Friday, February 8, 2008

"I guess it has to do with the mood in Europe, which is appeasement"

As Canada and the U.S. spend this week trying to convince their European NATO allies to ante up more troops for the mission in Afghanistan, a veteran diplomat from Singapore, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, sums up the situation best in this interview with UPI.

A: I'm surprised at NATO, some of whose members have such short memories. They can't seem to project into the future their experiences of the past. Do they believe the Russians have been defanged forever? Do they believe Europe is at peace and can remain at peace forever? This is a globalized world. So for NATO members to balk at casualties when America came to rescue them in two world wars, I simply cannot fathom. I guess it has to do with the mood in Europe, which is appeasement, and the shift from papa Bush to Madeleine Albright as the indispensable power with an uncertain trumpet, and then, of course, the neocons who persuaded the Europeans that it was America's show, and no longer theirs. Supposing America had kept to the papa Bush line of thinking and coalition building, Europe would have understood that while they are targeting America today, Europe would be next.

Q: So you do feel that NATO's future is at stake in Afghanistan?

A: No doubt about it. But you should also realize Afghanistan cannot succeed as a democracy. You attempted too much. Let the warlords sort it out in such a way you don't try to build a new state. The British tried it and failed. Just make clear if they commit aggression again and offer safe haven to Taliban, they will be punished.

The only point I disagree with is his assertion that "neocon" bullying alienated many European countries from being coalition partners. That is just hogwash. As was witnessed in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. tried coalition building with the Euros and Canada at the UN at the urging of Colin Powell. All that led to was an international platform for some European leaders to bash the U.S.

I also question his opinion that democracy will not succeed in Afghanistan. He may be correct. Democracy may or may not work in Afghanistan, but currently Afghanistan (and Iraq) has a faux democracy anchored in Shari'a law. It's hard to judge the effectiveness of democracies in those countries when their government institutions are not democratic but religious.

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