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"Maybe It's Time for NATO to Die"

Our reader Sue wrote this comment:
Maybe it's time for NATO to die. It's outlived its function. Maybe there is no value to the Atlantic military alliance. I certainly don't see one for the USA. I like Europe culturally, but the emotional connection America has to Europe will fade as the bulk of our immigrants increasingly come from elsewhere. In thirty years, the American populace will not be willing to fight any wars in Europe for any reason.  The Kosovo war was the last gasp of American interference in European wars. The next time we will be in a big war (Iraq is not big), it will be in Asia or Africa.

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Zyme on :

confirmed.

Kevin Sampson on :

I agree.

Detlef on :

Okay. In that case, am I to assume that you would leave Ramstein air base in Germany? One of the biggest air transport hubs in the world for the US armed forces? Or Landstuhl hospital, the largest American (armed forces) hospital outside the USA? Bases that were protected in 2002/2003 by German soldiers? Might I even mention that both of these bases are very busy right now? And that most of the injured soldiers in Iraq are sent first to Landstuhl right now? Get stabilized there before being sent back to the USA? You are - of course - free to send them to any American armed forces hospital in Asia. I only want to ask why that didn´t happen during the last 5 years? Surely Rumsfeld would have liked nothing better than to cut down the importance of "Old Europe"? Could it be that the reliability of even "Old European" allies are worth something? Not to mention that countries like Germany are actually paying money for American bases in their country? Around a billion per year if some media reports are believable. "Diego Garcia" island in the Indian ocean by the way is the property of the UK. Just google what happened to the civilian population. Admitting that I don´t know how the UK would react in case of NATO dying. You want to be happy with Asian allies? Good luck to identify them. :)

Sue on :

You are focusing on the value of NATO to the US. What about its value to Europe? If I were a European, why would I want American bases in my country at this point in history? From an American perspective, there is still utility value to US bases in Europe, but there is negative political value, which in the long run, may outweigh the utility value during this current war (which I believe the US will quit in the next two years). As far as Asian allies go, I can identify Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, the Phillippines At any rate, you can be allies with a country without a multinational umbrella organization such as NATO.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

How many troops do Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, the Philippines have in Afghanistan, which is a conflict in Asia. Thus you would expect your Asian allies to carry most of the burden. I assume, however, that the Europeans have more troops. The Philippines and Australia have suffered from Al Qaeda affiliates as well... You and many other Americans mention Japan first, which surprises me: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/699-Important-Partner.html[/url] I agree with you that NATO is going to die. I think that is a shame. I believe there will come a day, when Europeans and Americans need NATO. Don, you praised Merkel for not being complacent and non-chalant like other politicians, but what is Merkel doing for NATO?

Don S on :

I think the Europeans will 'need' NATO, although need is too strong a word. More accurately I think they would find it useful, but there is really no question of 'need'. There is no reason on earth why Europe should not be capable of handling it's own defense without any support from the US. The resources are there (or should be) and everything else are mere details. One thing I think needs to be looked at is the question of responsibility for 'global security'. Situations like Rwanda, Darfur, North Korea, Pakistan, etc. From my POV right now basically only a few countries are taking any responsibility at all on this issue. The US, UK, Canada, Nederlands, and Germany and perhaps France to a very limited degree. From my POV we often see the US trying to do something (not always wise or well-considered, but SOMETHING) about this responsibility and the EU powers hindering the effort as much as possible because the tools available to solve the truly intractable problems are often 'evil'. For an example consider Rwanda. Stopping the massacre with limited resources and in time to save many victims almost inevitably would involve creating a lot of dead Hutus very quickly, like maybe 10 or 20 thousand of them. One's choices are limited in this kind of crisis. 20,000 dead gangsters or 800,000 dead innocents. The world did choose - the latter. Not just the US. Not even primaily the US. Endless handwringing leads to endless mass murder - but most Germans don't appear to grasp that. If the US had sent in the 82nd airborn and created a pile of Hutu corpses Germany would have exploded with rage - at the US! But then you blame us also for not acting. We cannot win in this situation and now we are prepared to abdicate this game completely.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Don, I said that both Europeans and Americans will need NATO. Will there be this kind of need tomorrow or next year or in ten years? Probably not, but who knows what then will happen. The United States needed Europe during the Cold War. A similar big confrontation could come again. Good luck getting help from Japan. "From my POV we often see the US trying to do something (not always wise or well-considered, but SOMETHING) about this responsibility and the EU powers hindering the effort as much as possible because the tools available to solve the truly intractable problems are often 'evil'." Why should Europe support the US in doing something that is not wise or well-considered for the sake of "responsibility"??? Perhaps the fault lies here with the US. "Doing something" is a typical do-gooder attitude. Conservatives like yourself usually criticize this do-gooder attitude. Should not you criticize your own country now? Americans have this very sympathatic can-do spirit. This is really great on a personal level. But this can-do spirit coupled with some do-good activism and 9/11 fear got you into Iraq. Many Americans thought they could easily bring democracy to Iraq... I think you also underestimate what was needed to end the genocide in Rwanda. America is learning, of course. There is a reason, why the US is not in Darfur with troops. And there is a reason, why none (?) of the presidential candidates promised to send US troops.

