NATO amounts to what?

800pxflag_of_nato "Britain, with a higher percentage of its forces deployed worldwide than the United States, is stretched thin in Afghanistan. Not only did the British have insufficient force strength to hold conquered territory, but the reconstruction and development assistance that was supposed to consolidate military gains did not arrive.

"It’s worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps," said one sympathetic former U.S. commander in Afghanistan. "


The British Army including its resrve forces has around 135,000 men.  The Royal Marines around 6,000.  The other NATO countries committed in Afghanistan have even smaller forces.  Only France is a serious land power and they are not "playing the game" there.

We tend to think of these armies in termas of World War 2 or the Cold War when they were much larger forces.  No more.  Now, they are pitifully small shadows of their former selves. 

The alliance retains some political meaning but it also constitutes a burden in dealing with the fears and anxieties of Russia. 

As military reinforcements the NATO armies are not very significant.

This alliance was built to deal with the USSR.  That country is gone, long gone.  Maybe NATO should be gone also.  pl

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46 Responses to NATO amounts to what?

  1. b says:

    As a German I agree. NATO today is not needed anymore. For them to be auxiliary troops to the U.S. in Afghansitan and elsewhere is disdained by the European populations.
    Time to fold it – maybe the lost war in Afghanistan will further that.

  2. JohnH says:

    Washington seems to consider NATO as a second National Guard. Many Europeans think otherwise. The French rejected the EEU constitution in part because it made member militaries subservient to Washington.
    Some would also turn NATO into the Western industrialized world’s oil protection force.
    However, prospects for this don’t look good, since the Brits can’t even handle their little piece of Afghanistan. Also, Russia seems totally capable of protecting its own energy resources, threatening to put its missiles into Iran if Washington puts missiles into Poland and the Czech Republic to “protect against Iran.”
    So what purpose does NATO serve? Is it just a market for merchants of death and their paymasters in Washington?

  3. João Carlos says:

    Demography. It is the plain truth.
    Before the first world war, the europeans were 1/4 of the world population.
    Today, the european population is going lower and older. Graying.
    No one will see european armies fighting Verdun soon.
    So, look at demography. That is a huge logistic problem.
    João Carlos
    sorry the bad english, my “native” language is portuguese (well, I am from Brazil, so portuguese is not exactly native, it is an european language, but it is the language I speak, I don’t know tupi or guarani or other langauge the real natives talk)

  4. Duncan Kinder says:

    “It’s worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps,”

    The British army may be smaller than the Marine Corps, but nowadays, the per capita British income – for the first time in more than a century – is greater than the United States’. Free healthcare and subsidized higher education.
    You get what you pay for.

  5. PR says:

    65+ years on a war footing is going to be extremely difficult to get away from.

  6. Mike says:

    Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world after the US, Japan, Germany and China. It might be expected therefore that Britain would have the resources to be a significant military power making an important contribution to NATO. In fact it probably does outrank Germany and Japan whose defence expenditures since the Second World War have been constrained by a desire to shuffle off the guilt of former aggressionism avoid the taint of militarism. But Britain’s military strength is in fact quite puny, and will continue to wither and weaken so that its presence in Nato will be insignificant as compared to the US.
    With a population of 60 million, one fifth or less that of the USA, it has a smaller recruitment base and could not possibly put an army in the field that came anywhere near matching what Washington can deploy. Furthermore, there are serious recruitment problems: the population is ageing so that there is only a small proportion of the total young enough fo the forces to draw upon. A significant proportion of the British army is in fact made up of Australians, Irish, Fijians, Africans, and of course the Gurkhas. The quality of homeland recruits is declining: the British young are increasingly afflicted by obesity, they are less fit than they used to be, they sit in front of computer screens and TVs longer than earlier generations, and they get to school not by walking or cycling, but by car or bus. They do less sports at school and are increasingly unfit. Army recruitment officers have commented that the fashion of wearing trainers rather than leather soled shoes has left more young people with softer feet unsuited to vigorous outdoor activities in wild country.
    Meanwhile, successive British governments have insisted on arguably adventurist foreign policies that have required deployments of slender military resources around the globe. Currently, Britain has a military presence in Cyprus, Germany, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Belize.
    Successive governments have also been obsessed with maintaining Britain as a nuclear and naval power. Defence expenditure on new nuclear subs, as well as two unnecessarily large carriers, threatens in future to divert funds from other less glamorous and macho but more basic needs so that the land and air forces will be lamentably under-equipped for the foreseeable future.
    British governments are committed to NATO. But the British people as a whole probably are indifferent; indeed, I would hazard the guess that the great majority of the British would not know that Nato still exists and would ask what it is for if they did.
    Certainly, it is time for Britain to withdraw from an organisation whose function since the fall of the Berlin Wall is unclear. And if Britain were to withdraw, that would be the most significant military power in the organisation outside the US. But Britain will not withdraw. Neither of the two parties, Labour or Conservative would contemplate so radical a change and removing what is proclaimed to be a cornerstone of the country’s foreign and defence policies. So it will be for the US to administer the mercy shot to a dying organisation. Will it?

