Why They Won’t Fight

February 24, 2007

The hard-pressed Brits are filling the gaps left by their European “allies” in  NATO force in Afghanistan – here’s an interesting theory that explains European weaseling.

The story:

An extra battle group of up to 1,500 British troops is to be sent to Afghanistan to take on the Taleban over the next few months, the Government will announce on Monday. The extensive reinforcement, bringing the number of British troops in Afghanistan to about 7,000, has been agreed with NATO after alliance partners failed to offer more infantry units to fight in the south.

The Brits are stepping in because only they, the US, Canadians, and Poles are fighting – the other NATO nations provide token forces, which they insist mustn’t fight.

So what happened to NATO? Conventional wisdom is it’s a victim of national selfishness, but that doesn’t explain why the weasels want to send even token forces – why not just stay home?

Here’s a possible explanation from the military historian John Keegan analyzing European anti-Americanism in his book The Iraq War (my ellipsis and emphasis):

The (public) mood (in France Germany and parts of the UK)…was a distaste for and hostility towards military action for state purposes. The mood was not one of pacifism but of a changed outlook on the world that might be defined, in a term chosen by Professor Kenneth Minogue, as Olympianism.

Olympianism…seeks to influence and ultimately control the behavior of states not by the traditional means of resorting to force as a last resort but by supplanting force by rational procedures, exercised through a supranational bureaucracy and supranational legal systems and institutions…

…the European Union…a truly Olympian body…. seeks to supersede the governments of its constituent member states but to do so while lacking any ultimate means to enforce its decisions. Treaties, laws and regulations – millions of regulations – are the media of its power.

To many Europeans the (EU) provides an example and a vision of how the whole of the world might one day be governed.

Game theorists will recognize this as a classic Dove strategy, and predict Europeans will be successfully colonized by groups following the Bully strategy (Islam) and the Hawk strategy (Russia).

European pols aren’t idiots, and they can see this too. So by sending token forces to Afghanistan, they hope to leave the door open to rejoining the alliance when they need it. Meanwhile by leaving us to fight they keep their Dove populations happy.

The risk is that if Europeans do ask the US to rescue them again, it probably won’t.

So it goes.