Friday, February 28, 2014

David Auerswald & Stephen Saideman's "NATO in Afghanistan"

David P. Auerswald is professor of security studies at the National War College. His books include Congress and the Politics of National Security. Stephen M. Saideman holds the Norman Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University. His books include For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone, and reported the following:
Page 99 of NATO in Afghanistan contains key insights into our approach when examining NATO behavior in Afghanistan. The book looks inside NATO countries to explore how government structures and party politics shape how battles are waged by NATO militaries. Domestic constraints in presidential and single-party parliamentary systems - such as the U.S. and Great Britain - differ from those in countries with coalition governments - such as Germany and the Netherlands. Those domestic constraints influence how civilians provide direction to their military forces. A leader's type of government influences the guidelines given to their forces overseas, and which tools will be used to ensure that those guidelines are incorporated into battlefield behavior.

Page 99 is part of the chapter that discusses presidential governments - specifically the U.S., France, and Poland - and their contributions to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Our expectation was that leaders in presidential governments would influence the behavior of their deployed military commanders through two tools: the careful selection of officers and the manipulation of incentives aimed at those officers. These expectations were borne out in the evidence presented in this chapter.

Our discussion on page 99 focuses on the selection of General David McKiernan to command ISAF in June 2008, and General David Petraeus to command U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in October 2008. To put these events into context, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had been increasingly dissatisfied with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan during 2007. McKiernan's predecessor, General Dan McNeill, was one of Donald Rumsfeld's last appointments as Defense Secretary. Rumsfeld had instructed McNeill to build the Afghan National Army and conduct counter-terrorism operations. With the situation in Afghanistan rapidly degrading, Gates changed U.S. mission priorities to be more in line with counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, and then selected two senior generals to implement that strategy. McKiernan immediately focused on the behavior of ISAF troops in an effort to limit casualties, and Petraeus brought his population-centric COIN strategy to CENTCOM.

In short, the U.S. used the selection of commanders to effect change in the focus and behavior of its deployed troops. Careful selection of commanders is politically acceptable and indeed only possible in presidential and single-party parliamentary government. The same type of selection process would not have been possible in countries with coalition governments. Page 99, then, is a good representation of one of our book's main arguments.
Learn more about NATO in Afghanistan at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue