Tuesday, October 7, 2003

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Hey, we can do statebuilding

The Chicago Tribune has a good story on successful U.S. efforts to rebuild the state in Afghanistan, one town at a time. The key grafs:

GARDEZ, Afghanistan -- A remarkable transformation has taken place in recent weeks in this once-troubled provincial capital, now bustling with new businesses, new relief projects and a new optimism about the future.

The warlords have been driven away one by one.

In the past three months, the central government, with the help of U.S. forces based in the town, has succeeded in replacing all of them with police and army professionals, answerable solely to the government in Kabul....

But Gardez is only one town, a model rather than a trend, and extending its successes to the rest of the country won't be easy.

The U.S. military chose Gardez, a three-hour drive southeast of Kabul, as the pilot for its first Provincial Reconstruction Team, a concept the U.S. military hopes will restore stability and bolster reconstruction efforts across the country.

The team is made up of about 60 military and civil affairs officers doing mostly humanitarian work. But their presence was an undoubted deterrence to any thoughts of resistance the warlords may have had, said Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Paktia province. "Without the Americans, this would be very difficult," he said. "They are helping us a lot."

There are now only three other reconstruction teams, and although there are plans for four more, most towns and provinces won't benefit from the presence of U.S. forces.

Go read the entire article for an excellent account of warlord politics in Afghanistan, and the need to eradicate as many of them as possible before elections planned for 2004. The Guardian reports that the U.S. plans on sending troops to support another PRT to Kunduz.

Here's an idle thought -- why doesn't NATO create even more Provincial Reconstruction Teams? This is definitely an area where other countries can contribute -- indeed, this is an area where our allies may have a comparative advantage. New Zealand is already taking over one PRT. According to the Miami Herald, however, there is a problem with the European members of the coalition:

Some European members of NATO have been reluctant to put their soldiers in harm's way. "They're scared," said [country director for the aid agency] Mercy Corps' [Diane] Johnson. "I think they know they're going to get a lot of potshots. It all boils down to political will." (emphasis added)

Indeed. [But why should the Europeans help us? Aren't we too belligerent for their tastes?--ed. This ain't Iraq, it's Afghanistan. This is the country for which NATO invoked Article V and for which the Security Council unanimously approved force. So our interests coincide in Afghanistan. From a purely self-interested perspective, however, our European allies have a strong incentive to demonstrate the utility of their armed forces to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. The more useful their military units, the greater demand for their services. The greater the demand for their services, the more leverage they have in affecting American foreign policy.]

posted by Dan on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM


Did you see where Serbia is sending troops?

posted by: Brian Ulrich on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Is it really surprising that Europeans don't want to put their troops in harm's way? This was primarily an American effort, with American overseers, and very little success so far in terms of statebuilding. What's their interest?

But I do agree that the US should be doing more of this.

posted by: paul on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

What's interesting is that this strategic is right out of the Marine's Small Wars Manual as described in Max Boot's "The Savage Wars of Peace." The book detailed how such tactics worked over and over for the U.S. abroad. What was especially interesting was that it was successfull when actually applied in Vietnam. However, in that war it was primarily a sideline tactic that got little support and to devastating effect to the outcome of the war.
So, it's good to know someone's doing it the right way this time.

posted by: Scott on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

What's their interest?

I guess we take it as read that the Euros won't take any hits for purely humanitarian or altruistic reasons. That's sad, right there.

Their selfish interest? If Afghanistan fails, they will see a resurgence if Islamist nuttery, which, despite their denials, is a clear and present danger to their people, given the large numbers of Middle Easterners and Muslims that live in many European countries.

posted by: R.C. Dean on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

I suppose this is one drawback to having a President who approaches the battlefield of ideas unarmed. Ideally the United States should be challenging its European and other allies directly about their preference for doing over talking about killing terrorism at the source. A specific proposal from the President, or at least the Secretary of State, would be the vehicle for the challenge.

