It’s a strange idea, that the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization lies in the mountains of Afghanistan. But that’s just the case that President Barack Obama and British Defense Secretary John Hutton are making at NATO’s 60th anniversary summit this weekend in Strasbourg.
Hutton, like Obama, is trying convince his counterparts in NATO that they should commit more troops to Afghanistan. In fact, he told the BBC on the eve of the summit that the Afghan war is the defining conflict for NATO in this part of the 21st century.
It’s the same message carried by Obama.
Will it fly? I guess that depends on how much history makes its way into the celebration. When it was founded 60 years ago, no one would ever have imagined that, more than half a century later, NATO’s defining conflict could possibly be in central Asia.
NATO was created in 1949 to defend western democracies from scary Stalinist Russia.
A recent guest on our program, Andrew Bacevich, said in a commentary in the LA Times this week that the best gift any American President could give NATO right now would be "a valedictory address, announcing his intention to withdraw the United States from the alliance."
"The U.S. has done its job. It’s time for Europe to assume full responsibility for its own security," wrote Bacevich.
He argues that "the US has done European nations no favors urging the alliance to expand its reach, abandoning its defensive posture to become an instrument of intervention."
On the matter of defense, NATO sat out the only really significant fight on its continent last year (the one between Russia and Georgia,) and so far it’s achieved more backlash than lash in Afghanistan.
Peace activists who gathered en masse outside the Strausberg meeting demand more than the exit of the US from the alliance. They want the end of NATO altogether. The biggest threats to Europe, they argue, are economic and environmental; the military build up is just a mission-creepy money-sucker.
Whether you think it should go, or only that the US should, NATO in Asia doesn’t make much sense. The A stands for Atlantic. Not Afghanistan.
Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan and other cities) and online daily at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com.