Entangling Alliances

When I read Peter Baker’s description of Bush bailing on a NATO meeting early, I guessed that his stated reason for Bush’s departure–he was bored–was wrong. After all, Baker notes that Bush was only the third NATO leader to leave the meeting.

Bush was not the first leader to leave while the conversation dragged on. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper were seen leaving before Bush did.

Two leaders with whom Bush should get along splendidly (well, except for the whole tradition of DeGaulle in France), Sarkozy and Harper, bailing before he did. I suspected then that our NATO allies were fed up with the US and close affiliates blaming the French, especially, but also the Canadians and Germans, for not providing enough troops in Afghanistan. After all, I can imagine the Canadians and French thinking, if the US had just heeded allies’ warnings about the Iraq War–or even simply abided by international law–the US would have plenty of troops to contribute to the Afghan cause. Why should NATO allies have to pay because the US has degraded its own military so badly?

So I was not surprised to hear Bob Gates announce the US is going to raise our troop levels in Afghanistan (on President Obama’s or President Clinton’s watch, mind you).

The United States intends to send many more combat forces to Afghanistan next year, regardless of whether troop levels in Iraq are cut further this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

It is the first time the Bush administration has made such a commitment for 2009.


Gates said he advised Bush to make the pledge to allied leaders in Bucharest even though the movement of the unspecified additional troops would ultimately be a decision for the next president, who will take office in January.

And, just as surely, TP reports that our NATO allies were no more interested in helping Bush out with his plans to allow Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance.

Even though Bush was putting “his personal prestige on the line” in supporting membership for the former Soviet Republics, he was forced to check his legacy at the door. NATO rebuffed, a “remarkable rejection of American policy in an alliance normally dominated by Washington.” In fact, some allies even criticized Bush’s “annoying” views on Ukrainian and Georgian membership:

– German and British officials […] criticized the Bush administration for not coming to grips soon enough with the Ukraine and Georgia problem.

– Bush’s comments added some extra interest while annoying German and French officials, who had said they would block the invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.

– “The debate was mostly among Europeans,” the senior administration official said, acknowledging that several allies had balked at Bush’s stance.

Someone ought to take away Bush’s Air Force One privileges, because at this point, he’s just making things worse.

30 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Sarko – I can see him leaving early. If I was married to Mrs. Sarko, I would, too.

    Harper is, if anything, more Bush than Bush.

    And, frankly, Bushie’s done more harm to NATO than … well, he’s shat on a lot of things.

    No more AF1 privileges for him, agreed.

    • emptywheel says:

      True, Harper is an ass. But he’s a Canadian ass, and they Canucks HAVE to be getting tired of our harangues for more troops in Afghanistan.

      • scribe says:

        If they were truly getting tired of our harangues, they could just dump Harper and pull their troops out. Then, they could turn a deaf ear to Bushie’s wars. After all, the Canucks have the oil and the wheat. Last I checked, the prices of both were still going up.

        • Ishmael says:

          There is a significant constituency in both the Conservative and the centre-right of the Liberal Parties to keep the troops in Afghanistan – the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, which only has members from Quebec, are against extending the mission. Asking NATO members to come up with a token 1000 troops to get us to stay for three more years was a fig leaf to justify the extension, due to our fears of economic retaliation by the US on the border crossing.

        • Quebecois says:

          I believe harper is there for a long while. The guy is as dangerous as Cheney. We have our own NSA type telecom gathering agency, there have been three reports in the last year that urges the government to clarify that mission. Wouldn’t surprise me that every elected official communictions are documented and that Harper has a man size safe installed in his office… This guy is truely scary. He will stop at nothing. He’s even suing Dion for an allegation that Harper bribed a dying member of parliement.

  2. JoeBuck says:

    Well, both Obama and Clinton have talked about beefing up the Afghanistan troop contingent in addition to withdrawing troops from Iraq.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Pity Mr. Bush didn’t consider resource allocation to Afghanistan in 2002, 2003…. His “re-evaluations” have all the earmarks of superficial house cleaning before he dumps the house on the market.