Don S on :

"The United States needed Europe during the Cold War." Welll - it's more complex than that. The US forst tried to leave Europe completely after WWII. That was the reason behind the 'Stalin-friendly' policy pursued by Roosevelt and later advocated by Henry Wallace. Only when the decision had been taken to remain and bolster Europe rather than go back to the US did we 'need' Europe at all. " A similar big confrontation could come again. Good luck getting help from Japan." Yes, it could. Let's look at the likely threats. China and middle east terrorism are #1 and 2. What help can or will Europe give versus China if it comes to that? I'm tempted to believe that Europe will help China in order to further cut the US down to size. Leaders who think similarly to Zyme would probably act that way. The other confrontation - well it's on us, isn't it? And how have Europe 'helped' exactly? Hand-wringing and endless reminders to the world at large that the target isn't here in virtuous Europe. Attack the foul Yankee swine insead.... Russia is a third potential problem, but why is Russia a problem for the US any more? Because Russia will 'take' Europe from us? We've already 'lost' Europe, assuming that we ever had it in the first place. I'm inclined to believe the shoe is on the other foot - that Europe had us all along. Russia might thow nukes over the pole at us but why should they bother? Russia wishes to dominate Eastern Europe - but why is this more of a problem for the US than for the EU, which is the assumption you make when you state that the US may 'need Europe's support'? Isn't it the other way around, that Europe may need the US support?!!!!

Zyme on :

I would not place too much faith into Japan. They are a very "european" country with regard to asian standarts. When something is in their interest they can act quickly and will ask for all support they can get from their allies. Just look at the last war: When they attacked the USA, they asked their allies in Europe to stand by their side (which they did). But when Germany attacked the SU, Japan did not declare war as they didn´t consider it opportune. Of course those are different times today, but I think there is some fundamental trait in the japanese character that makes them very european in foreign politics. So beware. They will not follow America´s lead when you need them most, they will only do so when a war looks attractive for them as well.

Don S on :

Japan may not have declared war on the USSR but they did fight a hot war with the Russians in Manchuria, I believe. Contrast that with Germany which voted to invoke Clause 5 after 9/11 but elects not to fight in Afghanistan. Hmmmm, what would one prefer? An ally who provides lip service but no action? Or one who provides action but no lip service? ;)

Zyme on :

Yeah there seems to have been a battle about Manchuria - which proves my point that they go to war once there is a territorial interest in it. Not the kind of ally you can rely upon when you need help.

Don S on :

well they were hitting above their weight, don't forget. They had a MUCh smaller economy than Germany, the US, or even the UK in those days. Closer in size to Italy than to Germany. In modern terms think of the Japanese as like Poland in many ways. It's easy to forget how much the results of the post WWII boom changed power relationships

Don S on :

I'm not really. Have I written a single word about Japan? No, I think the big actors in asia are China, India, and a long way after Australia. The folks from OZ are small but have a 'can do' attitude - so they are valuable - and valued. Contrast them with Germany, which is big and have a 'cannot do' attitude excpet in one area, which is trying to enforce 'cannot do' on everyone else.... I think India is the tipping point out in asia. I don't think India and the US are destined to be allies but friendly adversaries seems possible.

