This morning, on NPR, I heard dispiriting news: our Canadian neighbors, and NATO allies, are questioning their commitment to completing the mission in Afghanistan. Of course, we've heard similiar things from other NATO allies.
Have they no honor?
May I remind all concerned that Afghanistan did attack the United States on September 11, 2001 -- that is to say, it provided a safe haven for those who did, and that does make it responsible.
On September 11, 2001, the NATO treaty was invoked, for the first time ever: "an attack upon one is an attack upon all."
I fully understand many of our allies are queasy about the war in Iraq. Many Americans, were and are, queasy about it as well. But Afghanistan was "the good war"--the war fully justified under classic moral principles; the Holy See agreed.
So responding to the aggression that was launched from the territory and with the connivance of Afghanistan was not only morally justified, for those who gave their word by treaty, it was morally necessary! I repeat: morally necessary!
A little refresher for those who don't know this...
For its entire history to now, the United States provided the major "heft" of the NATO alliance. NATO was formed out of the ashes of the Second World War, with the Atlantic alliance at its core; the need arose because of the rapid assertion of Soviet tyranny over roughly half of Europe. And for 35 years, NATO stood guard against any further Soviet aggression. The vast majority of the conventional forces, on the line, were American. To defend Europe--and the West.
I know, that may sound quaint to some; but it was a real threat for several decades.
For good or ill, the NATO allies did not consistently mobilize enough to match Soviet conventional forces, poised along the East-West German frontier. So the policy was--and this was fully public, everyone knew this--that if the outnumbered NATO forces could not contain a Soviet thrust, NATO would respond with theater nuclear weapons to stop the advance. That meant the Germans consented to their homeland being nuked.
But everyone understood that would almost certainly mean escalation--meaning nuclear attacks against both Russia and the U.S.
Realize what that means: for 35 years, the American people not only bore the burden of collective, conventional defense of the West, they also put their entire homeland on the line. (In fairness, as did the Germans, and likely the British. Did anyone else in NATO face risk similar destruction?)
And, like or not, it worked: NATO succeeded, and won the Cold War without firing a shot. Success by definition.
So as far as NATO is concerned, the American people gave their part.
When, at long last, an attack on a NATO ally came, and the treaty was invoked, it came not in Europe -- but here, in the U.S.
I submit that our allies have a debt of honor to help vanguish the Taliban, and rebuild Afghanistan--and that means more than holding the coats of Americans while they bleed and die.
I can't help recalling the scene in The Lord of the Rings, when the men of Rohan were called to assist Gondor, and Eomer cried:
"Now is the hour, Riders of Rohan! Oaths you have taken: now fulfill them all, for lord and for land!"
As the vastly outnumbered men of the west trembled before the gates of Mordor, Aragorn said:
"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship...but it is not this day... this day we fight!"
Has the courage of Canada failed? So it would seem. -- OK, based on a commenter's point, let me rephrase my last line:
Has the courage of Canada failed? We shall see.