NATO-Lisbon :: O unilateralismo norte-americano (autores convidados)
A questão do unilateralismo norte-americano nem nasceu com Bush nem desapareceu com Obama. É um debate que, como Åsne Kalland Aarstad explica hoje, tem implicações e custos em termos de definição de agenda política. O multilateralismo também tem custos, mas ainda assim a Administração Obama tem dado sinais de encarar a NATO numa perspectiva predominantemente multilateral – o discurso em West Point em Dezembro de 2009 e a posição em relação ao escudo antímíssil parecem secundar esta visão.
U.S unilateralism and NATO
U.S. unilateralism did not suddenly ’occur’ after 9/11, as the country has a long history of an ambivalent and selective attitude toward multilateral engagement. Parallel with this ambivalent attitude, however, the U.S. has continued to promote international institution, partly as a foundation of global leadership, but also as a general posture of self-restraint (’self- binding’) in the exercise of power. The Bush administration early signaled a new course and tone after having entered office in January 2001, by abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, ’un-signing’ the Rome Statute of the ICC and opposing a draft UN convention to reduce illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, to mention a few. The events of 9/11 accelerated the unilateralist thrust of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, by reinforcing the administration’s skepticism of multilateral institutions. The nature of new threats, time-consuming multilateral diplomacy and the ’constraints of international legitimacy’ were seen as a dangerous and inefficient combination in the new post 9/11 security environment.
When the U.S. declared a ’global war on terror’, and furthermore insisted on waging this war unrestrained by the requirement of multilateral consensus in NATO, the country took a distinctive turn way from the self-binding strategy that it had previously pursued through multilateral cooperation. The Bush Administration decided to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through ’coalitions of willings’, and specifically turned NATO’s Article 5 call for assistance down. ’As a result, in the view of many, NATO came to be treated by the United States a little more than a military contractor of first resort’, according to Mark Berdal & David Ucko. It could thus be tempting to suggest that NATO reached a point where its most important member state found the costs related to cooperation higher than ’doing it alone’, and as such that NATO lost much of its relevance.
However, the U.S.’s unilateralist action both in Afghanistan – and to an even larger extent in Iraq – can be claimed to have been a costly affair for the U.S., in particular with regards to the lengthy reconstruction and stabilization processes currently ongoing. In some respects, the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq served to demonstrate the advantages to be gained from bypassing NATO and working with a more flexible international coalition: ’The U.S. – led coalitions were unencumbered by the institutional constraints of alliance decision making, while Washington was able to pick and choose only what it wanted – and needed – from NATO assets and member states’, according to Michael Williams. Nevertheless, the flip-side of this decision came in the shape of vast challenges for conducting efficient post-war reconstruction and stabilization in the absence of facilitating institutional structures. ‘War by committee’ may not be the most efficient or least frustrating method for conducting military operations, but it does make each contributing nation a stakeholder in the operation and more likely to carry a proportionate share of the burden.
As such, the overall record of the Bush administration can be seen as providing evidence of the costs and limitations of ’doing it alone’. The slow realization by the Bush Administration that Iraq indeed was going to be a long and costly affair, revealed serious miscalculations about the reconstruction processes of its own military engagement. Similarly, the initial American insistence that Afghanistan was to remain outside NATO military structure, led to a complicated situation where the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the NATO commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were formally kept separate even though their missions were complementary. This has gradually changed, as the Bush administration came to recognize that by initially rejecting NATO oversight, ’the high cost of operational incoherence and inefficiency far exceeded any potential gain of operational freedom’, according to James Sperling & Mark Webber. The overall judgment of the Bush Administration’s unilateral turn should thus be evaluated on the basis of the total costs of its agenda. There are reasons to believe that the ’annoying costs of multilateralism’ are likely to appear pale in comparison to the vast resources needed to sustain a unilateralist agenda, to borrow a formulation by Lisa Martin.
After the Obama Administration entered office in January 2009, there have been signs that the new administration seek to break with the Bush Administration’s ’do it alone’ mantra. It is not entirely clear how this will come to influence NATO, but Obama has taken steps to signal a closer commitment to the Alliance, for example in his speech at West Point given in December 2009 on the new Afghan war strategy. Another important development is Obama’s decision to put missile defense fully back within a NATO context, rather than through bilateral agreements (NATO Group of Experts). The new U.S. NATO Permanent Representative, Ivo Daalder, expressed a firm belief in continued institutional cooperation in his New York Times op-ed on the 18th of October:
’In today’s globalized, complex and unpredictable security environment, no country — and neither organization — can afford to stand alone.’
Åsne Kalland Aarstad – firstname.lastname@example.org
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