Pat Patterson on :

Japan did not attack the Soviet Union after Dec. 1941 for two reasons; First in that the Soviets, under Zhukov, had three times routed superior Japanese forces advancing from Manchuria in the late 30's. Second, the Japanese and the Soviets had just signed a neutrality pact that spring. One interesting development is that of the Asian powers, excluding India which has one almost carrier group, Japan is the only other one to be building a blue water fleet, consisting of two carrier groups. China will have to arm itself at a much faster and ambitious pace to seriously threaten the US and Japan in the Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

Don S on :

"Why should Europe support the US in doing something that is not wise or well-considered for the sake of "responsibility"???" This is a good question, but it presupposes that the set of choices for Europe is limited to two: either support the US or sit on your hands. Not true. Europe could also try and do something independent of the US. Diplomacy is the only tool Europe uses now. When diplomacy fails Europe looks to the US for more forceful soluitions (or nonsolutions) and starts piling up wood for the auto-de-fe to be held upon the US president and/or Yankee imperialist fascist swine soldiery. Or is that the Yankee imperialist fascist swine President and US soldiery? Both? ;) No matter. The auto-de-fe is invariably scheduled and held. So why can't Europe act independently. Darfur is happening - why don't Germany and France send in troops and stop it? Now? Then us swine can hold our own auto-de-fe - on you this time! Being the guest at a necktie party (a public lynching with the US cast as the criminal) is tiring. I'd like Germans to try the experience for once....

Don S on :

"Don, you praised Merkel for not being complacent and non-chalant like other politicians, but what is Merkel doing for NATO?" Not much she can do, Joerg - but that much she is doing. Basically she put a tourniquet on a gaping wound, which gives time for some first aid before the patient bleeds to death. The emergancy squad hasn't realised there is a patient out there yet - they are still in the back room baving a nap. Angie and maybe now Sarko) are trying to wake them....

Don S on :

"but there is negative political value, which in the long run, may outweigh the utility value" It's already happened. Possibly as early as the late 70's. In retrospect the first death knell for NATO was the controversy over deployment of the neutron bomb in Europe. I would argue that the way Europe responded to the Balkan wars of the 90's was absolutely the sign that the negative outweighed the positive. They could not handle the Serbs, called in the US, then slapped us with the ICC 'US war crimes' treaty to show how they valued us.

Don S on :

"In that case, am I to assume that you would leave Ramstein air base in Germany? One of the biggest air transport hubs in the world for the US armed forces?" Moving it would seem - impractical.... ;) Besides, the Germans might object to us taking it? Unlike (say) Königsberg..... There is historical precedent, Detlef. Think - Cahm Ran Bay, which was the largest US naval base until we left due to hostile natives. The same thing is happening in Europe. Another even larger precedent is NATO headquarters, formerly in Paris and nearly moved again a few years ago due to the Belgian propensity for holding war crime trials on US officers...... Germany has an equal love of war crime trials. QED.....

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Detlef, Thank you @ All If you are interested, here is something on the importance of Landstuhl, especially the first and last paragraph: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/624-German-and-American-Volunteers-Support-US-Soldiers-at-Landstuhl-Military-Hospital.html[/url]

Kevin Sampson on :

