NATO at 60: A Hollow Shell

When NATO marks its 60th birthday on April 4, there will be much celebration.  Proponents will hail not only the alliance’s longevity and past successes but its goals in the coming decades.  Their optimism is based, in part, on statements by the new government in NATO’s leading power, the United States.  While the administration of George W. Bush sometimes seemed to favor a unilateral approach to foreign affairs, and occasionally exhibited barely concealed disdain for some of Washington’s European allies (an attitude that was most evident regarding policy toward Iraq), President Barack Obama’s foreign-policy team immediately emphasized its commitment to multilateralism, in general, and NATO, in particular.  During her confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that Washington wanted to strengthen all of its alliances, especially NATO.

In other circles, however, there is a growing uneasiness about NATO’s relevance to the policy challenges of the 21st century and, indeed, about the organization’s long-term viability.  That uneasiness is entirely justified.  The organization is, as they say in Texas, “all hat and no cattle.”  For, while NATO superficially remains an impressive organization, its ability to be an effective security mechanism is increasingly in doubt.

Expanding NATO to include new...

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