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June 30, 2004

Comments

"What then would constitute sufficient matter to engage Chirac?"

On a lark I looked up the official French principles of foreign policy, here.

Oddly enough, they refer only to France, which is kind of weird for a 'foreign' policy.

So to answer your question, if the failure of Afghan elections threatened French power and/or European solidarity, that would motivate Chirac.

As Lord Palmerston is quoted as saying "there are no permanent alliances only permanent interests". With NATO members who are unable or unwilling to project military power outside of Europe and so many problems that are outside of Europe, it's a little difficult to assess why a military alliance should continue. In particular, what does the U. S. get out of it? Bases, presumeably. I suspect we could get bases equally suited to our 21st century needs elsewhere and at lower cost.

I would guess there is a lot more to this issue than simply age-old French ethnocentricism. There has been friction for a long time in Afghanistan regarding coordinating US troops and NATO troops. To date, the US has not been willing to operate in any kind of joint command and prefers to operate independently in Afhanistan. That may be fine, but it has discouraged NATO involvement in peacekeeping operations. That is also one of the reasons why to date, the NATO troops have not operated much outside of Kabul.

Safeguarding elections would presumably require extensive deployments to areas essentially under warlord control. If these elections are so important (I doubt they are, given the warlord status of the country. These particular elections will not mean much because the central government has no power anyway), it is also a failure of US policy in undermanning the Afghan post-war situation. Other than in a few cities, I do not see how anything other than a massive deployment of new troops will bring free elections to Afghsanistan, and then would permit the central government to act with that mandate.

Which is more important? Safeguarding Afghanistan elections or engaging in a fit of pique with the U.S.?

To Chirac, the latter.

But that isn't really fair, because it implies that Chirac would do something in Afghanistan if he weren't feuding with the U.S.

I agree with dmbeaster. The ISAF has 6000 men. There are 20000 americans in Afghanistan, which are not part of it but hunting Osama in Waziristan. I think it's matter of principle: I read that Chirac has been quite adamant that forces in Iraq should not operate under a NATO flag in order to provide the Coalition with an international fig-leaf. Deploying the NRF in Afghanistan could be seen as a precedent for that.

Also, there's a point that the job of a reaction force is to be ready for emergency crises, not to monitor elections. This, with things like pulling out troops out of Korea and the IRR, says a lot about the Bush admin. deperation in scraping the barrel for troops anywhere they can find them.

In the end, it all boils down that resources that could have available in Afghanistan have been diverted to Iraq. I can understand the reluctance when someone demands to pull his chestnuts out of the fire, when you told him in the first place that throwing them there was not a good idea.

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