“In that case, am I to assume that you would leave Ramstein air base in Germany?” Yes “One of the biggest air transport hubs in the world for the US armed forces?” Ever hear of Clarke Air Force Base? In its day it was also ‘one of the biggest air transport hubs in the world for the US armed forces?’. “Or Landstuhl hospital, the largest American (armed forces) hospital outside the USA? Bases that were protected in 2002/2003 by German soldiers?” Protected from what? You are - of course - free to send them to any American armed forces hospital in Asia. I only want to ask why that didn´t happen during the last 5 years? Surely Rumsfeld would have liked nothing better than to cut down the importance of "Old Europe"? He did indeed have plans to do exactly that. “Could it be that the reliability of even "Old European" allies are worth something?” Of course it is worth something. The problem is that it also entails certain liabilities, such as the penchant for accusing US military personnel of war crimes already described by Don S. And Old Europe’s ‘reliability’ isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I remember two occasions when ‘Old European’ NATO members (France and Spain) denied US military aircraft permission to transit their airspace because they disapproved of US foreign policy. So the real question is; do the benefits of our alliance with ‘Old Europe’ outweigh the liabilities? I think we are approaching a tipping point, and the momentum is on the ‘no’ side. “Not to mention that countries like Germany are actually paying money for American bases in their country? Around a billion per year if some media reports are believable.” Yes, Germany pays to support the bases. However, the bases put millions of dollars per year back into the local economies and keep a lot of Germans employed. Given Germanys unemployment rate, that’s a significant consideration. But, if you really believe the bases are an economic liability, then you should be on my side.

Don S on :

This day in age I find it difficult to positively ID most allies with the obvious exceptions of the UK, Australia, and Canada. Many nominal allies don't make the list - at least for now.....

Pat Patterson on :

Over the over 50 years of the NATO alliance the emphasis had been to keep US troops and assets at risk in Europe to prevent World War III and prevent the US from becoming isolationist again. Now that the inevitable has occurred in that the US is no longer interested in lockstepping its foreign policy with the Europeans, it is now considered unreliable and threatening. The European nations of NATO used the US to protect from the external Soviet threat and also had no comupniction is using American money and expertise to bolster the Christian democrats to serve in opposition to the socialists and the communists of those individual nations. Much of this turmoil is very similar to all the arguments conducted publicly during the cruise missile deployments. The public, in most NATO countries, were opposed but the leaders of generally all the parties went ahead and allowed its facilities to be used for basing the missiles. Noblesse oblige seems to apply just as much today as at any time over the last decades!

Reid of America on :

The US spends $100 billion a year on NATO protecting Europe. Whether this is protection or occupation depends on your point of view. I often hear the US labeled imperial. If the US was imperial the Europeans would be paying that $100 billion and lots more to the US in cold hard cash. Pat Patterson says the reason is to prevent WW III and to prevent the US from becoming isolationist. I say part of the reason is to pacify Europe and prevent another intra-European war. Until the US conquest, Europe was prone to war and was imperial in the true sense of the word. I am suprised that NATO still exists. The reason it still exists is that Europe has been pacified and would rather spend it's money on socialist welfare programs rather than the military. The result is the Europeans now are so weak militarily that none of their nations, including France and the UK, can fight a mid-level military power outside the European theater without US assistance. And as France demonstrated with Serbia, Europe can't even keep the peace in Europe withour US assistance. Time to end NATO and it's massive cost to the US taxpayers. Move German bases to Eastern Europe where they are welcome and closer to probable future action.

SC on :

Though the Soviet Union was an obvious early concern, I don't believe that the NATO charter names any particular adversary. Its primary reason for existence is collective security and the last 18 years has seen an evolution in the collective taking on of out-of-area responsibilities: the definition of collective security has been appropriately enlarged in response to a changing world and to the recognition, despite the claims to the contrary of the nay-sayers, by European governments that European concerns and responsibilities extend beyond borders of the Continent; that includes security/military concerns. NATO has been, and remains, the premier multilateral security organization matched only by the Warsaw Pact in its early years. A Pan-European security apparatus is much discussed and can be said to exist, but, to be polite, is not yet sufficiently mature to replace the capabilities that NATO can provide its member states. Disbanding NATO, in particular now or in the near future, would not be welcomed by those committed to multilateral institutions on either side of the Atlantic - for that reason alone I don't expect to see the end of NATO anytime soon. But, even the skeptics of multilateralism have been supportive of this particular organization and its security architecture. You can find pundits and academics and even some legislators - none with any serious responsibilities, mind you - that have questioned the relevance and viability of NATO throughout its history, but I doubt that many, if any, sitting heads of state and prime ministers, or service chiefs of the member states have seriously advanced a proposal to end NATO. If NATO fails in a particular mission, then one ought to expect that similar missions will be avoided in the future or that changes will be made to enhance the likelihood of future success; one should not expect the whole organization to be scrapped. Now, the issue of US bases in Europe, while related, is distinct from the existential question of NATO: You can have NATO without US forces based in Europe particularly now in the relative absence of a Russian threat to Western Europe - and you can have US forces based in Europe without NATO. This much should be obvious. Now that NATO has expanded and looks to expand even further eastward, whether the absence of European US military bases enhances or detracts from the collective security of NATO member states is the issue - itself an issue apart from concerns particular to the US.

