is a threat that the American military can do little to combat. What we really need is closer alignment of our police and judicial activities with our friends and allies: greater cooperation in joint police investigations, sharing of evidence, harmonious evidentiary standards and procedures, as well as common definitions of crimes associated with terrorism. Through greater legal, judicial, and police coordination, we need to make the international environment more seamless for us than it is for the international terrorists we seek."

I agree with Clark that American military superiority is of little use under these conditions. Do you disagree with this?
posted by homunculus at 1:17 PM on August 26, 2002


RichLyon:

Sorry, I posted before I read your piece.

My riposte: it is a uniquely Continental response to say "diplomacy" when confronted by armed conflict. Ask the Czechs what they thought of Chamberlain's "diplomacy". Ask the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica what they thought of European "diplomacy". (For a slightly more PC example: ask the American Indian tribes how well "diplomacy" helped them in the 19th century.)

This is not even like bringing a knife to a gunfight -- it's like bringing a fountain pen. Yeesh.
posted by mrmanley at 1:24 PM on August 26, 2002


homonculus:

(Note to everyone else: I'm posting too much -- I'll quit after this post.)

Terrorists *are* a military threat. Just because they don't fight under the aegis of a nation/state, that doesn't mean that they become a matter for the police rather than the military. Middle-eastern terrorism especially is a political outgrowth of the Arab world's lamentable military ability -- they cannot match the Western powers militarily, so they seek to amplify their power via small-unit and terror tactics.

US military power is not simply tanks, planes, and guns -- it's the incredible and vast array of systems we can bring to bear. We have real-time, global warfighting capability for anything from small-unit conflicts up to theaterwide warfare.

America *wants* to have the world on our side. We'd *like* for Europe to be on board with us. My point is that we don't really *need* either their permission or approval to wage war on our enemies.
posted by mrmanley at 1:32 PM on August 26, 2002


MrManley : "uniquely Continental" - other than the US Army's Supreme Allied Commander, you mean?

[As Clement Atlee said to Winston Churchill - "A period of silence on your part would be most welcome". I'll join you.]
posted by RichLyon at 1:54 PM on August 26, 2002


European governments couldn't even deal with a genocide not four hours' drive from Paris and Berlin (the Bosnian conflict)


Four hour drive? Hah, right! Good luck!
posted by ar0n at 3:29 PM on August 26, 2002


Radio Liberty - Western Press Review: Prague, 23 August

"Commentaries and analyses in the Western media today discuss whether America has a double standard on democracy, how to pursue an exit strategy in Kosovo, putting Chechnya back on the international agenda, Russia's economic interests, and the growing strategic role of NATO aspirants Romania and Bulgaria."
posted by sheauga at 6:52 PM on August 26, 2002


Europe needs America more than America needs Europe, and that worries a lot of people on that side of the Atlantic. For all its economic power, the EU is a military midget and depends absolutely upon the US for its strategic defense.

Bullshit bullshit bullshit mrmanley.

Under the Bush administration the US acts as though it does not need Europe. I've heard this talk for far too long. The only thing that is holding "Europe" back isn't that it is a "military midget", but that to stridently oppose the US on the only terms it appears the US understands right now (read Bush regime) is to threaten with force in order for Europe to get its way, just like the Bush administration is using the good name of America to do. There was a day exactly one year ago that America even considered itself far too above the hollow rhetoric of shameless war posturing until BushII came along and his grand opportunity of 9-11.

Don't for one instant think that the rest of the world is going to twiddle its thumbs as America runs roughshod. In the interest of the world and indeed this includes America, one could assume the stance of the EU is much more about hopeful damage control as they wait out a new regime change in Washington. (IMO)

The key is: Nobody wants war.
posted by crasspastor at 7:21 PM on August 26, 2002


They key is: Europe has its head up its ass, or in the sand, or at some EU love fest. But in any case, Europe is pretty much powerless to fight a war.

The United States should make all efforts to have Europe on its side, but at the end of the day, we have to act as the only force which stands between their cushy lifestyle and the world's nuclear armed wackos.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:53 PM on August 26, 2002


Good lord Paris.

Great points!
posted by crasspastor at 9:10 PM on August 26, 2002


But in any case, Europe is pretty much powerless to fight a war.

What is this 'war' of which you speak? Big war, small war, war as big as your head? Britain's been fighting terrorists on and off for decades, with more success, it seems, than the mighty forces of the USA; so have plenty of other European nations. War against nutjobs with suitcases full of chemicals or germs? War against suicide bombers? Well, giving more money to Halliburton doesn't really help there. If we're in a world of asymmetric warfare, where investment doesn't correlate with results, why are the Americans playing the budget card? You deal with nuclear-armed wackos by having lots of conventional armour? India-Pakistan doesn't suggest so. Israel doesn't suggest so. And both the UK and France have the nuclear deterrent to address a hostile state entity.

Oh, and Japan is also pretty much powerless to fight a war, and it's not so far from North Korea. (Same with South Korea, too, bizarrely enough.) I don't see Americans pissing themselves in the rush to get McArthur's constitution revised just so that the Japanese pay their own way. After all, they enjoy a fairly cushy lifestyle and don't taggle-tail around after the US when it comes to military adventures. I suspect, though, that they might be relieved at what military autonomy could do to the safety of young women around Okinawa.
posted by riviera at 9:28 PM on August 26, 2002


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