Friday, December 10, 2004

Cooperation? Maybe Next Time

The French and Germans are at it again. Joined by the Spanish, they are refusing to allow their troops to serve as part of a NATO force heading to Iraq for an alliance training mission.

Colin Powell, working to mend fences between European states and the US, lashed out at the refusniks. Powell recognizes that if members of a formal alliance fail to honor their commitments if they do not like the missions, then the alliance is coming apart at the seams.

As the Post notes:

In a fresh sign of lingering tensions over the Iraq war, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Thursday criticized European allies who declined to assist a NATO-led training mission in Iraq as "hurting the credibility and cohesion" of the military alliance...

The transatlantic rift reemerged as U.S. officials were trying to signal a new approach in their dealings with Europe. The White House announced Thursday that Bush would visit NATO headquarters here and meet with European leaders on Feb. 22, in what Powell called an effort to "mend these breaches."

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands had agreed to provide more personnel for the training mission, which is to take place in the heavily fortified area in Baghdad known as the Green Zone. NATO also plans to set up a military academy outside the city but has received no commitments of staff yet...

"When it comes time to perform a mission, it seems to us to be quite awkward for suddenly members in that international staff to say, 'I'm unable to go because of this national caveat or national exception,' " Powell said. "You are hurting the credibility and the cohesion of such an international staff or organization."

It is wonderful to see Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands committing to send additional troops. I cannot help but wonder how much the Dutch decision is based upon recent problems with their own Islamic minority.

As for the French and Germans, it would be nice (just for once) if they were not so predictable.