"NATO role in Iraq vital: U.S. Likely to Rely on Alliance for Postwar Peacekeeping," The Washington Times, November 18, 2002, page A19.
by Louis R. Golino
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A U.S.-led war on Iraq is unlikely to be a NATO operation, defense analysts say, but members of the trans-Atlantic alliance probably would participate. NATO itself, they add, could play an important role in the war's aftermath.
A study from an Arlington think tank explains, "Although the U.S. may be able to win wars without significant allied contributions, it is unlikely in many situations to be able to win the peace without military (and non-military) assistance from European allies."
Analysts on Europe and the Middle East frequently mention winning the peace in Iraq as an operation in which the United States could benefit considerably from the help of its European allies and NATO.
U.S. and European leaders therefore are expected to give NATO a role in postwar Iraq. This may include a NATO-led peacekeeping force to help maintain internal order and stability and democratize Iraq's armed forces.
Those issues probably will be discussed Thursday and Friday at a summit in Prague that NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has described as "probably the most important summit meeting in NATO's history."
Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO, has said: "Prague will be a place where NATO must speak about Iraq. It will be a valuable opportunity for allied unity in the face of this common threat."
NATO and Iraq
Many analysts and former officials believe involving NATO and its member-states in an Iraq war is critical to NATO's future. The alliance was sidelined during the initial phase of the war on terrorism.
Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former deputy secretary of state, said NATO is the best mechanism for a U.S.-led war against Iraq and that unless NATO is given a role, "the alliance might never recover, since NATO must be taken seriously by its strongest member if it is to be taken seriously by anyone."
James Kitfield wrote in National Journal: "If the alliance is not part of an Iraq war, European allies have made clear they cannot then be relied upon to help pick up the pieces in Iraq after a war they had little part in initiating."
The Bush administration nonetheless is expected to request direct military assistance from selected NATO allies and to run the campaign through the U.S. command structure.
Conventional wisdom maintains that Britain is the only European allied country that would join the United States in a war on Iraq, but several European countries, including the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and Spain, already may have pledged logistical, basing rights and other support.
Germany and Iraq
Even Germany, whose recently re-elected Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has voiced opposition to a military offensive, has not ruled out participating in peacekeeping in postwar Iraq.
Germany also is expected to increase its involvement in other conflict zones to relieve some of the burden on U.S. forces.
For example, Germany has agreed to command the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan with the Netherlands beginning early next year. This is expected to result in an increase in the number of German troops deployed to Afghanistan.
Karen Donfried of the German Marshall Fund of the United States noted that the Bush administration probably never expected German troops to be deployed to Iraq in a combat capacity.
Germany next year will play an important role in the U.N. Security Council, which has negotiated a resolution to disarm Iraq. On Jan. 1, Germany becomes a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for two years and on Feb. 1 it will begin a one-month chairmanship of the council.
A NATO or European role in Iraq will require U.S. and European leaders to form a U.S.-led trans-Atlantic military coalition.
The prospects for NATO and European Union coalitions are examined in a trans-Atlantic study-group report, "Future Military Coalitions: the Transatlantic Challenge."
The report was published by the U.S. Center for Research and Education on Strategy and Technology (U.S.-CREST), an Arlington think tank, and developed by a working group of defense officials, military officers and think tank analysts from the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The U.S.-CREST study focused on how the proposed EU rapid-reaction force will affect the operational concepts, force composition and military capabilities of future EU and NATO coalitions.
The report explored these issues through the use of illustrative crisis scenarios postulated for 2005 and 2015. The scenarios were intended to draw out the capabilities and political-military approaches of three coalition constructions: U.S.- or NATO-led; EU-led with U.S. or NATO support; and EU autonomous.
U.S. officials have proposed the formation of a NATO response force of 21,000 troops. Unlike the EU force, it would include U.S. troops, deploy on shorter notice and be intended for high-intensity combat operations. NATO leaders are expected to endorse the force at this week's summit.
The EU force is designed for use in EU and NATO-led missions. It is intended, in particular, for so-called Petersberg missions, outlined by European leaders in a 1992 declaration in Germany. The missions will include peacekeeping, peace enforcement, crisis management and humanitarian response, and will consist of 60,000 troops.
The U.S.-CREST study explains that peacekeeping "is widely taken as including the forcible separation of combatants" and that "the distinction between 'combat' and 'peace support' operations is becoming increasingly irrelevant." This means that peace support operations should be conducted by combat forces.
The report also finds that Europe's effort to develop its own rapid-reaction capability has the potential "to help reduce operational gaps between U.S. and European forces, as key European nations aspire to maintain high-intensity combat capability, and to a certain extent, follow the U.S. in a shift to network-centric concepts if they are proven to work."
Network-centric concepts refer to the use of information technology, advanced sensor systems and precision weapons to make battlefields transparent to military commanders and enable them to strike targets almost immediately upon detection.
Robert P. Grant, a U.S.-CREST senior research associate based in London and study director for the coalition report, said: "European militaries are gradually shifting their acquisition priorities to the technology areas needed for network-centric capability. Around 2005, for example, they will have begun to deploy significant new all-weather precision strike assets.
"Some European countries have also taken substantial steps toward promoting greater 'jointness' between the military services, which is a fundamental organizational prerequisite for the effective implementation of network-centric concepts."
Narrowing capability gap
A key goal of the Prague meeting is to reduce the capability gap between U.S. and European forces.
NATO officials say Europeans urgently need to make substantial improvements in eight areas: air-to-ground surveillance; strategic air transport; precision-guided munitions; defense against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; command and communications; battlefield support for combat troops; electronic warfare to jam enemy radar and communications; and air-to-air refueling.
In order for Europe to develop these capabilities, it will have to spend more on defense than it has in recent years, said a consensus among defense analysts.
But the U.S.-CREST study explains that greater defense spending is neither necessary nor supported by the European public. The most critical shortfalls can be filled with modest spending increases coupled with a rationalization of defense spending across Europe, the report said.
Defense spending in most European countries remains essentially flat.
However, Germany plans to cut defense spending for 2003, while some countries, including France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom, are increasing defense spending in the coming year.
The U.S.-CREST analysis predicts that if Europeans implement their planned capability improvements, they should have the ability by 2015 to conduct challenging peace enforcement missions autonomously and to contribute substantial joint capabilities to a U.S.-led regional intervention.
Building effective coalitions
The key conclusions and recommendations of the U.S.-CREST report include:
•A division of labor approach in which the United States conducts combat operations and Europeans carry out peace support operations is a "flawed and counterproductive operational solution" to the interoperability problems encountered during past coalition operations.
•Effective politico-military decision-making in future EU and NATO coalitions is "likely to rely increasingly on framework nation structures and political leadership from major contributing nations."
•The trans-Atlantic allies should issue a "coalition capabilities declaration" in which they would pledge giving priority to coalition requirements in defense policy, planning and acquisition decisions.
•The United States and its European allies should develop a coalition culture, which includes "awareness of the characteristics of effective coalitions and a commitment to providing coalitions with those characteristics."
•Multinational politico-military exercising and military exchange programs should be increased substantially to help develop a coalition culture and improve the operational effectiveness of coalition operations.
•Louis R. Golino is a Washington-based foreign and defense policy analyst who specializes in Europe and U.S.-European relations.