From Julian Lindley-French, the New Atlanticist: NATO will soon suspend Operation Unified Protector over Libya. Nigh on ten years after 9/11 and after a gruelling decade of controversy and division the Alliance can finally chalk up an unequivocal success. The new regime in Tripoli simply would not have succeeded in toppling Gaddafi without NATO’s support and I for one wish to congratulate the Secretary-General, the North Atlantic Council and Admiral Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and his team for their leadership. This is the kind of positive change that can be achieved when the Alliance simply gets on with succeeding.
Back in April I was very critical of the communique that came out of NATO’s Berlin meeting. It smacked of the diplomatic double speak that has too often been NATO’s norm of late with member nations offering full support…but. Having written extensively for the Atlantic Council of the United States on last year’s Strategic Concept I am also acutely aware of the many challenges that lie ahead for the Alliance, from anaemic or declining defence budgets, ageing militaries, a lack of strategic purpose and a bureaucracy badly in need of reform.
However, what has impressed me has been the extent to which the nations put aside their many differences after Berlin, avoided public controversy over who does what and quietly got on with the mission in hand. Of course, the usual suspects were to the fore – America, Britain and France – but that is what they do. Equally, the relationship between London, Paris and Washington was probably as close during this crisis as at any time prior to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Does this auger well for the future?
What has also been encouraging and I must say vaguely surprising has been the active support of some of the smaller countries, most notably Belgium, Denmark and Norway. They have all done their bit with combat missions as well as offering other forms of support. For once NATO planned around the problems rather than planned straight into them. . . .
Professor Julian Lindley-French, a member of the Atlantic Council Strategic Advisor’s Group, is Special Professor of Strategic Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands and Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. Graphic: NATO.