NATO lives!

Does the world still need (or want) NATO?

From Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy:  [I]t was clear that the class was strongly disposed to favor NATO’s continued existence even before the discussion began, and that view strengthened the more they talked and listened.

I’d attribute this result to several rather obvious factors :

First, NATO has been around for sixty years, and has acquired a nearly iconic status among students and practitioners of foreign policy. Institutionalists often emphasize the "sticky" nature of well-established organizations, and NATO has been such a familiar part of the international landscape that hardly anyone feels comfortable supporting a resolution calling for its dissolution.

Second, NATO doesn’t cost much anymore, and students don’t see a lot of potential benefits from ending it. You know: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The United States doesn’t devote a lot of money to defending Europe (for the obvious reason that there’s no serious threat there), and the Europeans are spending a lot less themselves. Ending the alliance would also involve some short-term costs (e.g., the United States would lose basing rights, etc.), and in a situation like this, the status quo naturally triumphs.

Third, many people still see NATO as an insurance policy against a deteriorating security environment in Europe, and (for Americans) as a way to retain political influence there. Dissolving NATO could lead to renewed security competition within Europe, or it might encourage the European countries to get serious about a common foreign and security policy. Neither of these outcomes is attractive from Washington’s perspective: The United States doesn’t like trouble in Europe, but it also doesn’t want the trouble that a more united Europe could cause. NATO’s continued existence helps avert both of these negative possibilities.  (photo: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty)

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