I recently outlined the growing challenge to international commerce and security posed by the burgeoning piracy in the waters off the Somali coast and lamented that it looked unlikely that the international community would muster the political will to confront the underlying causes of the pirate phenomenon. Nonetheless, there may be an upside to the crisis: An opportunity for Russia and the West to work together.
The war in Iraq has largely fallen off the table among issues being contested in the presidential election campaign, but America’s “other” war in Afghanistan, has begun to attract more attention, at least in part because of increased U.S. casualties in that theater. Since the economy will almost certainly continue to dominate election concerns between now and the first Tuesday in November, what is being said about Afghanistan is hardly likely to be critical in who wins the White House. Whoever does win, however, will to some extent be stuck with what he has already said on the matter. In that sense, the debate does matter.
Let's get a few things off our chests. The Germans are still goose-steppers who would warm up the panzers in an instant to engage in a fifth partition of Poland with their Red Army counterparts. The French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys who want to appease the big bad bear of the East. The Italians (or Hungarians, or Spaniards, or Slovaks) will sell their mothers at the drop of a hat for a bit of Muscovite gold (or gas, as the case may be.)
A split has emerged between London and Washington over the best way forward in Afghanistan. Over the last week, British diplomats and military commanders have expressed growing doubts about the success of the current NATO strategy. Faced with an imminent change in leadership in the White House and an increasingly deadly stalemate in Afghanistan, London is pushing hard for a political outcome to ensure NATO’s survival and enable it to retool for an evolving strategic landscape in Europe.
Anglo-Americans are the exception when it comes to national ID cards. Almost every other major country that has suffered from terrorism in the past quarter-century has instituted some form of compulsory national identification. Germany, Spain, Israel, Turkey, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan have all done so. The United States and the United Kingdom on the other hand share in their deficiency with countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Sri Lanka.
With public attention understandably directed at the election campaign and the credit meltdown, the war in Afghanistan has faded from the public view. Only a trickle of press reports are being published, and the news they contain is not particularly good. Are we losing the war in Afghanistan?
Is deployment of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of Russia's occupation? All we can say with confidence today is that the arrival of the EUMM animates two vital steps. First, it enables the return home of at least some people displaced by Russia's August attack on Georgia. Second, it sets the stage for Russia to fulfill its unequivocal obligation to withdraw its forces to their prewar positions. Beyond this, the road is fraught with mudslides, sinkholes and—western diplomats beware—no doubt a few landmines.