Don S on :

"is not yet sufficiently mature to replace the capabilities that NATO can provide its member states." Of course, but referring to 'NATO' in this manner strikes me as more than a little mealy-mouthed. Do not the words 'NATO' and 'offer' imply a somewhat narrower group of countries than the entire list of signatories? I make that list to be the US, UK, and Canada to a severely limited degree. Possibly a few others to an even more limited degree. Most of NATO membership do not 'offer' - they consume. And that is the problem in a nutshell, I think.

SC on :

Who are you calling "mealy mouthed" there pardner? This may call for pens (I'm an academic after all) at 10 paces! My understanding of NATO has been that one of its reasons for existence was the implied threat of a combined military response to regional Soviet aggression. But that was the edge of the sword, so to speak. Behind that lies all the necessary infrastructure in terms of intergovernmental and inter-agency agreements and cooperation toward standardization in hardware and training of forces, and in all that's involved in developing common functioning logistics. These needs will continue to remain all the more so with the incorporation of its newest members into the organization. And until there is a regional grouping that can provide analogous support structures, NATO will remain the only game in town, in my opinion. The issue is whether its time to end NATO. Apart from the fact that none of us writing in this thread is in the position to bring this about even if desired, where is this currently a topic of discussion among those who could bring it about or even among those who might influence those who could bring it about? Maybe it is being discussed and I just haven't seen it. But if the time is nigh for the demise of NATO, I think we'd be hearing and reading a bit about it. From the US perspective, couldn't the same cost to benefit calculus discussed here be applied to other international organizations, like, oh say . . . the UN? Do you or does anyone else here seriously see a near term - for that matter long term - possibility of a US pullout from the UN? Like it or not, the value of these organizations to governments and related agencies and institutions is not so easily calculated. On a personal note: I work on the smallest campus of a Mid-western university system; a campus whose focus is engineering, science, and technology. On a per-student basis it is the most expensive of the campuses to operate and for years I've listened to arguments to the effect that given its location, the cost if its operations, and the narrowness of its mission, the very existence of the campus has made little sense to the state or the university system. I remember these arguments be made very well by one of my senior colleagues now retired. On the basis they were made there was little disputing them. Never-the-less, I always told him that he was wrong to think that the campus was in any danger of closing. Some years ago and a few years after he retired, I met this colleague while both of us were taking an evening stroll. He admitted to me that I was right after all. What he had failed to appreciate, he told me then, was just how many political considerations surrounded the existence and operation of a university campus. Indeed. By focusing on a narrow calculus defined by what we see to be advantageous, much might be missed that is of advantage to others.

Don S on :

"This may call for pens (I'm an academic after all) at 10 paces!" Spitballs perhaps? In high school I was the acknowledged champion of spitball combat - and at getting away with it! ;) That wasn't meant as a personal crack, prof, but a more general epithet against the mindset of those who use phrases like 'NATO offers'. I'm not completely against the idea of NATO having members who 'offer' and members who 'consume'. The Eastern Europeans can hardly avoid being consumers. The problem is that a number of very rich, very secure members of NATO also insist upon being consumers rather than offer thus throwing the burden on a small portion of NATO. This rogue's gallery include Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. There is no excuse for it and no reason why the US, Canada, and the UK ought to stand for the status quo. NATO reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire. The idea dated back to Charlemagne and the HRE existed for 1000 years before Napoleon formally buried it. But no historian I'm aware of considers the HRE to have been of any importance after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618. It was suffering from mortal wounds even then, wounds inflicted by the Reformation. NATO may hold on for a long time out of sheer beaurecratic inertia, but I think we are experiencing NATO's Reformation right now. It's not quite dead yet but the mortal wounds have been inflicted. It's only a matter of time before the corpse is embalmed and displayed in someone's parlor.