  3. JTMinIA says:

    The Canadians already threatened to leave Afghanistan if others don’t provide more troops. I don’t know if there have been enough commitments to keep them happy. I haven’t been paying enough attention.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bush may not have been the first to leave; it doesn’t mean he wasn’t bored and had tuned out before he left. I am surprised, given the rare “No” he had to stomach during this trip, that he didn’t leave sooner.

    Alliance building requires negotiating skills, as does domestic leadership in building coalitions to pass legislation, build national coalitions to support wars, new legislative agendas, etc. George’s resume makes and his track record as governor and president make clear he can’t negotiate. He’s too brittle and temperamental, too easily bored, too anti-intellectual to assemble his factual and emotional arguments and lay them out in a rhythm that produces results.

    His past makes clear he bullies to get what he wants, and pretends he doesn’t want what he can’t get by bullying. He also has “spouse batterer” expectations: he expects to serially mistreat his foreign counterparts, demean their culture and interests, and still have them like him and give him what he wants.

    • brendanx says:

      Bush is a hysteric. Have you ever seen the footage of him trying to exit that Chinese box? Despite the slapstick, it really mortified me: when he was at the lectern he didn’t look impatient or peeved — he dazed and ashen, like the Chinese had really clarified some things for him, to the point of frank threats.

  5. oldtree says:

    Will this cause congress to impeach? will anything? How many felonies, acts of treason, not to forget, misdemeanors, must we endure before the rule of law will be enforced?

  6. Ishmael says:

    Canada has said that it will extend its mission in Afghanistan to 2011 if it were provided by NATO allies with 1000 extra combat troops to the 2500 or so we already have in Kandahar, plus some helicopters. This was the conclusion of a committee headed by former Liberal finance minister John Manley. The French stood up with a battalion, which will free up some US forces to go south and make the Committee look good so that the Afghan mission continues. I don’t think anyone actually believes that an extra 100 troops will make the slightest bit of difference in pacifying this very dangerous and chaotic region of Afghanistan – by way of contrast, there were about 40,000 NATO soldiers in Kosovo following the end of the Yugoslav conflict, and Canada only ever had about 800 troops at any time outside the camps. Our Tory government talks about painting schools and women’s rights as much as yours does, but we are there (at a cost some estimate to be in excess of $10 billion to date, approximately ten times what has been spent on reconstuction efforts) to keep the border open with the US, not to fight terrorism.

  7. portorcliff says:

    The TP picture of Bush standing in the middle of all the NATO reps and No One is looking his way says it all….No relevance, no power, no importance. Can you say ‘lame duck’?

  8. monzie says:

    Yes, and I believe (source escapes me) that Canadians have lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, per capita, than US has in Iraq.

    • Ishmael says:

      As of today, 82 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Iraq, from a Canadian population of about 33 million. Over 4000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq out of your population of over 300 million, so American losses have been greater on a per capita basis.

      • skdadl says:

        Ishmael, this isn’t a per capita by national population issue. I don’t have the stats to hand, and it’s true that Canadian forces are fewer in number than are the Brits (in equally dangerous Helmand province) or the USian guys all over the place, but it’s pretty well established that Canadian soldiers in Kandahar province are dying at a higher rate than anyone else’s troops in Afghanistan, yes?

        EW, you wrote:

        After all, I can imagine the Canadians and French thinking, if the US had just heeded allies’ warnings about the Iraq War–or even simply abided by international law–the US would have plenty of troops to contribute to the Afghan cause. Why should NATO allies have to pay because the US has degraded its own military so badly?

        Well, yes and no. A lot of ordinary Canadian citizens think that way. In fact, a majority of them seem to think that way, if you read any of the polls.

        We have, however, a government that does not think that way, and for reasons I cannot explain to you — I really can’t — we’re in danger of seeing these guys re-elected to a majority, which will be disastrous for us in many ways. (Harper is a neo-lib, but he depends on a socially conservative base, to which he panders, and those people are seriously dangerous to our health in many ways.)

        Stephen Harper is never going to be doing critical thinking of the kind you outline there. Harper is a Cheney wannabe; never imagine him thinking anything that Cheney wouldn’t think.

