31 October 2006

The End of NATO?

John Manley ruminates in today's Post that the NATO mission in Afghanistan may spell the end of the Atlantic Alliance as an effective international organization if the Europeans don't get their act together (Poland notwithstanding, as it's the only European NATO member to front a significant contingency--1000 troops--without any conditions).

I'll post a snippet from my M.A. thesis* to represent my thoughts:

Sadly, the Atlantic Alliance’s utility (or lack thereof) was made painfully obvious during the Balkans crises, where “the absence of an abiding Western interest in the future of Kosovo was reflected in the qualified nature of NATO’s action at every level, from diplomacy to its restricted bombing.”[1] Europe’s inability to police the Old Continent and stop even a third-rate dictator like Slobodan Milosevic made plain that American engagement there was no less required than it was when the Iron Curtain existed. Simply put, Europe lacks its former √©lan to assume even regional, much less global, leadership; France’s desire to “interpose” the Western European Union—the EU’s little-used and largely-irrelevant military arm—into Bosnia to demonstrate Europe’s ability to clean up its own backyard failed, compelling a reluctant America to intervene half-heartedly under the NATO banner.[2] The United States thus could not in good conscience delegate military responsibilities to its traditional European allies even before 9/11; it surely will not do so now.
The post-9/11 security milieu had an even greater impact on NATO’s relevance. Though NATO had invoked Article V—the collective security clause—for the first time in its history, requiring all of its members to rally to America’s defence, it was nevertheless the United States that established early on that it would do the heavy lifting in Afghanistan and set the mission’s objectives. Like the Korean War half a century earlier, the Bush Administration demanded of its allies autonomy in establishing goals and parameters for the initial front of the War on Terror. So successful and stunning was Operation Enduring Freedom that it caused many to re-think their appraisal of the global order. Paul Kennedy, who had long predicted America’s “inevitable” decline in his 1989 work The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, changed his tune after being left in awe of American might, writing, “Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power, nothing…No other nation comes close.”[3] Given the debates raging within NATO member countries whether to continue their efforts at reconstruction and democratization in Afghanistan, it is apparent that their commitment is waning, and this is a development that highlights NATO’s unreliability to policymakers in the United States. The continued reliance on this Cold War relic is an affront to, and a lack of recognition of, the other ninety or so democracies of the world that wish to contribute to the improvement of the global condition. That Bush has sought to keep NATO relevant is admirable. But his will to do so is not matched by his European allies, who are as ambivalent today regarding “out of area” operations as they were during the Cold War. Europe is no longer the centerpiece of the American interest, and thus it is time to expand the sphere of democracy-exclusive participation in formal multilateralism.

[1] Carl Cavanagh Hodge, “Woodrow Wilson in Our Time: NATO’s Goals in Kosovo,” Parameters 31.1 (2001), 129. To be fair to the Europeans, Bill Clinton’s own actions were distinctly non-Wilsonian in almost every way and his foreign policy commitment was often lacking.
[2] Joshua Muravchik, The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism, (Washington: AEI Press, 1996), 62, 120.
[3] Charles Krauthammer, Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World, Address to the AEI Annual Dinner. Washington, DC, 10 Feb. 2004. , 1-2.

*More likely than not unnecessary fine print stuff: this excerpt from my Master's thesis is not to be reprinted, distributed, or utilized without my express permission. It's got a copyright on it, y'know.

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