Anonymous on :

"Spitballs perhaps? In high school I was the acknowledged champion of spitball combat - and at getting away with it! ;)" Well, you have me there. I was always caught. "NATO reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire." Hmmm . . . I actually think of the EU constitution as an attempt revive the HRE with the Church and Rome replaced by the constitution and Brussels. "It's not quite dead yet but the mortal wounds have been inflicted. It's only a matter of time before the corpse is embalmed and displayed in someone's parlor." Maybe, yes, maybe. But, if the EU constitution ever is ratified and a continent-wide security structure arises; then, NATO might just serve as the starting point for some transatlantic security cooperative. But in the meantime, whether NATO lives or dies will depend on accounting for all the beneficiaries and the benefits - all of which may be a bit murky after all these years.

Don S on :

"NATO might just serve as the starting point for some transatlantic security cooperative." Before postulating such a 'securoty cooperative' I suggest that one might start with the rationale for such a cooperative. I would assume that the cooperative would at a minimum offer each member of the cooperative benefits exceeding it's cost to the participant. In the current situation it would be difficult to demostrate those benefits for many og the possible members. It sin't difficult to forsee the situation changing and such a NATO II offering the continental European countries enopugh benefit (a tresurgent Russia might do so). But countries like the US, Canada, and even the UK face a sterner functional test. Germany/France are perfectly capable of defending themselves, or would be if they spent more than a derisory share of GDP on their forces. What benefit does the US or Canada derive from effectively subsidizing the defense of commercial rivals?

Don S on :

T"hough the Soviet Union was an obvious early concern, I don't believe that the NATO charter names any particular adversary." I believe NATO was aimed against Ruritania or Grand Fenwick, possibly both. ;) Seriously, this is an issue I've been thinking about since recently reading Tony Judt's excellent history of Modern Europe. NATO appears to have had two primary purposes. Reassurance against the external threat from the USSR was certainly one of them but apparently considerably less important to the other considertaion - restraining the (potential) enemy within. German agression. in 1948 France had been heavily damaged 3 times within the past 80 years, and it was therefore necessary to keep the US 'in' Europe to neutralize the threat that Germany would do it again. The US was pushing the Marshall Plan but many countries did not trust Germany and were unwilling to see Germany rebuilt absent a US secutiry gauarantee with some teeth in it. The irony of the French withdrawal in 1964 is all the sharper. France had gotten what they wanted, Germany was now bound. So France pulled out and retained the benefits of NATO without bearing any of the costs. Today it appears that Germany is doing much the same without formally withdrawing from the treaty. The US gets the dubious benefit of defending Eastern Europe without significant help from the heart of Europe. Gee, thanks.....

Anonymous on :

"The US gets the dubious benefit of defending Eastern Europe without significant help from the heart of Europe." And for this reason alone, the oldest western European members, to me, seem unlikely to press for NATO's end. Isn't it the same as the old adage: to keep the US in and the Soviets out? Extending that poor old tattered security umbrella of NATO over Poland and other eastern European nations bordering Russia and the Ukraine is to extend implicitly a US security guarantee to these nations that otherwise would not occur - or at least be highly unlikely to occur - on a bilateral basis. In the absence of this reassurance, would the ongoing project of European integration run more or less smoothly when security issues occupy a more prominent place politically than they currently do? Is it in the interest of the US, broadly speaking, to support the continued development of European integration? The focus of NATO has been Europe, now more broadly defined, and the North Atlantic basin. As long as a collective security arrangement for this region is seen as benefit to the member states, my money is on the continued existence of NATO. Now folks have commented on Afghanistan as if this is the crucial test for the viability of NATO. But, I wonder about that. Extending the horizon of NATO responsibilities to the Balkans made sense given their location and history relative to Europe. But extending the horizon to Afghanistan goes well beyond what the signatories of NATO contemplated by literally going "global". It may be appropriate, but there is little doubt that it represents a major shift. The US inherited and has chosen to maintain global interests and responsibilities. European nations individually and collectively have global interests that are reasonably understood. I think that many are trying to work out the details when it comes to global responsibilities.

