Bush and Blair offer little new

Bush_and_blair_122006George W Bush and Tony Blair met for their tenth summit yesterday and both were as clear as ever in their understanding of the scale of the terror threat facing the western democracies.  They offered very little new in the way of policy action, however.  There was no talk of putting extra troops into Iraq – the key ingredient necessary for victory.

An excellent menu of other options for the wider war on terror comes in a new paper on the US-UK relationship from the Heritage Foundation by Dr Nile Gardiner.  Here are three stand-out options:

  • Nato membership for Israel: "Israeli accession to NATO would explicitly extend the Western alliance’s nuclear deterrent to cover Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel meets NATO qualifications: It is a democracy, has a free-market economy, and is able to contribute to the common defense. Unlike some new NATO members, Israel would be a major net addition to the alliance, with lift and logistics ability, a superlative officer corps, and a first-rate military capable of all aspects of war-fighting. Israel spends nearly 10 percent of its GDP on defense and has active armed forces of 167,000 men and women, with 358,000 in reserve. It possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads and a well-equipped air force and navy. Israel’s intelligence capabilities have been a vital asset in prosecuting the war on terrorism. Like the U.S. and Great Britain, Israel is a genuine warrior nation. Its accession to NATO could only enhance the alliance’s capabilities."
  • Existing Nato members must shoulder their share of the defence burden: "The U.S. and the U.K. must urge major European NATO partners to send combat troops to southern Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban. They should call for NATO to abolish "caveats" for member countries in theaters of war and call for all NATO member states to abide by the baseline rules in NATO operations or relinquish their memberships. It is unacceptable that British, American, and Canadian troops are laying down their lives in counterterrorism operations while many fellow NATO member states participating under the same operational command refuse to help."
  • Action in Darfur now – not waiting for the UN to act: "The United States and the United Kingdom should support the establishment of a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Darfur, based on a coalition-of-the-willing strategy, in support of African Union peacekeepers. The West cannot rely upon an ineffective and morally ambivalent United Nations to take action over the biggest man-made humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century where tens of thousands of refugees face sustained attacks from Islamic militants. The U.N.’s track record in the face of genocide, from the killing fields of Rwanda to the "safe haven" of Srebrenica, has been one of appalling weakness and callous indifference in the face of human suffering."

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4 Responses to Bush and Blair offer little new

  1. Kevin Sampson says:

    Some interesting ideas, but I’d go him one better and simply scrap NATO, and all the European deadwood that goes with it, and negotiate an entirely new treaty based on the geo-political realities of this century, not the last. It would be nice to think you guys on the other side of the pond would sign on, but after seeing some of the reaction to Blairs decision to replace your SSBNs, I’m not going to hold my breath.

    He lost me on Darfur though. As far as I know, virtually all the fighting there has been between ground forces. Has the Janjaweed stolen an air force? So I don’t understand what good a no-fly zone would do. In fact, in this situation ‘establishing a no-fly zone’ seems like exactly the sort of high-sounding but completely worthless farce the UN excels at.

  2. I have to agree with getting Israel into NATO or whatever suceeds it. Rather good idea that should accepted at the earliest possible moment.

  3. Scott Green says:

    Israel in NATO is a non-starter. The idea that NATO countries like France or Germany are going to extend collective security guarantees to Israel is a fantasy. Similarly, the idea that Israel is in a position to participate in NATO operations outside her borders doesn’t stand up to serious analysis and the proponents of the argument know it. So what is the purpose of the argument? And why do they make it? On the face of it, it feeds into the broader discussion about the role of NATO in the post Cold War system, but given Israel’s inability to play a meaningful role in any conceivable out of area scenario, and the reluctance of NATO countries like France and Germany to extend collective security guarantees to her, one suspects that the argument is really only a surrogate for the idea that the West should tilt Middle East policy in a pro-Israel direction. Now, while they are entirely free to argue that, the merits of the proposal have to be measured against its impact upon our interests in the wider region. That impact would be wholly negative.

    To ally ourselves with Israel militarily would send an unambiguous signal that we have abandoned our traditional policy of neutrality and further erode our influence. Of course, any pretence of American neutrality has long been abandoned and we can see the disastrous results of this policy shift in the way the American position in the Middle East has unravelled. For NATO to align itself with this approach would be a colossal strategic blunder. It would leave an open door for China and Russia to extend their influence in the region and strengthen the rejectionists in Hamas, Iran and Syria who would regard a formal alliance between NATO and Israel as hostile to their interests and use it to leverage support among the Arabs for their wider ambitions.

    NATO involvement should come after a resolution of the Palestinian issue, not before it. I am quite happy for NATO to guarantee the final settlement – this is quite consistent with neutrality – but to abandon any pretence of neutrality and ally ourselves militarily with Israel prior to a negotiated settlement would be deeply counterproductive. You have to understand that Palestine is a wedge issue for Arabs. It is at the core of the anti-American narrative in the region. Iran is using it to delegitimise and isolate America and enhance her own strategic position by leveraging support among Arabs for her wider ambitions. We need a strategy to neutralise this, flip the whole dynamic in the region on its head and strip the anti-amercian narrative of its content. Ignoring Baker-Hamilton, tilting policy in a pro-Israel direction and operationalising our role in crude military terms is not the answer.

    A clear sighted view of our interests would see us allied with Iran and the Arabs, not against Israel, but in partnership with Israel against Sino-Russian encroachment. We have no strategic interest in conflict or rivalry with Iran or the Arabs. We do have a strategic interest in preventing Russia and China extending the scope of their influence in the region. We have got a rapidly closing window in which to shape the Middle East settlement from a position of strength. The longer we let Israeli intransigence set the tone and direction of policy the greater the risk that the balance of power will shift against us and the more likely the final settlement will be shaped by a coalition of hostile interests.

  4. tired and emotional says:

    Christ, no strategic interest in conflict with Iran? Dear God.

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