Rapid victory in Iraq has left a wider reconstruction task than simply that of rebuilding the country. Deep divisions have emerged between old allies. In looking for paths to renewed cooperation, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations all have critical roles to play. The near unanimous agreement by the Security Council on UNSCR 1483 on 22 May is perhaps the first sign that the international community is ready to move forward together. EU optimists hope that the crisis over Iraq will promote a greater push towards coherent European foreign policy positions. EU pessimists point to the lack of progress in providing the military capabilities which Europe needs. Divisions among Allies led to NATO's virtual paralysis in the run-up to the war. While injured feelings will doubtless heal with time, Iraq reinforced questions about the Alliance's future. In the absence of serious strategic thinking by the European Union and NATO, a division of labour may emerge by which Europe effectively finds itself cleaning up in the wake of US interventions.
In the aftermath of the Iraq war, Washington is beginning to understand that even the world's sole super power needs help. Geopolitical differences and the widening gap in military capabilities between NATO forces have created a crack in the core of what was, through five decades of Cold War, a central pillar of US national security strategy. But it is in US interests to adapt NATO to fit new strategic circumstances. Even as NATO struggles to reshape its decision-making processes to make it a more nimble coalition capable of tackling the securit challenges of our time, its immediate military future is in its role as a force provider. The Alliance's "Atlantic community" is now not one defined by geographic boundaries but by the propensity to structure, train and equip forces capable of interoperability with US forces and a willingness to join an institutional "coalition of the willing".
The road to Kabul
NATO's April decision to take responsibility for the command, coordination and planning of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan was groundbreaking. It was also embedded in decisions taken by Alliance leaders in Prague to be prepared to support or lead operations and deploy forces wherever NATO decides. The original ISAF was established by UNSCR 1386 of December 2001 with a mandate to assist the Afghan Transitional Authority maintain security in and around Kabul. Since its creation, it has been led by the United Kingdom, Turkey and currently Germany and the Netherlands with contingents from NATO members, Partner countries and New Zealand. In future, the North Atlantic Council will provide political direction to the operation, in close consultation with non-NATO force contributors. SHAPE will assume the strategic responsibility of operation headquarters and host the ISAF international coordination cell, while AFNORTH will act as the operational-level Joint Force Command headquarters between SHAPE and ISAF headquarters in Kabul. The ISAF commander will be able to draw on specialised assets in areas such as strategic planning, without having to deploy them into Afghanistan, which may, in due course, allow the Alliance to consider expanding ISAF's tasks.
Both Operation Iraqi Freedom and NATO's own experiences in the Balkans have shown the importance of so-called "Perception Management", especially that is Public Diplomacy and Psychological Operations (PSYOPS). Despite revamping its public-diplomacy capabilities since 9/11, the United States failed to achieve much in this field prior to the military campaign. Changing ingrained attitudes takes sustained effort over an extremely long time. During the campaign, the Coalition attempted to shape the world-wide perception of the conflict by a variety of measures, including that of "embedding" reporters with military units. One factor undermining efforts to have an effect on world opinion today is the proliferation of news sources. The employment of PSYOPS within Iraq — the use of mass media like radio, leaflets, and targeted media like e-mails against key decision-makers, and loudspeakers during ground operations — seems to have been more successful. The problem, as with all PSYOPS actions, is the difficulty in determining the causal link of an action during a war. Since there is often an informational gap to be filled at the end of a campaign, PSYOPS can make a great difference at this point. Strangely, the Iraqi Freedom military planners gave little thought to developing a post-conflict PSYOPS capability in advance.
Looking forward to a Balkan Big MAC
Macedonia* has come a long way since 2001 when the country appeared on the brink of civil war and has grown from the experience of working with international organisations to rebuild stability. While various international organisations and NATO in particular played an important role in resolving the crisis, it is Macedonia, its people and leaders who deserve most credit as together Macedonians and Albanians have sought to overcome deep prejudices. The fact that Macedonia has been a NATO Partner since 1995 also facilitated good relations between Skopje and the various international actors and contributed to a swift resolution of the crisis, as did NATO's existing presence in the region. Moreover, ongoing monitoring of the situation has proved an effective means of stabilising the country. Two years after the crisis and following parliamentary elections, former adversaries work together both in the country's parliament and its coalition government. Macedonia is committed to the MAP process and, together with Albania and Croatia, aspires to joining the Alliance at its next summit in what could be described as a Balkan Big MAC.
Just as the countries of Central and Eastern Europe realise their long-held goals of joining the European Union and NATO, these institutions appear increasingly in disarray in part because of disagreements over Iraq. Looking ahead, the region is likely to face three major challenges in the coming decade: across the Atlantic; within Europe and at home. Central and Eastern European countries are entering an Alliance in the midst of its own debate over its future purpose and strategic direction — a debate they will be expected to participate in immediately. Many Americans are clearly hoping that all of Central and Eastern Europe will evolve into strongly Atlanticist Allies. Many Western Europeans seem to consider the Atlanticist leanings of these countries to be a temporary phenomenon. In the European Union, the instincts of many of these countries will be to side with the United Kingdom on issues ranging from how Europe should be organised to relations across the Atlantic. Yet they will also have to be careful not to antagonise the two key continental powers, France and Germany. At home, these countries have to continue the process of political and economic reform started in 1989. For a small Central and Eastern European country, taking part in the broader debate over the future of the European Union and NATO will be daunting but no more so than the challenges of the past decade.