If you follow the travels and speeches of US SecDef Panetta, you will find him being pretty bipolar on NATO: trashing the alliance one day and praising it the next. Well, this is all about preparing for and then being at the NAC DM: North Atlantic Council Defense Ministerials--where the SecDefs and MoD's meet. I remember the good old days on the Joint Staff where the talking points were vetted in the interagency. Anyhow, as I come to the end of a long book project on NATO, I have gone from being super-critical of NATO to being appropriately so, I think.
Our project moved from focusing on the organization to focusing on the member states and their political dynamics. The challenges of caveats, limited capabilities and all the rest suggested a hamstrung alliance. But, as we think about the big picture, I cannot help but notice that NATO is still quite relevant. The Libyan operation was far smoother than publicly portrayed in terms of the military interoperability. Sure, many countries did not participate, but those that did engaged in a complex ballet of refueling, coordinating, planning, and all the rest. The politics means that not all countries participate, and much variation in how they participate, but once in, the NATO doctrine, training, and the rest make a big difference than if it were just a couple of random countries working together.
So, I now tend to react to comments about the weaknesses and irrelevance of NATO with protestations about the alliance's enduring impact. It may not be efficient but can be effective. Something to think about some more during conclusion writing season.
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