Proof That NATO is Relevant. And Irrelevant, Part II

Does Franco-Anglo determination mean NATO is healthy?

Apparently George Grant is not the only one who thought that the performance of of a handful of powerful militaries working under the guise of NATO is proof that the transatlantic alliance is still healthy. David Abshire, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO from 1983-1987, writes that the speed with which NATO acted in Libya, as compared to its sluggishness in Bosnia and Kosovo, proves that the alliance is doing well: after the decision to intervene was made, it took two days for French planes to patrol the Libyan skies, compared to 12 days in Bosnia. This speed, though, only shows how the determination of a few NATO countries overshadowed the disagreement within the organization. From Abshire:

Three months ago, as criticism reached its zenith; I visited NATO’s military HQ in Belgium to learn more about the Libyan operation. I was shocked to learn of the mission’s success.

The NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. Jim Stavridis and the NATO ambassadors detailed the speed with which this operation was carried out. Stavridis had successfully navigated Turkish and German opposition to the intervention.

Amid all this Washington-based criticism, NATO was operating at a stunning level of speed and effectiveness.

The fact that three NATO countries were able to push the organization towards intervention in the face of strong internal disagreements is not proof that NATO is strong, but rather that it is not really an organization based on consensus. If there had been broad agreement among NATO members, the intervention in Libya would have been more impressive. It matters little that the NATO airstrikes played a major role in disrupting Qaddafi and pushing him from power; what matters is the cohesion with which the operation was carried out. I’ll end with what I said yesterday:

Moreover, in June there were only eight members of NATO involved in the Libyan operationsNorway pulled out earlyDenmark was running out of bombsBritish naval officials said that the operations were not sustainable, and it was the disagreements between the US, Germany and Turkey that led to Gates’ warning about the future of the coalition. Despite these issues, NATO was able to aptly provide enough aerial and intelligence support to ensure the end of the Qaddafi era. The successes in Libya, though, were clearly due to the commitment of Britain, the United States and particularly France.

Photo from UK Based Foreign Affairs


One thought on “Proof That NATO is Relevant. And Irrelevant, Part II

  1. Hello, you recently posted a link for this article on one of my own and I was wondering if you might be interested in collaboration. I have a BA in Contemporary Military and International History and am due to start a double Masters in International Relations (including time in Moscow) later this month and struggle to maintain a site to a sufficient standard single handedly. If you are interested drop me an email at Cheers.

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