  9. Ishmael says:

    Why would the Europeans even for a minute consider Bush’s demand to extend NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia, when military action against them would be considered an attack on all? Particularly when the only likely attacker of Ukraine or Georgia is Russia, which supplies a significant amount of Europe’s energy? I thought it was dumb when elements of Bushco were pushing NATO membership for Israel – this is on the same level of stupidity.

  10. RockPaperScizzors says:

    “…the US would have plenty of troops to contribute to the Afghan cause. Why should NATO allies have to pay because the US has degraded its own military so badly?”

    Ah, right the Afghan cause; poppy fields. Maybe the drug lords members of NATO are unhappy with their piece of the pie.

    AFGHANISTAN: Students play truant to work in Helmand’s poppy fields
    LASHKARGAH, 18 March 2008 (IRIN) – Esmatullah, aged 14, had pains in his back and legs from working in a poppy field in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on 5 March. He has been absent from school since that date.

    Helmand Province alone produced about 40 percent of Afghanistan’s 8,200 metric tonnes of opium in 2007, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported.

    According to the UNODC, Afghanistan supplies an estimated 93 per cent of the global illicit market for opiates.

  11. MadDog says:

    Someone ought to take away Bush’s Air Force One privileges, because at this point, he’s just making things worse.

    But that’s Junya’s SOP. Making things worse is the plan.

    And don’t forget revoking Deadeye’s Air Force Two privileges ’cause he screws things up worse that Junya, as hard as that is to believe possible.

    • JohnJ says:

      Scorched Earth.

      The more things he screws up, the more chances for the next Prez to make mistakes trying to fix the problems he left.

      The goopers, as a minority, excel at sniping at people trying to work.

  12. JohnLopresti says:

    Brooking the Line of Demarcation, there was a summit November 10 among Hispanic countries’ leaders which included a confrontation between the king JuanCarlos of Spain who asked the VE leader to hush, brusquely; the incident flamed thru the egalitarian press, as the confrontation was concerning a former president of Spain, whom the VE leader had chided for being too partisan in support of the US fundraising for the middleEast and southAsia wars, exPresident Aznar; see EFE video with that article.

    As Kerry ran for president, the Atocha terrorism of Madrid’s equivalent of NY’s GrandCentral occurred, mobilizing a lot of worried folks to vote Aznar out, and Zapatero in. In 2008 Zapatero won reelection on an agenda something like Turkey’s civilian model, but less reliant on support of the military, more on pocketbook factors and modernization of Iberian society. While the current reportage in Spain’s ElPais newsOrgan is about Putin’s relief that Nato will postpone incorporation of yet further newly independent states into Nato, the subtext in my reading, is the formulation of foreign policy which Zapatero is about to assemble, with his first term record of a drawdown of Spain involvement in Nato deployment of armies in the two warzones. This may be much less of impact than the economic powerhouse news in CAN, and from FR; but I think “Old Europe” still is stinging from some of the demiswank in Bush foreign initiatives, plus Bush is working from a dwindling base of support in the US. Some of the commenters above have offered much, but I thought the image of JCarlos chastizing the outspoken Chavez worth the link post here. BBC even thought the incident worth its own coverage. Both links for polyglots, but fairly easily graspable.

  13. Peterr says:

    Der Speigel notes that Bush is in an increasing minority when it come to the NATO presence in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Germans are tossing around words like “accountability,” “responsibility,” and (gasp) “exit strategy”:

    In public, NATO is demanding that all allies contribute their fair share to the ongoing effort in Afghanistan. But behind closed doors, a paper has been circulated that may provide the beginnings of an exit strategy. Germany is pushing the plan.

    So far, little has remained behind closed doors at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Almost every cough from every negotiating session has found its way into the press. But there is one paper that has remained largely in the shadows. NATO diplomats have been working on a far-reaching strategy paper for the ongoing mission in Afghanistan.

    The secrecy, some say, is necessary as the dossier contains details that could compromise the safety of NATO troops in Afghanistan. Others have been a bit more direct, saying that the paper is simply too controversial to be made public.

    Controversial, in that they are still trying to get Bush to quit screaming and whining and moaning.

Comments are closed.