Answer: Turn the military alliance into something completely different.
That at least seems to be the conclusion of the group of experts tasked with creating a draft of NATO's new strategic concept. Their findings, released this week, envision a NATO defined by a host of new responsibilities from multilateral weapons procurement to cyber defenses to expeditionary actions. In her presentation as the group's chairperson, Madeleine Albright said "NATO is more than a military alliance; it is also a political community."
I would agree with Albright's perspective on NATO. Since NATO's efforts in the 1990s to encourage democratization in Eastern Europe, the alliance has assumed greater responsibilities in political, economic, and security fields. NATO's scope has certainly expanded beyond preserving the territorial integrity of its members, though this remains a central aspect of the organization's DNA. In this sense, the group of experts are merely highlighting what is already the case: NATO is no longer simply a defensive alliance.
But what is NATO exactly? If not a military alliance, then what? Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that NATO should become the "the forum for consultation on global security." Secretary Albright sees the alliance developing "partnerships" with key countries, with Russia on the top of that list. And some EU leaders simply hope that NATO can act to help member states streamline military expenditures and reduce redundancies. I believe NATO must be careful to not try to be everything to everyone. It must seek to focus only on those areas where it can provide real added value to its members states and the international community.
What do you think? What is NATO's niche in the international community? How should the forthcoming strategic concept envision the future of NATO?