NATO leaders concluded a two-day summit in Chicago on May 21, with the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan dominating the proceedings. According to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, two other items dominated the agenda: The alliance will continue to expand its capabilities in spite of economic austerity, and “we have engaged with our partners around the world to address the challenges we all face in the 21st century”:
we agreed to implement a renewed culture of cooperation, so that nations can achieve together what they cannot achieve alone . . . by agreeing on projects which will provide the capabilities we need, at a price we can afford.
Such an impressively vacuous waffle clearly indicates that the summit was not necessary. None of the three key issues—leaving Afghanistan, expanded capabilities, projects and partnerships—concerns the core issues of strategy, let alone grand strategy. They could have been discussed in the course of a day-long teleconference—preceded by a few thousand e-mails among a few dozen civil servants—at zero cost to U.S. taxpayers and zero inconvenience to the citizens of Chicago. The protesters outside the conference hall—fewer and less aggressive than advertised—rightly attracted more media attention than the ideas exchanged within the hall.