NATO unlikely to survive a defeat in Afghanistan
According to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, NATO's viability as an alliance is very much at stake in Afghansitan.
"We must not -- we cannot -- become a two-tiered alliance of those willing to fight and those who are not," he said at the Munich Conference on Security Policy. "Such a development, with all its implications for collective security, would effectively destroy the alliance."
These remarks come as NATO scrambles to meet Canada's demands for increased support in Kandahar, as outlined in the Manley report. Even France has offered to step up to the plate, offering up to 700 additional paratroopers (in addition to Mirage fighter jets currently stationed in the region).
Naturally, this has left Defense Minister Peter MacKay feeling very confident about NATO's ability to support Canada properly in Kandahar.
"We believe the French responded quite positively and we're awaiting a further decision," announced MacKay, who recently has been discussing logistics with French defense staff.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already announced Canada will not extend its Kandahar mission beyond 2009 unless 1,000 additional troops are committed. Clearly, the French commitment would go a long way toward meeting that demand, even if they arrive shortly after April 2009.
But there is still much more to do, and still more members of NATO who haven't done enough of it.
"In NATO, some allies ought not have the luxury of opting only for stability and civilian operations, forcing other allies to bear a disproportionate share of the fighting and the dying," Gates insisted.
"The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism is real -- and it is not going to go away," he added, reiterating the stakes of the mission. "It raises the question: What would happen if the false success they proclaim became real success? If they triumphed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or managed to topple the government of Pakistan? Or a major Middle Eastern government?"
"Aside from the chaos that would instantly be sown in the region, success there would beget success on many other fronts as the cancer metastasized further and more rapidly than it already has," Gates added.
Gates' remarks are really indicative of some of Michael Ignatieff's comments last week: "We don't know what success looks like in Afghanistan but we sure know what failure looks like."
"Victory is not clear. But losing this is pretty clear to me, and I don't think we want to lose."
Certainly not. Because if NATO is defeated in Afghanistan, it simply may not survive -- at least not in its present form. If Canada, the United States, Britain (and now France) are left alone in the lurch, there's no question that NATO's usefulness as an alliance will be called into question. If NATO is defeated in Afghanistan, there simply may be no reason for it to continue to exist.
Certainly, politicians like NDP leader Jack Layton -- whose party has repeatedly, throughout history, advocated for the dismantling of NATO -- certainly must be rubbing their hands in anticipation at this very thought.
NATO's credibility -- and future -- is very much at stake in Afghanistan. A success will prove the model works. A failure will be used by those who want to split the alliance apart as evidence that keeping it alive is simply a waste of effort.
If NATO's resident social loafers (hello, Germany) want to continue to enjoy the enhanced security they benefit from as a virtue of their NATO membership, they need to step up to the plate, accept their share of the burden, and make NATO work -- and they need to do it now.
Otherwise, NATO may become a thing of the past -- and that very enhanced security right along with it.