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Ally Or Parasite? OpEds And ROE

[Updated below.] Is it possible that some NATO allies commit limited troop deployment levels based on thinking on the part of its political leaders that is more parasitic than allied?

Consider first that small numbers are contributed to the Coalition in Afghanistan, and are sent with rules of engagement (ROE’s) more akin to those of a risk-averse clandestine intelligence agency than professional soldiers. Then consider a revealing reaction to Senator Obama’s speech yesterday in Berlin, and the question of ‘Ally or Parasite’ - at least in the minds of some decision makers - is not as over the top as it first seems.

Deutsche Welle’s German Press Review of reactions to Senator Obama’s speech in Berlin included the following from the Financial Times Deutschland. (Via the Castle Argghhh!.)

The Financial Times Deutschland gave a more sober assessment. “Obama’s speech was an advertisement for the struggle against terrorism,” it wrote. “He called upon the spirit of the Berlin air lift and used this to demand Germany’s solidarity. The federal government now finally knows that he will expect more participation in Afghanistan. The United States doesn’t accept that they have to be worn down in the fight against the Taliban while the Germans play the role of friendly reconstruction worker. While the government already knows what to expect, the voters of the large political parties will soon experience a rude awakening when they see that Obama’s new America pursues the old goals.”

Suggesting that this thinking permeates the decision making of the German government writ large would be conjecture. However, the ROE ordered to German (et. al.) troops deployed placing a premium on combat avoidance makes the sober consideration of such thinking throughout the government(s) well within the bounds of reason.

To put it bluntly, a self-serving belief that Americans “have to be worn down in the fight against the Taliban while the Germans play the role of friendly reconstruction worker” is not the stance of an ally. It’s the stance of a parasite. That much is fact.

How pervasive is such a stance and thinking quietly held by decision makers within the German government? That much is conjecture. Asking this question is not to suggest that the whole of the German government subscribes to this parasitic thinking. But wondering just how pervasive this is does not constitute an unreasonable - if unfortunate - ponderance.

One thing is for certain: Changing the ROE (and thus mission) for at least certain elements of the German military forces and enabling them to actually seek and combat the terrorist enemy inside Afghanistan would do much to dispel speculation and fears on the part of those wading into the fisticuffs usually without a European ally in sight, save for the British.

Actions speak louder than the words of a German newspaper’s commentary. At the moment, however, one screams while the other whispers quietly.

UPDATE: The German foreign minister made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to ensure that the embattled country and the US understand Germany’s commitment to supporting Afghanistan. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Germany change its deployment pattern or ROE’s.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Afghanistan in a bid to assure the country of Germany’s continued support. On the first day of his unannounced visit Steinmeier travelled to the western town of Herat. Germany has contributed to restoring the old town of Herat and its drinking-water facilities. Germany has promised 1.1 billion euros in aid from now to 2010 for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. On the military front, Germany has faced growing pressure to bolster its presence in Afghanistan and redeploy troops from the relatively calm north of the country to the south where NATO forces are battling Taliban insurgents. Berlin has announced plans to boost its contingent in northern Afghanistan later this year by up to 1,000 soldiers to 4,500 troops.

Germany is ‘surging’ troops into areas where the Taliban isn’t killing. Isn’t that special?

It’s like telling the doctor you have a compound fracture in your leg, and the skittish surgeon keeps remarking about your damaged cuticles as he gives you your third manicure since arriving in the emergency room.

Anyone got a better analogy?