Along the Tracks

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Friedman does it again

Tom Friedman shows once again why he is one of the very best foreign policy analysts in journalism. In today's New York Times, Friedman suggests a new direction for NATO expansion: South. Specifically, he calls for inviting three Middle Eastern countries into the collective security organization: Iraq, Egypt and Israel.

His argument favoring the inclusion of Iraq is rock solid. The soon-to-be Iraqi democracy will need to have a strong enough military deterrent to keep Iran from getting greedy, while not so large that generals are tempted to overthrow the legitimate government. An alliance with NATO would offer the opportunity to check the Iranians without requiring massive standing forces. A NATO base on Iraqi soil would also be a sort of guarantor of the newly-fledged democracy.

Egypt is a little shakier, primarily because, at present, it is a dictatorship, if a moderate and benign (to its neighbors, if not its own people) one. Egypt's strategic value, however, is enormous, considering it is an island in the likely spawning pools of future threats. Movements toward democracy by Mubarak could be rewarded with a NATO partnership, and eventual full inclusion - much like what has been done in Eastern Europe (as Friedman notes).

Israel has all the makings of a super NATO ally: strong, advanced military; pleuralistic society; democratic values; shared cultural history; and of course, LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Frankly, if it weren't for the prejudices of the continental Europeans, Israel would probably already be a member of NATO.

Which brings us to the problems with Friedman's proposal. The French-German axis will not allow the inclusion of Iraq, because they profited from Saddam, were against his removal, and now wish to see the experiment in democracy fail. The Weasels would sooner add the PLO as an adjunct member than a democratic, free Israel - that's a non-starter for the anti-Semitic forces in Europe. Even Egypt might be a question mark, if Mubarak should indeed begin democratization efforts: Old Europe prefers thugs and strongmen to people living in freedom.

Even so, Friedman's suggestions are valuable for pointing out a clear, logical path for NATO's future - something it presently does not possess. Pushing forward this debate would be good for the lethargic alliance and offer one more contrast between a forward looking U.S.-British-Central European position and the short-sighted, self-interested, power-seeking maneuvers of the Franco-German leaders and hangers-on.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire isn't so sure - and attempts to embarass me! - but then graciously considers my arguments favoring Friedman's idea. Thanks Tom!

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