  7. bob randolph says:

    Nato is not just a “burden” vis a vis our relationship with Russia, but, in the hands of the Bush administration, it has become a “flash point” maker, as we have pushed it into the Baltic Republics and are now attempting to move Nato into the Caucasus with the incorporation of Georgia. Any squabble between the Russians and their former dominions can easily lead to a high stakes face-off between the US and Russia. It is an organization without a mission, has been ineffectual in Afghanistan, and is not only a burden, but a creator of liabilies. I would remove the word “Maybe” from the last sentence of your note.

  8. pbrownlee says:

    The neokon rush to berate sovereign nations for not “doing more” in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) has always been ludicrously insolent and often vastly counter-productive (as the former prime ministers of Spain, Italy, the UK, and even Poland and Australia may well now be able to attest).
    Zero domestic political support, slight capacity and wobbly, perhaps impossible political and military objectives would normally seem to be fatally limiting factors.
    Jalalabad is a long way from the North Atlantic and even Brussels.
    NATO’s use-by date is long past — perhaps ГАЗПРОМ could buy it?

  9. Eric Dönges says:

    dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.. This would strengthen the EU (as the only organization that could take the place of NATO) while removing the biggest piece of leverage the U.S. has in western and central Europe. While I think that would be in the long term interests of the EU, I’m not so sure if it is in the U.S.’s interests to be forced to treat the EU as an equal in all matters, not only in economic matters as is currently the case.

  10. Fred says:

    Nato ranks have expanded to include Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania Estonia and others. I don’t believe that the rationale for extending US commitments to such countries was ever seriously explained to the US public. You might be right that it is time to end Nato.

  11. condfusedponderer says:

    Considering the profound ambivalence of the US towards Europe – ask for greater burden sharing, to then when we do and undertake efforts to create an ability to act – complain about us getting too independent and immediately suspect ulterior motives, the Europeans at least in part will want the US stay engaged closely, and will want to themselves stay in NATO as to not alienate the US more than the US can alienate themselves from Europe under their own steam.
    Political talk influences perception and opinion. At the very least since ‘Old Europe’ and ‘New Europe’, ‘near term peer competitors’, ‘pre-emption’, and ‘either you’re with us or against us’ talk there has been a notion that the US are something of a loose cannon, and the war in Iraq and the corresponding frenzy in the US has only confirmed that suspicion where it was held.
    I certainly rather want the US in NATO, engaged, rather ‘than over there’, brooding over over paranoid fantasies and real threats, while trying to prevent Europe’s rise as a near term competitor, and trying to undermine it, say, by, among other things, using ‘New Europe’ leverage to undermine European unity? If the price is to have US bases and bearing the at times tiresome self-incensing harangues and participation in actions and policies that are not hurting us too much, or are even in our interest, too — alas, so be it.
    And there is a point to be made about ‘New Europe’. For the new members the NATO membership is a way to ameliorate their fears of Russian domination, which are, considering Russia’s gravity not that far fetched. ‘New Europe’ is now the foremost US client. And that does not take into account the undeniable gravity of the European Union. ‘Old Europe’ doesn’t as much need them, and US policies toward the new clients can easily hurt the interests of the old clients.
    Question: Would you rather sacrifice good relationships with Germany or Russia (which is not so much of a client, but still) for good relationships with the economic powerhouses Latvia, or Poland, Romania or Georgia? The scary answer is: The current administration answers with ‘Yes!’ The problem in my view is not so much NATO. It’s about the US losing the sense for what’s important and what’s not, and to a much lesser extent about the inherent problem of size – the addition of new members with new interests and voting rights.
    And then there is this defiance towards common sense especially in the current administration. NATO expansion into Russia’s front lawn and backyard not only breaks assurances made by previous administrations towards Russia, it also and predictably provokes Russia even without those assurances. Why did the US do so anyway? Because the administration believed to get away with it, and to succeed, after which it wouldn’t matter any more anyway.
    The US foreign policy was very successful in basically adopting Japanese and German interests in the post war era, effectively ensuring with that their good behaviour and subordination once they sort-of regained their soverignty and had to face electoral pressures. It ensured that they wouldn’t end up acting independently and revive balance of power issues in the respective regions. Ever since the end of WW-II the US was a balancer for their ambition and thus contributed greatly to their stability and prosperity, which is a thing both people remain grateful for, in my view, anyway.
    Today, the US is no more a balancer, but apparently sees itself as a kick-starter for change that others deserve but, sadly, don’t want.

