The NYT on NATO’s Mission
In recognition of NATO’s approaching 60th anniversary this morning’s New York Times editorial, observes that and France’s return to full NATO participation and remarks:
All that has inspired hopes of shaping a meaningful mission for the alliance after 20 years of post-cold-war drift. For that to happen, NATO must succeed in Afghanistan. Right now, it is frighteningly close to failing.
The fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda is the alliance’s first major operation outside of Europe. And it is a battle against the new enemies of the new century: nihilistic terrorism, corrupt and unstable rule. Yet of the alliance’s 26 NATO members, the brunt of the real fighting has been borne by only five: the United States, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Many other NATO countries have hobbled their forces with “national exceptions” — self-imposed restrictions on how and where they may be deployed. German soldiers, for example, can only be used in a noncombat role in the relatively peaceful north. The effect on relations among allied forces is corrosive.
I wish they’d given us a hint of what success in Afghanistan might look like in the editorial.
However, they’re absolutely right. NATO is a military alliance. Does a NATO membership that’s mostly there to hold our coats while we do the heavy lifting have a mission?
In the comments to James’s post on defense spending this morning I noted that one of the reasons that we spend so much on defense is that our allies spend so little. I recognize that some of that is strategic and to the extent that’s true I think we and they need to acknowledge the fact.
I believe it’s high time that our European allies begin to carry more of the weight, particularly in conflicts closer to home for them in Europe, in Africa, in the Mediterranean, and in the Gulf. When the inability to project power becomes a strategic objective, it calls the value of a military alliance built on such ground into question.