Thursday, January 17, 2008

Alienating our Allies

It isn't like we have a whole lot of them left, so Bob Gates slur against our NATO allies in Afghanistan is not only troubling, it is, frankly, stupid. Which also troubles me - Gates is not a stupid fellow. I have never been a fan, but at least I grudgingly respected his competence and talent - but then he said this:
“I’m worried we’re deploying [military advisers] that are not properly trained, and I’m worried we have some military forces that don’t know how to do counter-insurgency operations.”
Now I can make with the scorn and ridicule without a second thought.

In case you missed it, Gates blasted the Brits and other NATO member states fighting in Afghanistan by saying in an interview that the allies lack of experience in counter-insurgency warfare was contributing to the escalating violence and instability in the south of that beleaguered nation, and contributing to the rise of the Taliban. (Perhaps he has forgotten that the Brits are the only country to actually win a counterinsurgency? Malaysia in the 50's, anyone?)

His remarks drew sharp criticism and instant reactions from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, the three countries that have born the brunt in the south. The Dutch were particularly incensed.
The Dutch were so angry at what appeared to be direct criticism that they summoned the US Ambassador in The Hague to explain Mr Gates’s comments. British and Dutch officials refused to believe that the criticism was directed at them, but Eric Adelman, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence, nonetheless had to ring around Nato capitals to give reassurance that Mr Gates was not attacking any individual member.


As officials tried to smooth over the apparent rift, his comments drew a fierce response. Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and a former British Army officer, said they were “bloody outrageous”. He said: “I would beg the Americans to understand that we are their closest allies, and our men are bleeding and dying in large numbers.”

Britain has 7,800 troops in southern Afghanistan, where 81 have been killed. The Dutch and the Canadians have also lost a substantial number of soldiers in counter-insurgency operations against the Taleban.

So what's the deal here? Remember that Gates, at his very core, is an ideologue. Is he making such unhinged and offensive comments now because he knows that a year from now there will be a Democratic President with Democratic majorities in both houses? Is he undermining relations now in advance of that eventuality because he wants to make it as difficult as it can possibly be for the next president?

Petulant fuck.

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