  12. arthurdecco says:

    NATO can’t be thrown into the garbage dump of history fast enough for me. It’s become just another camouflaged cover from under which America pistol-whips it’s allies into compliance with the wishes of its own thuggish and sociopathic elites, who are inextricably linked to personality disorder sufferers world-wide – not a recipe for either good intentions or fair-minded results.

  13. arthurdecco says:

    I had read somewhere that Israel is being considered as a member of NATO. Is there any truth to this?
    Just what NATO’s member states need – a nation built on racism and terror as an influential member of their defense network.
    The idea sickens me even more than the idea of modern NATO, itself, if that’s possible.

  14. David Habakkuk says:

    In thinking about alliances, one really needs to start from reflection on security threats.
    An important security threat to the United States — also to the Europeans — comes from jihadist terrorism. While the possibility that jihadists may acquire nuclear weapons has been overhyped, it is a real and very threatening one. Also — in addition to the concrete threat, we have seen that the simple possibility of such acquisition produces a fear which inclines people to so self-destructive things. These include acceptance of the erosion of democratic liberties — and also the acceptance of interrogation methods familiar to the old NKVD, which does incalculable damage to the moral authority of the U.S.
    The possibility of such acquisition, moreover, is not one which can simply be eliminated. The relevant metaphor is less drastic surgery, than the shrinking of tumours — and here, ensuring the security of nuclear facilities is obviously as important as combating jihadists.
    One obvious major point of vulnerability here is Russia. And here, it has to be said that we are dealing with a problem which is largely caused by the manner of the exit from communism in the former Soviet Union. Its severity, in particular, derives largely from the ‘withering away of the state’ which was the direct (and predictable) consequence of the policies of the Russian ‘market Leninists’ and their Western advisors. Figures like Gaidar, Chubais, Summers, Schleifer and Sachs are among those most to blame for the current vulnerability of Russian nuclear facilities.
    A further major cause of vulnerability is the retention of Cold War high alert policies, which, has the effect of keeping hundreds of Russian nuclear weapons in transit or temporary storage at any time. (On this, see Bruce Blair’s paper ‘Primed and Ready’, at
    Beyond this, the possibility of treating the security of the Russian nuclear arsenal as a common problem facing Russia and the West alike is obviously jeopardised by measures which suggest that the West sees the relationship in adversarial terms. Incorporating Georgia and the Ukraine in NATO, and installing anti-missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic, obviously suggest that these are precisely the terms in which the U.S. continues to see the relationship. Frankly, I think it is dotty.
    The other major point of vulnerability, obviously, is Pakistan — where indeed the problems of potential vulnerability of nuclear weapons and of jihadist terrorism come together. As Brigadier F. B. Ali pointed out in his paper ‘Pakistan on the Brink’ on this site not long ago, the Western strategy of trying to use the Pakistan army to deny the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan threatens to break the army — which could cause a total disaster.
    If one asks which powers have the most obvious interests in combating Sunni jihadism in the area, an obvious answer is, first, Russia, and second, the Islamic Republic of Iran: both of which, obviously, border Afghanistan. What we are dealing with is the stuff of normal power politics — where commonly the interests and aspirations of powers are complementary in some ways, in conflict in others. In this world, both ‘compellence’ and ‘deterrence’ are important — but so too is ‘appeasement’. In relation to the current security problems of the United States, a little more ‘appeasement’, both towards Russia and Iran, would make sense.
    As regards relationships with the West Europeans, as Colonel Lang suggests, their military capabilities are of limited value. But insofar as they are of potential use to the U.S. the obvious way forward is through ‘coalitions of the willing’ — whose feasibility does not depend upon the survival of NATO structures. Crucial here, obviously, is confidence that the military interventions in which help is asked for are well-judged — a confidence which at this moment is lacking.

