The appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish prime minister, as the new secretary-general of NATO, comes at the end of one of the deadliest months in Afghanistan for the multinational forces. Foreign policy commentators are already raising hopes and doubts about the new NATO chief's role in Afghanistan. Will he bring the war to a close and help build a more robust and cooperative alliance?
- It Doesn't Matter Who Leads: In her column in The Guardian, Ilana Bet-El said that the new chief will find it nearly impossible to get anything done under a NATO umbrella. Not only did his predecessor fail to coax the Americans and the reluctant Europeans into working together in Afghanistan, "it took until 2008 to develop a 'strategic vision' for [the NATO-led force], which is still short of a clear military objective."
- Evolution, Not Extinction: James Joyner, managing editor of the Atlantic Council, points out that "countries lose wars — or lose interest in them — with some regularity and yet survive. The United States remained a superpower in the wake of Vietnam and went on to become even more dominant in world affairs. Why can't alliances do the same?"
- Rasmussen's the Right Man: The new chief's a very different secretary-general for a very different age, Julian Lindley-French wrote in Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper. Although she offers much praise to the last leader of NATO, she notes that "a new kind of leader" was needed for NATO to "re-establish the essential contract between those who lead the people and those that secure them."
There have been criticisms in the past about how choosing Rasmussen to head NATO would jeopardize the mission in Afghanistan, mainly because of his handling of the aftermath of the publication of Prophet Muhammad's cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2005. Whether his refusal to apologize and meet diplomats from Muslim countries four years ago will come back to haunt his new leadership, only time can tell.