SC on :

Oops! Anonymous in 6.2.1 is me.

Zyme on :

@ Joerg "I agree with you that NATO is going to die. I think that is a shame. I believe there will come a day, when Europeans and Americans need NATO." "Umbrella-organisation" was one of the words used to describe NATO in here. I think it fits perfectly - it is an umbrella today, nothing more. Future alliances will undoubtably be a lot smaller than NATO - but they will also be a lot more serious, flexible and helpful in times of need. So even from that perspective the loss of NATO would not be regretted.

Kevin Sampson on :

"Future alliances will undoubtably be a lot smaller than NATO - but they will also be a lot more serious, flexible and helpful in times of need." Absolutely right on all counts. The only thing you missed was the name; coalitions of the willing.

bob on :

NATO may very well be dead. Personally after the Balkan fiasco, I have, to paraphrase Catullus on falling out of love, called dead what seems to have died. NATO has become an umbrella organization, as people have noted, but it is an extremely important pyschological foundation for European integration. The mutual defense clause allows smaller nations to feel secure and independent even amongst larger nations. One of the first steps for any candidate state prior to accession in the EU is always NATO membership. That has been true since the Soviet Union fell. NATO membership internationalizes EU membership and functions as option of last military resort against foreign interference or other EU member states' territorial ambitions--real or imagined. Would Estonia have held its ground without NATO? I hate to imagine it but Poland could be crazier, if NATO did not guarantee Silesia, Pommern and West Prussia. Some nationalist Poles still yearn for Lemberg and Hungarian nationalists are still waiting for an opprtunity to recoup the losses of the Treaty of Trianon. When Fritz and Helga are finally able to buy a dacha next decade in Denmark, Czech Republic or Poland, the locals will console themselves that there does exist an ultimate remedy if needed to keep the Germans from acting up. Zyme: As for your cowboy unilateralism, what state would be willing to sign a bilateral mutual defense treaty with Germany other than Russia? Germany has no deep water navy. The troops in Afghanistan flew by chartered civilian aircraft, since you havent got any long range air transport. Half the Bundeswehr spends it days teaching retarded kids how to paint or emptying bedpans in rest homes. Any bilateral agreement outside of the bonds of NATO with France would cause the rapid dissolution of the EU as presently constituted. Germany has nothing militarily to offer. The endless navel-gazing in the Bundestag about the proper use of Tornadoes in Afghanistan does not inspire confidence either.

EMH on :