  15. condfusedponderer says:

    Eric Dönges,blockquote>dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.. This would strengthen the EU (as the only organization that could take the place of NATO) while removing the biggest piece of leverage the U.S. has in western and central Europe. While I think that would be in the long term interests of the EU, I’m not so sure if it is in the U.S.’s interests to be forced to treat the EU as an equal in all matters, not only in economic matters as is currently the case.That is what I think, too. The androids in the US national security apparatus would then, and some already do, see this as a strategic rivalry and promote a confrontational policy towards Europe. I think that’s neither warranted nor sensible or desirable.

  16. 505th PIR says:

    NATO is simply a relic without a soul (mission) that is propelled by the inertia of a long cold war. It is still alive because its political entanglements don’t require debate and it is easier for the “pleyers” in the group to try to reform an existing matrix as opposed to recreating one from scratch out of the vaccume of a scrapped NATO.
    If it does collapse, a multi-headed set of alliances will emerge that may not have a broad set of common interests or even conflicting interests. Europe might then head towards a neo-Balkanized state of affairs that can be exploited by the existing “great-powers” or be twisted painfully by economic and political affairs far afield.
    Bottom-line, NATO will hang around until a satisfactory and stabilizing “arrangement” presents itself to all the stakeholders locally and internationally.

  17. Andrew says:

    Eric makes the key point here. Within NATO, we European countries remain militarily weak countries who depend on the US for their security needs. Our value as allies is small and largely cosmetic.
    Without NATO we might seek other arrangements – perhaps through European co-operation – which would allow us to defend ourselves without US aid. Or we might fail to do that, and add military vulnerability to our current energy vulnerability towards Russia. I don’t see how either of those options would be in the US interest.
    So although the US gains nothing of value from her NATO allies (except some fig leaves that could be got elsewhere, or would probably still be forthcoming without the NATO framework), it is still worth avoiding the alternatives.

  18. The demise of NATO de facto or de jure is a complicated issue. The dominant power from the Urals to the British Isles will always be of great interest to the United States in its foreign policy. But now there are interests, strategic and otherwise that outweigh the investment of the limited talent, money and interest of the United States and its people. Asia must come first and then the Islamic World and the Petro states. The leadership of our country has mortgaged our future to the Petro-states. Additionally, it appears that alliance with other relatively energy poor nation states such as Japan, China, India and certain others gives us a vested interest in the relationships with energy rich states. NATO cannot be a useful tool for US foreign policy since demographics, history, energy dependency(check out the soon to end British and Norwegian petro timeshares) makes the European’s need to develop realistic foreign policy and military strategies. They will not do so as long as NATO exists. They may not do so even if NATO does not. Having led the world in the catastrophic events of the 20th Century Europe is fully capable of doing it again but NATO is not the correct tool to prevent that from happening. Time to pull out of NATO. The next military conflicts are likely to occur between states in S.Asia and possibly over the resources of Siberia. I was at a dinner recently with a person born in Takistan (part of China) and educated in part at Bejing University. She stated the Han Chinese are massively moving west, south and north in China. Even though the population may be somewhat under control since adoption of the one child per family policy in 1974, she (born in 1978) was lucky that policy did not reach Takistan until 1994. Bottom line, demographics and energy will dictate foreign policy and military arrangements the rest of this century. NATO just does not fit the future.

  19. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    A bit off topic but some at sst have discussed the “character” or lack thereof of American neoconservatives and, moreso, how to treat neoconservatives.
    Interestingly, there is a recent BBC dialogue between David Frum and George Galloway. Make what you will of Galloway, but he does raise the NIE and rely upon it in his gentle statements.
    If nothing else, this exchange between the two does support the argument that the NIE is of historical significance.
    Disclosure: I am Scots- Irish (actually Irish-Scottish), so I found Galloway’s approach highly entertaining.

  20. dissolving NATO would force the Europeans to make security arrangements independent of the U.S.
    Nothing wrong with that.
    As an American who has helped provide that security off and on for the last 20 years, I’d be damn glad for Europe to make its own arragements indepenedent from us. To rebuild its own forces.
    What ever happened to the Joint Strike Force, or Joint Reaction Force, or whatever it was going to be?

