Friday, May 18, 2012

Note From AFA President -- NATO

This weekend the heads of state of NATO members meet in the United States for what is called the NATO Summit.  As we hear about what comes out of the summit we should keep in mind a few basic principles.

First, NATO has proven to be incredibly flexible.  It was founded in 1949 to bind together nations of like minds and defend against an attack by the Warsaw Pact.  When the WP went away, there were many that thought NATO would wither and slowly fade away.  What happened instead was the Alliance broadened its understanding of security and the threats it faced and … adapted.

Second, if we did not have NATO, we could not create it today.  An Alliance governed by consensus is a difficult one to create.  Everyone has to give a bit to further the cause of all nations.  The US has led NATO and will continue to do so … but there is power in having many nations acting in concert … and having the military power to implement their goals and objectives.

Third, NATO’s bureaucracy is … well… daunting.  In the years I dealt with Alliance affairs, we used to refer to NATO as No Action Talk Only.  However for a continent that has fought each other for thousands of years, talk is not a bad thing.  NATO’s bureaucracy demands attention.  There are meetings at every level – Chiefs of Defense, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers.  There is a standing military committee and staff and a standing military structure.  Two of the most important contributions by NATO are often overlooked:  the use of just two common languages (English and French) and the development of doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures.  For those of us who have spent decades in the Asia-Pacific region, we are jealous of what NATO brings to security discussions.

Fourth, NATO had put the idea of “out-of-area” to bed.  Its operations in Afghanistan and Libya have proven that NATO can operate successfully in key areas of the world.  Yes, there are improvements that need to be made … but the first step in any improvement process is to identify where improvements are needed.

Fifth, many pundits use NATO and Europe synonymously … forgetting that the US and Canada are both key players in the Alliance.  We should all remember that when we criticize NATO, we are, in fact, criticizing ourselves.

Finally, the Secretary General of the Alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, penned a piece that appeared in the London Times.  A quote from the piece to interest you:
“Nato has an impressive record of success that stretches back more than six decades. At this summit we will take the necessary decisions to ensure that success continues. In this age of austerity, the choice is stark: Smart Defence or less defence.”

Additionally, let me ask you to troll around NATO’s home page (  I think you will learn a lot about the alliance.  I certainly did.

For your consideration.

Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association
"The only thing more expensive than a first-rate Air Force is … a second-rate Air Force."  --  Senate staff member


Anonymous said...

NATO was not founded to defend against an attack by the Warsaw Pact. NATO was formed (April 1949) 6 years before the Warsaw Pact came into being (May 1955).

Anonymous said...

I live in Chicago. All this expense for a summit that takes less meeting time than the AFA meeting in D.C. is a waste. More like a meeting of rich, powerful people, getting together to party.

Conrad vonBlankenburg said...

Mike Dunn tries to make a narrow, feel good,excuse for still having NATO. The facts don't support what he sez. 1. The U.S, The Russians and the British Empire's military destroyed the military of Germany and Italy to the point of unconditional surrender. The spoils of war were divided up between the three. Then the useless europeans needed a body guard. Guess who? To say that anyone except the United States of America is Nato is a lie. The United States has lived up to and beyond every aspect of NATO. One of the main factors in the Vietnam war was to fight the USSR and show them that we would go to any lenght to keep them in their place. This country is broke and can not spend any more hard earned taxpayer dollars on being the unpaid body guard for the slow learners in europe. Kill NATO before it kills us.