Saturday, June 18, 2011

The future of NATO - that is, does it have one?

Stephen Walt has been on a roll lately. One of his particularly interesting items is Gates to NATO: Drop dead? Foreign Policy 06/13/2011. It's Walt's commentary on outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' recent challenge to our NATO allies, as reported here by the PBS Newshour 06/10/2011:



As Walt explains, he's surprised that NATO is still alive and as active as it is. Because he thinks it's fundamentally a moribund alliance:

Well, duh. NATO has been on borrowed time ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, because military alliances form primarily to deal with external threats and they are hard to hold together once the threat is gone. In a sense it is remarkable that NATO has persisted as long as it has, but that was mostly because the United States could afford to subsidize European security and because Washington saw NATO as a useful tool for maximizing U.S. influence in Europe.

The problems the alliance faces today have little to do with European fecklessness, American militarism, or the particular errors of individual leaders. The central problem here is structural: there's just not much of a case for a tightly integrated military alliance anymore, and not much reason for Europe to be armed to the teeth. Although both European and American defense intellectuals have worked tirelessly to invent new rationales for the alliance, none of them have been especially convincing. [italics in original; my emphasis in bold]
In other words, he's suggesting that NATO is kind of a zombie alliance. Unconventional in terms of the mainstream discussion. But Walt is one of the ├╝ber-Realists, after all.

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