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Alliance Reborn: an Atlantic Compact for the twenty-first century.

Listen up, Barack. Forget the credit crisis, the mortgage mess, health care, education, etc. Your administration has a new "top priority." So thinks "The Washington NATO Project," the creation of a foursome of heavy-hitting American think tanks.

Hyperbole aside, the report under review is a serious (and exhaustive) analysis of the need for reform of an alliance created when the world was becoming locked in a Cold War. Looking forward to NATO's sixtieth anniversary meeting in April, "Alliance Reborn: An Atlantic Compact for the 21st Century," offers a detailed play list of recommended new directions for the alliance. It goes far beyond the six "Strategic Concept" reviews NATO has undertaken in the past, most recently in 1999. Citing the urgent need for the Atlantic powers to overcome the discordant issues that have weakened their unity of purpose since the fall of The Wall, "Alliance Reborn" urges renewed alliance consensus with regard to the security threats of the new century and the reshaping of NATO to enhance its relevance in responding to those threats, described in sleep-troubling detail in the report's first chapter.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been busier than ever, reaching across the old East-West divide to seek new members, fighting in Afghanistan, keeping peace in Kosovo, training Iraqi security forces, providing humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Pakistan and help for hurricane victims in Louisiana among other things. A telling point, however, is that this activity has occurred away from the home areas the alliance was created to defend. To many, particularly in Europe, it is seen as "an expeditionary alliance," losing its core identity as an organization created to provide for the collective defense of its Atlantic members.

"Alliance Reborn" by no means calls for NATO to draw back from its "expeditionary" roles. Indeed, it calls on the organization to deepen its relationships with countries beyond Europe's periphery. Yet it argues that the alliance must demonstrate anew its relevance in confronting the twenty-first century threats to the transatlantic "homeland," especially those posed by ruthless networks of terrorists armed with terrifying agents of destruction and disease. Otherwise Western public--and financial--support for NATO will wane.

Although developing a consensus regarding the nature and the imminence of the threats to the transatlantic community is key to establishing a revitalized NATO, "The Washington NATO Project" also offers specific organizational changes the alliance needs to undertake. Discussed in detail in the report's chapter 6, these call for the organization to "change the way it makes decisions, change the way it spends money, generate appropriate military capabilities, match missions to means, and rethink functional and geographical areas of emphasis."

The "Washington NATO Project" rightfully devotes attention to the deep recession gripping not only NATO's members, but also the world in general. Nonetheless one completes their report with a sense that its authors may be underestimating the corrosive effect on transatlantic cooperation of the greatest economic downturn in seven decades. Signs of potential friction can already be seen in the "buy American" provisions of the U.S. economic stimulus legislation, in Europe's move toward limiting the importation of (subsidized) American bio-fuels, and in the lack of clear U.S.-European consensus on steps to combat the recession at the recent G-20 meeting. "Discordant issues" are apt to intensify rather than diminish.

Finally, one must comment on the Western orientation of this report and its assigning "top priority" to the transatlantic alliance. It may well deserve that status, but readers might find it worthwhile to consider an alternative view offered by this journal in November, 2007. That article "The Asian Eclipse of Europe" can be found at:,com_csis_pubs/task,view/id,5234/type,1/

By the Washington NATO Project

Reviewed by Bart Moon
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Author:Moon, Bart
Publication:American Diplomacy
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 31, 2009
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