United States seeks NATO help on Iraq

NATO-logo.jpgThe United States has formally formally requested indirect help from NATO in its upcoming fireworks with Iraq.
With a formal request for aid, which involves asking for use of bases, logistical faciilties, AWACS planes and the like, the United States is first and foremost attempting to give Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, who has been reluctant to help out so far, some political cover. The Turkish public has, by and large, opposed any attack on Iraq. But by calling on NATO, the United States makes it easier for Turkey to allow the use of American ground troops to operate out of Turkey and open up a northen Front.
This move also shores up Bush’s European flank, bringing Iraq no-goers France and Germany on board. France, in particular is needed if the United Nations Security Council is to OK a resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
Perhaps the administration has finally learned why alliances are cool. One of the biggest mistakes Bush made after 9/11 was not asking NATO for help in the war on terror. (Yes, the Alliance invoked Article V, which states that an attack on a member country is an attack on all member countries, and German AWACS patrolled the East Coast for a while, but there wasn’t much help, really.) Kosovo is a good example of this. Because NATO was fighting the war, Kosovo was successful because all the member states, even if they didn’t want to fight — such as France — had a stake in the outcome. There was very little dithering like you see now, very little back and forth. And while the United States and Britain did most of the heavy lifting, the U.S. had a mostly free hand to do what it wanted. This wouldn’t have been the case if Kosovo had been fought under a U.N. mandate or a unilateral impulse by America. Furthermore, if NATO had failed in Kosovo, it would have spelled the end of the alliance, and the careers of a generation of politicians across Europe. Bottom line: When countries have a stake in a conflict, they tend to fight to win.
This is an important development, and it will be interesting to see what happens vis a vis France and Germany in the coming weeks.
By the way, I was talking to a friend of mine today and he doesn’t think there will be a war, that this is all just a way for Bush to stretch out the political advantage that General Rove engineered for the November midterm elections. No doubt domestic politics are indeed a factor. But I’m curious as to what the readers’ opinions are. Why don’t you email me with a quick note that says “yes” or “no.” if you feel lucky, include when you think it will start. I’ll tally up the answers and the dates and publish it here. I’ll go first:
“Yes, there will be war, and I predict it will start Feb. 21.”
Send in your guesses and we’ll see who gets closest.