Fundamentally the point at issue is a vision of an international order that exists independent of American power and one in which American power is the largest single component and American values the driving force. The case for the former, even in Europe, is very weak, for such a world order will not in the end be able to do very much. But the case for an American-led world order in which other countries contribute more than words won't sway any minds unless it is made, and right now the American government has no one capable of making it.

posted by: Zathras on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

One point that isn't made generally when one considers asking European countries to contribute additional troops to Afghanistan (let alone Iraq): the European military forces simply cannot make a substantial, incremental increase in their overseas deployments. Peacekeeping is expensive and time-consuming. Military units require special training to do it well (and you don't want an ill-trained peacekeeper), and after a rotation of peacekeeping they have to be re-trained for their original job. The Germans and French with their other commitments are at their limits of what they can contribute to Afghanistan. The Brits are likewise busy. The smaller Euro states can't be expected to do much.

The 'small war' theory and building of PRTs is an excellent way to get the right result. But other than the US, there's no acceptable country that can do the job, that has the resources to do the job. As a result the success of Gardez will be repeated only slowly.

posted by: Steve White on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

I'd join the U.S. Army/Marines in a heartbeat if I could trust that I would be able to be involved in something like an Afghan PRT.

There are many enlightened individuals out there who desperately want to help, who have the right mix of a sense of adventure and a wealth of compassion who want to fight the unseen fronts of this "War on Terrorism" - the hopeless poverty that provides a recruitment base for extremists.

Military might has its uses and I don't discount its pragmatic necessity, but it is by definition a 'reactive' measure. Those of us who are desperate to fight a more 'proactive' battle against hopeless and dispair are left with much fewer options.

posted by: Steve Kling on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Would it be too crass to speculate that another reason we don't see more of these teams is that there is no room for them in the budget? I mean, reconstructing Afghanistan versus another tax cut, no contest.

I'm also waiting for GWB to apologize to Al Gore and the Clinton Administration for his sneers at "nation-building".

Differences arose as Lehrer prompted the candidates on the concept of "nation-building," an activity on which Bush says the U.S. has devoted too much time, personnel and material.

"I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations," Bush said. He later added, "We can't be all things to all people."
For this, I will wait long.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Dan -

You assume they value leverage in affecting American policy over the domestic political cost of sending soldiers abroad and suffering casualties. Their values may be the reverse, in which case they may want to make their military units as useless as possible in order to reduce demand for their services.

Doesn't the latter utility system seem more consistent with their actions than the one you have postulated?

posted by: pj on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

The europeans are simply not credible in the area of military force. They have been under the US protective umbrella for so long that their ability to protect themselves has atrophied, let alone their ability to project power beyond their borders.

posted by: RB on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

RC Dean - obviously the Europeans have an interest in seeing a functioning non-terrorist state in Afghanistan. My question is whether they have an interest in getting on board a process which not only freezes out other actors in terms of decision making, but which to date has been a galactic failure. It's not clear to me that anyone would want to be involved under these circumstances - which also is why we're having great difficulty finding stand-ins for our military in Iraq.

posted by: paul on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]


After reading your posts AND the comments here...
I admit I´m puzzled?

Plans of establishing a German led PRT team were
published in German newspapers weeks ago.
It´s practically certain that we´ll do it.
Though I admit that German newspapers today reported that other European NATO countries seem to be more wary. Maybe supporting the German effort but not taking any responsibility on their own themselves.

Guess you all don´t read any foreign newspapers.
Especially non-English newspapers.

And if the European wimps "have been reluctant to put their soldiers in harm's way" maybe we should recall all of our soldiers currently stationed in and around Kabul.
After all "we´re putting them into harm´s way", right? :)
An some of them already died there...

In that case be prepared to send several thousands
more US troops to Afghanistan to replace the European wimps. :)

And by the way, I don´t like:

"From a purely self-interested perspective, however, our European allies have a strong incentive to demonstrate the utility of their armed forces to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. The more useful their military units, the greater demand for their services. The greater the demand for their services, the more leverage they have in affecting American foreign policy."