Whether anyone here is for or against NATO is immaterial - NATO is dead... all over but the last sound of the death throes which if I'm right will happen after a cataclysmic defeat on the battlefield which will in turn cause a political implosion. It's sad actually, because if properly funded, properly equipped, and given a valid political mandate NATO could actually do a lot of good in this world. But let's face it, NATO is NOT a military organization. Rather, it's a fig leaf behind which Europe gains a tad bit of political cover. European countries can claim "support for NATO," send a token troop deployment, gain some credit for contribution and the right to hoist their flag, and thus avoid facing the ugly truth. That Europe is no more: That Europe has little military capability; That what capability it has is not integrated; That it has no means to project power other than a small flotilla; That it is completely dependent on the United States to do anything militarily on its behalf; and that its inherent weakness caused by years of neglect and under-funding leaves it vulnerable to blackmail and coercion. Europe may not like the fact, but without the United States she stands alone - a fractured mess of a place subject to the whims of Moscow or Tehran. Better get used to it because the U.S. has just about had enough of Europe...but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves...what about now...what sort of support can NATO add to the equation? NATO is quick to claim support!! And oh what support this entails! I frankly find it unconscionable that even though it is headquartered in a continent of some 400 million that NATO can muster less than 50,000 troops which is beyond pathetic and sad. It is a crime. As we (the West) prosecute our struggle against Islamic radicalism the most immoral act on the battlefield is not some unfortunate event that grabs headlines in Der Spiegel... the immoral thing above all others is to LOSE. And losing seems to be just an inconvenience to many in Europe. How else could one explain defense expenditures in many European countries of 1-2% of GDP? No wonder when Pakistan suffered a catastrophic earthquake that all Europe at large could muster was a handful of helicopters, a few lorries, and some bags of rice brought to the point of debarkation on leased or borrowed aircraft. I'm sure that the hundreds of thousands of starving Pakistanis were thankful for the effort. What? Oh yes... militaries actually do a few more things than invade and fight... but I digress. And let us not forget our present toil in Afghanistan... Germany....yes Germany... that country of some 83 million inhabitants and the third (or have the Chinese finally blown past?) largest economy in the world... has what is it in Afghanistan? About 3500 troops... wow...impressive. And.... gasp!.... they are confined to the relative safety of Mazir Al Sharif - far to the North. Under great pressure from the few countries in NATO who actually have the guts to fight, the German government has said that its soldiers can be used in combat during a dire emergency - but only with Parliamentary approval. Now there's a grand caveat if I've ever seen one. Think of that. Imagine the scene... "NATO Commander to NATO base... we're being overrun... send the QRF!!" "NATO Commander this is NATO Base... QRF is already deployed over." "We're being overrun here damn it! Need help NOW!!!" "Roger... break.... German Commander this is NATO base... NATO unit is being over run...QRF is committed elsewhere. Need you to deploy immediately to relieve over." "NATO Base... German Commander here... Must first get Parliamentary approval... but it's Sunday... will have to wait til Parliamentary session, Parliamentary debate, and final disposition, plus transport time...over." "NATO Commander...NATO Base... do you read me over? NATO Commander? Anyone there?....." Silence... Well .... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that if this happens that NATO is FINISHED... It will collapse due to the divergent contribution of member countries and their divergent political owners... and once it collapses then what happens to Europe? I don't know, but I do hope that our European friends speak a little Russian and enjoy the shrill wail of morning prayer call pounding out from the neighborhood mosque. Or perhaps a few of you think that too far fetched... Perhaps an imploded NATO will lead to chaos across the Balkans... mass refugee flows... Russia will fill the void and refugees will stream west... There are many such scenarios....

Reid of America on :

The UK has recently anounced that they are going to cut the size of their Navy by two-thirds in the coming decades. Tiny Israel with only 7 million people has an air force superior to any European air force. European military capability is quite limited. That is why Chirac felt compelled to threaten Iran with nuclear weapons if attacked. But there is a bright side. All that is needed for Europe to become a military superpower is political will. Europe has the technology and industrial base but not the will to fight. In 1939 the US had the worlds 19th largest army. Three years later they had a 16 million strong military and the largest army in history. Germany quickly militarized in the 1930's. Europe can become a world class military force in a few short years if it has the will. Unfortunately the will is not there.

Zyme on :

The will returns quickly - as soon as the peoples of Europe feel threatened.

Don S on :

I agree - but with the caveat that you must have time to feel the threat, and the threat must be acute enough to force action. If the threat rises quickly enough Europe may not have time enough to react before it is upon you.

Zyme on :

There is a response time of course. This won´t hurt us unless the Huns or the Ottomans are plunging into Europe ;) Once the people are enraged enough for a harsh response, based on historical european reaction I doubt that for our foes there will be any need for camps like Guantanamo.

Don S on :

Based upon *historical* European practice the 'European' response will make G-bay look like Club Med in comparison. I refer not only to the obvious bit of trouble a couple generations back but such items as the Boer War, Thirty Years War, Russian Revolution, Seige of Paris, Paris Commune, Spanish Civil War, etc.....

Tuomas on :

You may find more similarities between EU and the HRE (962-1806) than with the, so to say original, Roman Empire - i.e. Rome.

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