Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Best NATO Summit Prep

We have and will continue to see a bunch of stuff as NATO prepares to meet in Chicago in less than two weeks.  I think this meeting is getting heaps more attention for a few reasons:
  1. It is in the US so lazy/cheap American journalists can cover it without much sweat.
  2. Chicago is just more visible than the past several at Riga, Bucharest, Strasbourg and Lisbon.  Paris, London and Berlin would all get more attention.
  3. It is likely to be the equivalent of a "coup excuse" card in Junta--heaps of protests as the event provides a focal point for the mobilization of all kinds of dissent.
  4. NATO is announcing a variety of initiatives including SMART defence--which is about pooling weapons purchases (hey, that F-35 is working out, ain't it?) and specialization.
  5. Key items include--ratification by NATO of the "roadmap" for Afghanistan that should identify the dates of NATO's moves from combat to training and transition to the Afghans with the enddate of 2014 but much of the key milestones/benchmarks/whatever being reached in 2013.
  6. This is the meeting where the French get to say they are leaving faster than previous expected due to Hollande's win this weekend.  As I have indicated before, this is not the first departure (thanks to the Dutch and Canadians), and the French, while providing one of the bigger forces, does not really own much space or a PRT.  So, big deal, but not huge deal.  
The real key here to understanding any NATO summit is that nearly all of the work is done ahead of time.  The meeting is like an academic conference in that it sets an artificial deadline to force folks to get their work done.  But there is actually very little bargaining at the meeting--mostly the talking points will have been vetted and re-vetted ahead of time, the docs that are signed will have been through the military committee and the North Atlantic Council and word-smithed by each as well as by each delegation/representative in Brussels several times over.

This is not to say the meeting is not important.  It is, but most of the business has already happened with the meeting being the rollout.  This is not unlike next week's rollout of the fall's TV schedule.  The upfronts will announce which TV shows get cancelled or moved around and which new programs will be tried out.  Those decisions have already been made but will be announced next week. And they are subject to revision as networks change their minds, as the initial ratings come in.  Likewise, NATO can revise the decisions made here--it is just hard to do so as consensus is required.  But there is nothing stopping any other country from unilaterally pulling out of Afghanistan, for instance.

Which just leaves one question: which network is the best analogy?
  • FOX: whose success largely depends on one very, very successful program (American Idol), just as NATO's success in Libya (not that Libya is wonderful these days....) hinged on American logistics, drones, satellites, air power at the start, etc.
  • CBS: just the steadiest network that does not seem all that innovative or hip but does it what does (procedurals, conventional sitcomes) very well year in and year out without that much fuss.  NATO is just the steadiest of international organizations in that it keeps exercising, it keeps planning, it runs occasional operations that may not be wildly successful but achieve the narrow aims, whether that is imposing peace on Bosnia and keeping it for a decade, forcing Serbia to give up Kosovo, extending the reach of the Afghan government beyond Kabul for as long as NATO is around, engaging in counter-piracy, or doing enough "civilian protection" in Libya so that Qaddafi is removed from power.
  • NBC: a once proud organization that is now barely getting by, relying on efforts that critics and dedicated fans love (Parks and Rec, Community, etc) that do not have broad popularity.  
  • ABC: Umm, running out of analogy power... any ideas on this one?
So, how you look at NATO depends on your expectations.  I even found myself agreeing this morning with Robert Kaplan (yes, really) as he posted a column that says that NATO ain't so bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Considering that ABC is moving more and more heavily into comedy, and area that was traditionally NBC's domain (see ABC's Wednesday night lineup these past few months): If NATO is ABC, then their mission has slowly begun to sprawl as the death of competitors means they have to search for new reasons to stay relevant.

(A stretch, but oh well)