We are NOT the American "French Foreign Legion"!
We work together because we do have common interests and NOT because we are a source of
good mercenary soldiers!

You do remember Rumsfeld saying before the Iraq war that the USA didn´t really need the British soldiers for the Iraq war, don´t you?
Saying this while knowing that Blair was in trouble supporting the war?

If that´s the attitude, could you kindly explain to me what kind of influence we would have with this administration?

I am curious?


posted by: Detlef on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

It pains me to say it, but I think the reason the Europeans don't do more are twofold:

1. They (literally) don't have to. They know, from long experience, that the USA will do whatever takes. Why not sit back and wait for to pay the blood and treasure. What's in it for them if they help? A thanks? That doesn't get them re-elected. Better to let the Yanks take the risks and carry the burdens. They opt for the "Free Ride" every time.

2. The Europeans are basically anti-American. They resent American power and American wealth. Importantly, they feel culturally superior to the USA which makes their resentment all the more acute. Why help the Yankees succeed? More fun to watch 'em fail. Then we can gloat and feel good about ourselves by comparison.

I wouldn't be looking to Europe for any sort of altruistic assistance for the USA any time in, let's say, the next century. It just ain't gonna happen folks. Get used to it. What's far more likely is that we're going to experience active obstruction from Europe against anything they feel advances the American agenda of spreading democracy. Whatever tokens of support they do give - the German police trainers in Afghanistan, for example - will be the bare minimum to keep the USA in the UN and in NATO. Europe benefits immensely from both these organizations. In NATO, they enjoy military protection at the expense of American taxpayers. At the UN, countries like France get to wield global influence, via their Security Council seat, that is far out of proportion to Frances actual power on the global stage. And again, the US pays the bill!

All that for contibutng a few peacekeepers!! Who wouldn't want that deal?? Woo-hooo! You stupid Yankees!! We suckered you again.

posted by: Michael Hiteshew on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Leaving international politics out of this for a moment…

First, some European countries will find it more difficult to send complete units in to do the PRT work because they rely on conscripts, which the US does not. They therefore need to pluck careerists (more motivated than draftees) from different units to constitute their teams, then the teams need to work a little on their teamwork. (I was in the US Army when the draft was still in force and years later saw the significant differences in morale, teamwork and effectiveness that occurred when the army became all-volunteer.) Some countries don’t rely on a draft and may therefore find the role easier to perform.

Second, Rumsfeld and crew aim to get Afghanistan and Iraq up on their own feet by forcing, cajoling, pushing the indigenous peoples to assume responsibility ASAP. It’s easier for Americans to do this sort of pushing because we are arrogant, brash individualists, or at least see ourselves as such, as do the foreigners. Where we run the show, we can push, and that’s part of the problem with nation-building in the Balkans where we are not in charge to the same extent. Of course the other problem in the Balkan seems to be that the natives seem always to want to kill their neighbors. So we’ll see if these “push the locals” tactics work.

posted by: The Kid on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]


Permit a German-American to respond to your post, if I may.

It's not that European participation is not appreciated. It's that there's always so little to appreciate.

I'm 44 years old now. For 30 years of my lifetime American troops sat shoulder to shoulder with the German across the Iron Curtain, staring down the Soviet army. The United States almost went to war the Soviets over Berlin and kept the people there fed during the blockade. Give me a single instance when the Europeans have ever put themselves at risk for Americans in a similar way. We protected you, on land, sea, in air and space for the entire period from 1945-1990. How many Americans died for European freedom in the last century? Care to guess?

Do you know why we did this? Because we had to. no-one else COULD do it, so we did it. Trillions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of Americans dead/wounded.

