De Hoop Scheffer did his best to navigate these stormy waters, but he had neither the institutional power nor the charisma to convince the US and the reluctant Europeans of the need for basic coherence, let alone greater commitment and political will. As a sitting prime minister when elected, it is hoped Fogh Rasmussen will be able to cajole them all more effectively. With the intensified fighting and increased deaths, the signs are not too good – but if he fails, he may go down in history as the last Nato secretary general.
Response from the Atlantic Council: This strikes me as a wild overreach, albeit one that NATO leaders set up by constantly pleading that the Afghanistan mission was an existential test that the Alliance simply could not fail and survive. That was always nonsense. Countries lose wars — or lose interest in them — with some regularity and yet survive. The United States remained a superpower in the wake of Vietnam and went on to become even more dominant in world affairs. Why can’t alliances do the same?
Rasmussen has a big task ahead of him, no doubt, but it’s hardly an impossible one. As several participants noted in our recent New Atlanticist Roundtable, NATO’s demise has been forecast for decades. The new general secretary will lead the Alliance through its 60th anniversary celebrations and beyond. He’ll preside over the unveiling of a new Strategic Concept that will redefine NATO’s mission for the next several years. What NATO will look like at the end of that process is the subject of much interesting speculation. That it will continue to exist, however, is not in serious doubt. (photo: Anders Fogh Rasmussen [left], Jaap de Hoop Scheffer [right]; AFP)