At a recent lunch with three CEOs, I asked them to tell what they thought about NATO. None of them could understand why NATO was still around. Only one of them knew NATO was deployed in Afghanistan. The CEOs ranged in age from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties and were as well informed about current events as anyone in America. I’ve been asking my NATO question ad naseum at every opportunity I get. The results are very revealing of the gap between the “experts” and DC professionals on the one hand and the rest of the populace on the other. I also believe there is a clear generational divide on NATO’s future. Witness these two opinions. One by Senator Lugar, a hugely respected voice in the foreign policy establishment, and the other by Anne Applebaum, Washington Post’s provocative columnist.
Sen. Lugar (from a speech at the Atlantic Council, Washington DC, September 28, 2009):
“The provision of security assurance within Europe has been a central challenge to American foreign policy since 1917. Our continued commitment to NATO does not come without costs, but remains the most promising vehicle for projecting stability throughout Europe and its political fault lines with Asia and the Middle East. . .” [Read Full Transcript] Note: Emphasis in bold are in the original transcript.
Ms. Anne Applebaum: The Slowly vanishing NATO (Op-Ed , Washington Post, October 20, 2009)
“…NATO, though fighting its first war since its foundation, inspires nobody. The members of NATO feel no allegiance to the alliance, or to one another. On its home continent, NATO does precious little military contingency planning, preferring to hold summits…None of this might matter much in Afghanistan, since the outcome of current deliberations may well be some version of the status quo. But the next time NATO is needed, I doubt whether it will be there at all…] [Read Full Column]