I understand, I think, the antipathy Europeans have developed towards warfare after it's consequences for Europe in the last several hundred years. I especially understand German guilt and pacifism. France counts on it. Americans just want you to acknowledge it, agree not to let yourself get carried away again with fascism, then move on and get over it.

In short, start acting like adults over there instead of spoiled children. How long can you just pass on the hard jobs in the world, then in the next breath, demand to be treated as equals - taken seriously.

Also, I believe I know what Dan meant when he said,

"The more useful their military units, the greater demand for their services. The greater the demand for their services, the more leverage they have in affecting American foreign policy."

What I think he was trying to say was that when Europeans make the investment in equipment and training so that they're actually useful on a modern battlefield, then take the same risks in term of human life to protect and defend the world anarchy and tyranny, then you'll suddenly find something amazing happening over here - you'll get respect. And you'll get listened to. Why? Because then you're doing the hard work too. Anyone can sit on the sidelines and criticize. It's HARD and DANGEROUS to get out there and actually do it.

People everywhere listen to partners. But advice and criticism from those who aren't actually going to invest anything in an enterprise is easily, and often, ignored.

Finally, what makes us most angry is not that we think Europeans are incapable or incompetent. It's that we all know they're perfectly capable and perfectly competent to be partners. They're simply unwilling. Let the stupid Americans fight and die. Let them spend their taxes on the military. Lt them slay the dragons. We, the Europeans, will be out partying. Wake us when your done. We'd like to make some money on the reconstruction contracts, ya know.

When Europe starts doing some of the heavy lifting in the world they'll get plenty of respect and defference over here, I assure you.

Look to the Brits for an example. Those gutsy people have been pulling more than their share in this world for 300 years now, almost non-stop. We take Britian more seriuosly than the rest of Europe combined. They've earned it.

posted by: Michael Hiteshew on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]


Thanks for the answer.
I do understand your point.
I guess my first post and its language was partly motivated by frustration. :)

I am frustrated by my own government and a bit frutrated that foreigners don´t seem to see the changes in Germany.

Let me explain.

First, I don´t understand the Iraq policy of my government.
Never did,I thought they were totally stupid last year. Simply saying we won´t do anything regardless of what happens is....insane.

Second, we do have around 2.000 soldiers, I think, in Afghanistan. And as I said it
looks like we´ll create at least one PRT.
(Not to mention the other soldiers currently stationed outside Germany. Around 9.000-
10.000 all in all IIRC.)

And as "The Kid" said, we´ve got the additional problem that the German army is still a mixture of volunteers and draftees (50-50).
Unless a draftee volunteers you can´t deploy him
outside Germany. So any "team" deployed consists probably of soldiers from several different
units. Not the best solution.
(Personally I think the all-volunteer army in Germany will come inside the next 10 years.)
Add the fact that our "wonderful" government is killing the "Bundeswehr" with its minimal
defense budgets right now.
Then 9.000-10.000 soldiers doesn´t look that bad IMO.

So, a lot to criticise about Germany BUT realistically you should compare us with Japan. WW2 remember?
Has Japan got 10.000 soldiers deployed overseas?

Heh, till 1990 any use of German soldiers outside
Germany would have been totally unthinkable unless
NATO would have been attacked.
Sort of, the Bundeswehr is only a defense army for Germany and its NATO allies.
With equipment and doctrine fitted to that task. And deliberately no equipment which might have enabled us for adventures overseas. :)

Heck, at least till 1990 Germany even had some treaty restrictions about military equipment for the Bundeswehr AFAIK.

And playing on German guilt wasn´t a French thing alone, you know. The Brits and the British tabloid press were quite good at it too. :)
A LOT of our European neighbours were worried about the German reunification.

Now, compare that attitude from 1990/91 with the situation today.
Sure it´s slow and sure it´s still not enough but from a German viewpoint the changes are amazing.

