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NATO Gets Smarter—or Smaller?
Posted By Alan W. Dowd On May 15, 2012 @ 12:10 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 4 Comments
When compared with the plans and pledges of recent summits, NATO’s goals for its upcoming summit in Chicago  seem small, even trivial.
Let’s start with this year’s summit agenda. The over-arching theme is NATO’s new “Smart Defense” program. NATO describes  Smart Defense as “a renewed culture of cooperation that encourages Allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring and maintaining military capabilities” by “pooling and sharing capabilities, setting priorities and coordinating efforts better.” Under Smart Defense, alliance members will identify a goal and then designate a member to take the lead in shepherding other interested members toward that goal. One report  notes that the Chicago Summit will launch Smart Defense efforts in logistics; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and force protection. In addition, there are mine-clearing, helicopter-training and maritime-patrol projects on the Smart Defense to-do list.
In other words, Smart Defense is a low-impact, low-yield program for a NATO with lowered sights and lowered expectations. The president’s fingerprints are all over NATO’s un-ambitious 2012 summit. Not only is the summit being held in the president’s old stomping grounds of Chicago; it reflects his discomfort  with American power and with America’s global leadership  role (NATO being a vehicle for both).
Just compare the smallish plans of the Chicago Summit’s Smart Defense agenda with earlier summits.
In 1999, NATO pledged to make “full use of every opportunity to build an undivided continent by promoting and fostering the vision of a Europe whole and free,” underscoring its commitment to that goal by inviting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the alliance. The Prague Summit in 2002 committed the alliance to the global fight against terrorism and WMDs—and invited seven new members into the fold. The headlines from NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit included formal membership invitations to Croatia and Albania, a promise of membership to Georgia and Ukraine and a unanimous endorsement of the U.S. missile defense system.
But in 2012 in Chicago, NATO’s 28 heads of state will focus on “a renewed culture of cooperation that encourages Allies to cooperate.” Gone are those heady promises of using NATO’s unique political-military capabilities to expand the zone of democracy, build the scaffolding of security, erase the lines of Moscow’s old empire and fight terror at its source.
The spinners will argue that NATO is focusing on low-key, process-type goals because so many big-picture goals are already being pursued. In truth, there are several strategic items NATO needs to address now—items that are far more important than mine-clearing or maritime patrols:
“The United States should not expect others to deliver much,” former NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner once counseled. “They are waiting for the Americans.” In other words, everything that happens—or doesn’t happen—within NATO depends on U.S. leadership. When it comes to NATO, American presidents don’t lead from behind. They either lead, or the alliance flounders and frays—as it is today.
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URLs in this post:
 Image: http://frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nato-symbol.gif
 Chicago: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-49E49060-A37C97E6/natolive/news_86891.htm
 describes: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_84268.htm?
 report: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/DT_05_01_2012_p23-447868.xml
 discomfort: http://frontpagemag.com/2010/04/16/obama%e2%80%99s-unexceptional-nation/
 leadership: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/08/04/when-leadership-has-an-expiration-date/feed
 worries: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120112/DEFREG01/301120003/Norway-NATO-Losing-Self-Defense-Ability
 builds up: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/7919113/Russia-approves-65-per-cent-defence-budget-increase.html
 Turkey: http://www.acus.org/natosource/turkey-will-not-allow-nato-share-intelligence-israel
 SPA: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/05/03/a-closer-look-at-the-u-s-afghan-partnership-agreement
 report: http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2012_04/20120413_PR_CP_2012_047.pdf
 leading from behind: http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/8326/obamas-problematic-approach-to-war
 FYROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/27/AR2009072702653.html
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