Wesley Clark, meet Nora Bensahel
Wesley Clark is making a lot of hay about the Rumsfeld memo. The Chicago Tribune quotes him as follows: [R]etired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the memo marked the first glimpse the administration has allowed into problems many critics have been alleging for months. “Secretary Rumsfeld is only now acknowledging what ...
[R]etired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the memo marked the first glimpse the administration has allowed into problems many critics have been alleging for months. “Secretary Rumsfeld is only now acknowledging what we’ve known for some time–that this administration has no plan for Iraq and no long-term strategy for fighting terrorism,” Clark said Wednesday. “Attacks on our troops in Iraq are spiking,” he said. “If that doesn’t impart a sense of urgency, I don’t see how a memo is going to do it.”
Clark’s running for president, and one can’t begrudge the fact that this is both a good and salient line of attack. However, it’s worth exploring Clark’s own policy positions to see how they’re holding up. Consider the role of NATO. One of Clark’s mantras since 9/11 has been that the Bush administration has slighted NATO and other multilateral fora in fighting the global war on terror. Here’s an excerpt from Clark’s May 2002 Senate testimony:
Instead of just looking for additional manpower, ships and aircraft, we need to focus on the problems of eliminating al Qaeda through the exchange of information and sensitive intelligence, through the harmonization of legal and judicial standards and procedures, and the coordination of law enforcement activities. We need to make the international environment as seamless for our counterterrorist efforts as it is seamless to the terrorists themselves. However, exchanges of information, harmonization and coordination of activities are extraordinarily difficult. There is no international organization to do this. In fact, even though this is mentioned in the NATO strategic concept, the United States position in the past has always been that we would prefer to do this bilaterally. The problem is that you can’t have effective coordination when every different agency of the United States government is working bilaterally with 10, 15, 20 different governments…. The experience of over 40 years suggests that all of this work is best concerted in institutional rather than ad hoc relationships. As we heard in the previous panel, military liaison is not enough. It has to be embedded at every level of the government. It has to go from the top down. If we didn’t have NATO, we’d be in the process of inventing it or reinventing it today. But I think NATO, if it were properly utilized, could provide the institutional framework that we need.
Here’s a more recent essay by Clark on NATO that makes similar points. Again, sounds reasonable. Joe Lieberman has made similar noises on this question. However, Patrick Belton links to a new RAND study — The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Europe, NATO, and the European Union, by Nora Bensahel [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Nora from graduate school — we both attended Stanford] The following is from the report summary:
The long-term success of the counterterror campaign will depend on concerted cooperation from European states, but a key question (addressed in Chapter Three) is the extent to which that cooperation should be pursued through European multilateral institutions. NATO has not yet proven capable of reorienting itself to challenge terrorism…. As the United States develops a policy of counterterror cooperation with Europe, it must strike the right balance between bilateral and multilateral approaches. The policy choice is not whether to pursue bilateral or multilateral approaches; many important policies are now being made at the European level and multilateral institutions cannot simply be ignored. Instead, the United States must determine which issues are best addressed through a multilateral approach and which ones are best addressed through a bilateral approach. This report argues that the United States should pursue military and intelligence cooperation on a bilateral basis, and it should increasingly pursue financial and law enforcement cooperation on a multilateral basis. (See pp. 45–54.) Bilateral cooperation will remain necessary in the military and intelligence realms—states retain significant capacities in these areas, NATO currently lacks the political will to embrace counterterrorism as a new mission, and the EU does not intend to build the centralized structures and offensive capabilities that would be required.
Bensahel is a policy analyst, while Clark’s actually run significant NATO operations. Clark may still be right. Still, this contradicts a key position of his, and — once he’s done with Rumsfeld — I’d be curious to see how he would respond.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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