No soldiers outside Germany ever again?
Remember WW2? And German guilt?
From "never again" to soldiers stationed in Djibouti, Kenya, Aghanistan (including special
forces) and the Balkans (Breaking another taboo.
No German soldiers in countries we attacked and occupied during WW2.)

These are pretty big changes for a German population indoctrinated for more than 40 years that "we have to be careful", "take a low profile", "remember our WW2 guilt" and "not forget
that some of our neighbours are still a bit wary".

With that indoctrination and the fact that democracies don´t like dead soldiers, the changes
in German attitude in using its armed forces in less than 10 years are pretty amazing.
At least for a German.


posted by: Detlef on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Japan would like to have a larger military role but its got historical problems that outweigh even german ones. In WW II, the main focus of Nazi insanity was the Jews and no doubt Israel will be the most nervous of countries when Germany finally does get an assertive pro-military government again. Japan's crimes of rape, torture, and human medical experimentation were on other asians, most famously chinese and koreans. The world influence of S. Korea and the PRC is much greater than that of Israel or world jewry. Japan is thus working itself up to becoming more involved but is more constrained because they have a paranoid giant just off their shores when it comes to Japanese military action.

posted by: TM Lutas on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

Well, yes and no. :)

You´re mostly right about Japan.
Probably one of their main problems is that they never really faced their WW2 history. Never even tried to acknowledge them and made amends.
So they would have problems with a more assertive military stance.

However despite this they probably could have send soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq IMO.
I doubt that China or South Corea would have raised hell about THAT.

Hesitating here seems to be more because of domestic reasons. That´s why I mentioned them.
They hesitate to commit 1.000 soldiers to Iraq while Germany deployed twice that number in Afghanistan alone.

And in case of Nazi Germany.
Did you forget Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic
etc.? Most of Europe actually.
You´re right that Jews everywhere were the main target of the Nazis but millions of non-Jewish civilians in Europe died too.

Maybe Israel would be worried about a more assertive German government. Given the history they have a right to be worried. On the other hand Germany and Israel have cooperated for years, decades even in military affairs.
Research, weapons sales, officer training.
I expect the first ones worried would be our
European neighbours. :)

IIRC till 1990 Germany was the only NATO member with ALL of its armed forces under permanent NATO command, even in peace times.
You remember the old "unofficial" NATO motto?
"Keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down." :)

And when NATO structure changed in the early 1990s the German government jumped around trying to establish multi-national army corps as fast as possible to avoid - God forbid! :) - "independent" German commanded army units.
So Dutch-German corps, French-German brigade, the "Baltic corps (Danish-German with Poland added later on).
Kind of self inflicted paranoia (is that the right word?). Trying to avoid responsibility. :(

Only now do they even start to establish a National command center (small scale kind of General Staff) to coordinate and command the German units (army, navy and air force) deployed outside Germany.

Look, I´m just trying to explain the German viewpoint here. Getting told for 40-50 years that you have to be closely supervised leaves a mark.

Things are changing in Germany, maybe too slow for you Americans (and me :) ), but they are changing.

Now I don´t like Chancellor Schroeder myself but he had to survive a no-confidence vote to send the first German soldiers to Afghanistan.
That took guts! (is that the right word?)

And now?
Practically every significant political party in Germany except the small (former GDR) communist party supports that policy.
Create a German PRT? Let´s do it!
No political or domestic unrest even with reports of German soldiers dying somewhere in the Balkans or Afghanistan.

Compare that with the agonizing soul-searching of the (conservative) Kohl government AFTER the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. "Can we really send German navy mine-searching ships to the Gulf?"
Not to mention the fact that they wouldn´t even dream of sending German soldiers for an UN approved operation to liberate Kuwait.
Unthinkable back then!

The change in German attitude is probably slow for a foreigner but still amazing for a German!
In 10 years from " we can´t do anything because of our history" to deploying 9.000 to 10.000 soldiers outside Germany is totally amazing for a German!


posted by: Detlef on 10.07.03 at 10:50 AM [permalink]

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