Clark Prescient on NATO
Democratic Presidential candidate Wesley Clark has been urging that NATO be given larger responsibilities in Iraq. AP reported that ‘Clark said he would try to rapidly establish an Iraqi government, and start funneling U.S. troops though an international agency, run by NATO, not the United Nations. Clark said If U.S. troops are reporting to the alliance, it will encourage more European allies to help stabilize Iraq. This plan would reduce costs, reduce risks and ease the transition of handing Iraq back to Iraqis, he said. “When I am President, I will go over to Iraq,” Clark said. “And it won’t be to deliver turkeys in the middle of the night.’
Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the new head of NATO, has not ruled out a wider role for the organization in Iraq. He implied that nothing would happen before this summer, however. For the moment, NATO is busy with its plan to move out of the capital of Kabul in Afghanistan and begin patrolling the rest of the country.
Wire services reported that the former Dutch foreign minister said that, ‘Any decision on a U.S. proposal for NATO to take on a military role on the ground in Iraq will have to wait. “It is certainly not be excluded of course … that will depend on the political developments as they take place and as they take shape in Iraq over the coming months,” De Hoop Scheffer said. ‘
I think De Hoop Scheffer may be implying that once a new, sovereign Iraqi government is established, on July 1, it may approach NATO about taking over some of the military tasks from the US and the UK. Even the American-appointed Interim Governing Council has offended the Americans by seeking greater UN involvement in the election process. NATO might be attractive to Iraqi leaders seeking to avoid being dominated by the US.
Clark points out that it would be a good deal for the US, since being bogged down in Iraq has weakened US ability to reply to threats elsewhere, and is hugely costly in military equipment He said a few days ago, according to AP, “We know now this war in Iraq is consuming the United States Army’s readiness to respond to another crisis somewhere else in the world.”
Clark has also pointed out that it makes no sense for the US to occupy Iraq for its oil, if that is what is going on. Iraq’s oil is useless unless it is pumped, and if it is pumped then it goes on the world market for sale, and anyone, including the US, can buy it. It is not necessary for the US to put its troops through the Triangular meat grinder to get oil.
Why would NATO want to get involved in Iraq? Well, first of all, much of NATO is already in Iraq. Plus, they have interests there. It is near to Europe, and turmoil in the Middle East/ Persian Gulf region poses a big threat to them. Many Europeans don’t like the idea of a unipolar, US-dominated world, and getting involved in Iraq would stress the continued importance of Europe. It would be unpopular with European publics, but one could easily imagine Chirac’s France joining Spain, Italy and other key NATO players. Maybe not Germany, though. One problem: The Iraqis don’t want Turkish troops in Iraq, yet Turkey is a member of NATO.
Clark’s suggestion is hugely preferable to Bush’s dogged unilateralism (130,000 out of 150,000 foreign troops in Iraq are American, and many of the others are actually being paid to be there by the US!). For Bush (read: Cheney), the US being in Iraq is about American nationalism and control, i.e. imperialism. But neo-imperialism in a nationalistic Arab country is a tightrope walk, and NATO would have far more legitimacy with Iraqis.
Remember, fellow US citizens: Iraq cost you $572 apiece last year, and you have to decide if you want to spend another half a grand on a potentially wealthy Persian Gulf oil state again next year. Wouldn’t it be nice to have NATO take up some of the slack here?