From the AP: Europeans’ aversion to military force is limiting NATO’s ability to fight wars effectively, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

In remarks to a forum on rewriting the basic mission plan for the NATO alliance, Gates called for far-reaching reforms in an organization that was created 61 years ago as a political and military bulwark against the former Soviet Union and its Red Army.

The early successes of NATO in averting post-World War II eruptions of European conflict have led to a new set of concerns, Gates said.

"’The demilitarization of Europe – where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it – has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told an audience filled with uniformed military officers from many of NATO’s 28 member countries…

Gates welcomed the in-depth effort by NATO to revise and update what it calls its "strategic concept," or its basic mission document. He stressed that it must be more than a paper exercise, given the real world conflicts NATO is fighting today – with about 120,000 troops, including U.S. forces, in Afghanistan, and the prospect of staying there in some numbers for years to come.

"Most are living in austere conditions, and many are facing enemy fire on a daily basis," he said. "That is a stark reminder that NATO is not now, nor should it ever be, a talk-shop or a Renaissance weekend on steroids. It is a military alliance with real-world obligations that have life-or-death consequences."  (photo: Cherie Cullen/U.S. Department of Defense)