Europe and the Afghanistan Redirect

I couldn’t agree with Ilan Goldenberg, writing at Democracy Arsenal, more. There’s this gathering meme out there suggesting that the way to deal with Europe’s positive reaction to Barack Obama’s election victory is to quickly get our partners to agree to unpopular American policy proposals to which they’ve been signalling their opposition very strongly. Just Monday, the head of the British Armed Forces, Gen. Jock Stirrup, expressed his opposition to redirecting British troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, citing an overstretched military. British public opinion is resolutely opposed to the Afghanistan War, calling for withdrawal within a year, and even Prime Minsiter Gordon Brown’s efforts to curry favor by suggesting Britain could eventually send more troops to Afghanistan was conditioned on an insistence that other NATO allies shoulder a greater share of the burden.

As for the rapid reaction EU force in Congo, to fill in a point Goldenberg makes only obliquely, there’s a big difference between getting out of the way of EU defense, and taking policy positions on issues upon which the EU itself is divided.

The American redirect to Afghanistan increasingly seems like a done deal, but a heavy-handed approach to trying to get Europe to back it up isn’t. If that’s the path Obama ultimately chooses, though, it will in all likelihood represent his first lonely moment since Nov. 4.