Sixty years after its founding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is at a major crossroads. As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan threatens to become the longest war in American history, the commitment of NATO's European members is foundering. The specter of defeat for the organization has led observers to wonder, "Could Afghanistan become NATO's graveyard?" For the following international experts, the answer is yes. Here's why:
- Slowly Vanishing Away, writes Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post: "NATO... 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. Above all, there is no recognizable alliance leader who is willing or able to engage in the national debates of the various member countries, to argue in favor of the Afghan mission or any other... The next time NATO is needed, I doubt whether it will be there at all.
- On the Brink of Collapse, warns Roger Cohen at The New York Times: "If the United States steps back — or is seen to be stepping back (a perception fostered by each day of Obamivocation) — NATO will fold... Although the United States still holds out hope for a NATO that focuses on global threats like terrorism and nuclear proliferation, other alliance members would prefer to refocus on the traditional mission of defending Europe. Add in disagreements between the United States and its allies over how to approach the Afghan situation and NATO begins to look more like a rugby scrum than a military alliance."
- A Dead Man Walking, writes John Feffer at Mother Jones: "Even at 60, NATO hasn't quite proven that it can live on its own in a sustainable and responsible manner. Indeed, it is still struggling with a Hamlet-like identity crisis: to attack or not to attack. The Afghan war has only underscored this central paradox. If the alliance doesn't engage in military operations, everyone questions its ultimate purpose. But if it does go to war — and the war is unsuccessful — everyone questions its ultimate efficacy. Damned if it does and damned if it doesn't, NATO will limp along much as the British and Soviet empires did after their misadventures in Central Asia. These were, after all, dead empires walking. NATO may be in this category as well. It just doesn't know it yet."