Believing in NATO's Victory in Afghanistan

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
By David Bayon

The war NATO is fighting in Afghanistan is a war of necessity and not of choice. In today’s world, globalization has rendered physical boundaries useless, making our safety dependant on the stability of faraway places. 

The reasons, therefore, that make victory in this country compelling are both strategic and moral. Defeated in Iraq, the jihadists and all those in the region who oppose democracy and freedom are now concentrating their strength in Afghanistan, which has become, along with Pakistan, the new frontline in the war Islamic terrorism is waging against the West. It is in these two countries where they aspire to create subversion and hinder the establishment of strong central governments, allied to the West. Therefore, a defeat of NATO and Afghan forces, followed by a hasty withdrawal of troops that would leave Afghanistan unprepared and defenseless, would be perceived by the Islamists - like the Soviet exit in 1989 - as a victory.

The second reason that makes victory in Afghanistan a must is the need to expand democracy, or at least, the idea of tolerance around the globe (new democracies in places with weak institutions and ethnic rivalries, such as Afghanistan or Pakistan, can often prove volatile). That is why it is important to put the emphasis on the tolerance issue, especially at a time when both of these concepts seem to be in retreat. It is only through freedom that the human being reaches its highest levels of development, dignity and self-respect. Moreover, of the existing ideological models that we know today, free markets alone have allowed people to progress in those three aspects. Not only this, but democracy, because it relishes stability and is not suitable for revolutionary minds, brings about political moderation. And “because foreign policy is, ultimately, the extension of a country’s inclinations and conditions”, there is reason to believe that an increase in the number of liberal democracies and/or tolerant regimes in the world, will lead to an international order more stable and peaceful.

These reasons make Afghanistan a war the West cannot afford to lose. A defeat in this region could have lasting and devastating consequences for the free world. But even if the US President Barack Obama does not do all that is in his power to secure victory, America’s European NATO allies do not have the right to blame the US for a possible defeat.

After 9/11, US allies in Europe showed an extremely zealous reaction. Having benefited from four decades of the American defense budget, they were anxious to show their gratitude and solidarity at what many perceived to be a pivotal moment that would mark the making of the twenty-first century world order. In this sense, Lord George Robertson, NATO Secretary General from 1999 to 2004, went as far as to call for the activation of Article Five of the 1949 Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against any member will be considered an attack against them all. The American delegates, being more realistic, were cautious. Indeed, it was an act of war, but of unconventional war; and the alliance, even though the most powerful of its time, was ill prepared to act in such faraway places.

Unfortunately, feelings and reason do not always go together and the initial enthusiastic response gave way to a crisis from which the Alliance has not yet fully recovered. As Robert Kagan states in his book Of Paradise and Power, “when it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the US and Europe have parted ways”.


9 November 2010


Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul