Monday, June 28, 2004


Patrick Belton at Oxblog has a long post on the issues NATO will examine in Istanbul. The US wants the alliance to face problems outside of Europe, notably in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. But it is largely locked in place, a hostage to Continental politics and a lack of means.

the basic problem of the alliance ... is cash. While the US contributes 3.3% of its GDP to national defence, 12 of the 19 pre-2004 Nato allies contribute less than 2% of theirs. To look at it another way, the US picks up the tab for 64% of Nato military expenditures ($348.5 million, 2002), while all other allies together contribute only 36% ($196.0 million). For their part, European governments are facing budget shortfalls and budget pressure from ballooning pension costs.

What comes out of this is a capabilities gap. Of 1.4 million soldiers under NATO arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. ... Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.

The other problem is political will, which is most in evidence on the issue of terrorism. There's been progress (beginning with the 2002 Prague Summit) toward the creation of a NATO Response Force capable of sophisticated counterterror missions. There's also been progress toward the drafting (which has been done) and implementation (which hasn't) of a military concept for counterterrorism. But allies still strongly disagree about whether counterterrorism should even be one of NATO 's primary missions - so the principal task of the US at the moment lies in the area of creating political will among allies to adopt counterterrorism as a NATO  responsibility. That we have not done so is at least in part our fault - Allies felt rebuffed after they gave the US unprecedented political support through invoking Article 5, and then were not consulted in the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan. For their part, the civilian leadership of the Pentagon believed Kosovo had been an unacceptable example of 'war by committee', and political interference from allies would prevent a quick and decisive Afghanistan campaign. Perhaps it might have, but now at NATO the United States is facing the consequences in the form of less enthusiasm for counterterror missions.

It's hard to say which expectation is more unrealistic: the American hope that Europe will reverse decades of military atrophy or the European idea that America will share command with a Continent that can project only two battalion's worth of troops. Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College in his article The Pentagon's New Map believes that most future terrorist threats will spring from "areas of disconnectness" -- chaotic parts of the Third World, the very places where Europe's forces cannot or refuse to go. Meanwhile, the US has been moving its forces steadily south and east, into Central and SouthWest Asia as well as the Middle East. Perhaps more tellingly, US forces are being restructured from divisional-sized building blocks to independent commands can centered around brigades. The breakup of the old triangular divisions (each division traditionally consists of three brigades) into notional units containing four smaller brigades each will increase the number of usable units by a third. This is in part based on the perception that US units have become so powerful in conventional warfare that they can safely be used in smaller packages. But it also arises from the need to use the Army in more places throughout the troubled and chaotic world. A TRADOC article says:

"We’re making the brigades the Army’s units of action because the divisions are, like the chief (Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker) said, $100 bills," Mixon explained. "If you want the capabilities that are resident in land forces for the Army piece of it, you have to break a $100 bill. “(The chief) wants $20 bills, where you can get what you need without breaking a $100," he added. "The modular BUAs will give you that $20-bill capability. You have all the resident capabilities that are in a division inside the brigade. In a smaller package, but you’ve still got it so you can spend that $20 bill when you need it."

"It starts this year with the 3rd Infantry Division, 101st, 10th Mountain," Mixon said. "It continues with the whole Army in the next three years, and probably a little bit beyond, to get all the Guard and Reserve units done, but it’s underway, it’s happening. “Reorganizing the brigade combat teams in each of the divisions to BUAs is a critical and key step in making the Army more modular, flexible and relevant to the combatant commander," Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said. "The BUAs will be smaller but more capable than their predecessors, the BCTs. The plan now is to grow the active Army from 33 BCTs to initially 43 BUAs, and then potentially to 48 BUAs."

The mission has left Europe: US forces which were designed to fulfill a NATO role -- destroy Russian tank armies crossing the inner German border -- are being re-engineered for intervention in "areas of disconnectness" where European NATO members cannot or will not go in large numbers. Thus, while Europe will continue to remain important, the value of Israel and Turkey, by virtue of their proximity and engagement with the terrorist foe, will rise relative to traditional Western European allies like Belgium, France and Germany. Threatening to further downgrade the importance of the old Atlantic alliance is the rapid rise of two new major powers in the East. James Hoge writes in Foreign Affairs:

The transfer of power from West to East is gathering pace and soon will dramatically change the context for dealing with international challenges -- as well as the challenges themselves. ... Today, China is the most obvious power on the rise. But it is not alone: India and other Asian states now boast growth rates that could outstrip those of major Western countries for decades to come. China's economy is growing at more than nine percent annually, India's at eight percent, and the Southeast Asian "tigers" have recovered from the 1997 financial crisis and resumed their march forward. China's economy is expected to be double the size of Germany's by 2010 and to overtake Japan's, currently the world's second largest, by 2020. If India sustains a six percent growth rate for 50 years, as some financial analysts think possible, it will equal or overtake China in that time.

But if the game, not only against terror, has moved East and European NATO has dealt itself out of it, America is still in. Hoge continues:

Militarily, the United States is hedging its bets with the most extensive realignment of U.S. power in half a century. Part of this realignment is the opening of a second front in Asia. No longer is the United States poised with several large, toehold bases on the Pacific rim of the Asian continent; today, it has made significant moves into the heart of Asia itself, building a network of smaller, jumping-off bases in Central Asia. The ostensible rationale for these bases is the war on terrorism. But Chinese analysts suspect that the unannounced intention behind these new U.S. positions, particularly when coupled with Washington's newly intensified military cooperation with India, is the soft containment of China.

The crux of the problem, of course, is that the immediate post-World War 2 world and its associated institutions has faded into history. Yet many politicians, perhaps misled by their own youthful memories, continue to act and behave on subconscious assumptions half a century old. The accusation that President Bush was guilty of willful dereliction by not making the United Nations, France and Germany equal partners in the War on Terror is rooted in an inflated conception of their actual importance. Whatever these prestige these hoary old names may conjure, in practical terms their cooperation is probably less vital than that of Pakistan or Israel. The Foreign Affairs article notes how the temples of international diplomacy are infested with discredited gods:

At the international level, Asia's rising powers must be given more representation in key institutions, starting with the UN Security Council. This important body should reflect the emerging configuration of global power, not just the victors of World War II. The same can be said of other key international bodies. A recent Brookings Institution study observed, "There is a fundamental asymmetry between today's global reality and the existing mechanisms of global governance, with the G-7/8 -- an exclusive club of industrialized countries that primarily represents Western culture -- the prime expression of this anachronism."

Some have derided the US coalition against terror, comprised of nontraditional names like Korea, Japan, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Kazakhstan as a kind of pickup team fielded by a desperate America only because it couldn't get first-string Germany, France and Belgium to play. But this is unjust; it is not a temporary condition but a harbinger of a new state of the world.  It's not that NATO has gotten smaller, just that the world has gotten bigger.