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    This significant issue came up in the 1990s after the demise of the Soviet Union. The policy discussion then was basically: declare victory and terminate NATO; keep NATO as is as a defensive alliance operating within its historic boundaries and mission; expand NATO membership eastwards and change mission adding “out of area” (outside traditional “Atlantic” focus) mission(s).
    The Clinton Administration and Congress had the opportunity at that time to provide serious leadership and terminate the costly and then unnecessary alliance. But no, the foreign policy establishment and Sec State Albright went maximalist: expansion eastward and “out of area” missions. I recall a Trilateral Commission meeting in DC area at the time that boosted the maximalist agenda. (thanks Zbig). George Kennon and Susan Eisenhower, as I recall, were among the voices against expansion eastward arguing it would provoke Russia unnecessarily.
    The US foreign policy establishment perceives NATO as a tool for maintaining US hegemony in Europe, containing Eurasia-Russia, and projecting power globally to police hydrocarbon sources and associated pipeline infrastructure.
    In the emerging multipolar world, and considering the US has shot its bolt in Iraq and elsewhere, the time is right (if a decade and a half late) to end NATO, or our participation in and financing of it. We need to do an old fashioned threat based “agonizing reaappraisal” of our security requirements and alter our national strategy and force posture accordingly. This would include base closures unrelated to NATO as well.
    Some types at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, among others, have pushed the Israel in NATO concept. It is built into the “Princeton Project” recommendations also.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think NATO is in existence only due to sheer momentum.
    It was created to keep US in (Western )Europe, USSR out of (Western Europe), and Germany down.
    Of the 3 legs of the stool, 2 are gone: USSR is gone and Russia is out of Europe and, moreover, Germany cannot be kept down.
    Really, what the Europen Union needs is a new improved updated version of the Holy Roman Empire with a dominant role for Germany. That is the only way, in my judgement, that EU’s pretensions to an independent security policy can be based.

  23. Andy says:

    I tend to agree with a lot of criticisms of NATO voiced here but missing for the most part is what should replace it. Given military weakness both in “old” Europe and “New” ISTM that some collective security arrangement is necessary. If not NATO, then what?
    Despite all the rhetoric, I think Europe still wants the US as the linchpin of the continent’s collective security, NATO or no NATO. In my view, NATO benefits the Europeans far more than it does the US. Europe is able to maintain such a weak military force because it knows the US is there to fight wars for it, which the US was only too happy to do in the Balkans. Those conflicts were of dubious direct benefit to the US, but they benefited our European allies, so we supported them.
    The demographic reality in Europe means that Europe will likely continue to need the US much more than the US needs Europe. For Europe to create and maintain a credible force to meet its security needs would likely require sacrifices in non-military areas that Europeans are not willing to make. Even now, only six NATO nations (out of 26) are meeting the NATO goal of 2% GDP spending on defense. No, NATO really is a sweetheart deal for Europe – one they will not willingly give up no matter how intransigent the US is.
    In the long run, I think it’s better and easier to change NATO rather than discard it and attempt to create something new. First, it needs to be more accommodating to Russian interests and cultural fears – fears I believe are somewhat justified given Russia’s history. Secondly, Europe must take a greater role by increasing their own military capabilities. Third, over time and as Europe (hopefully) builds a credible conventional force, one option is to move NATO away from a conventional security arrangement toward one that only provides a collective nuclear deterrent. I think NATO will still be necessary for this reason alone – for nonproliferation concerns as much as anything else.

  24. David W says:

    David Habbakuk, you make a good point about the terrorist threat, however, I don’t see how NATO can be used to effectively ‘fight’ it. Putting missiles in Poland is much easier in comparison.
    Instead, why not focus on building up INTERPOL? There is some consensus that a police -style approach tends to be more effective than military operations in combatting terrorism.
    otoh, INTERPOL doesn’t make for a very good honey pot/pork barrel, and perhaps they are better off that Uncle Sauron’s Eye is looking elsewhere.

  25. john in the boro says:

    NATO amounts to what? Good question. The cited article suggests that NATO does not amount to a ready reserve for U.S. policy when that policy is out of NATO’s area. All kidding aside, it seems to me the alliance is in transition, and any appraisal of the relationship must consider what seems to be a comparison of apples and oranges.
    The United States and European states in general have reversed positions in their relative military establishments. The economy of scale plays a large part with the United States enjoying significant advantages. However, taken as a whole, Europe compares favorably in economic and technological terms. Europe; once obsessed with military power, colonies, and its own cultural superiority; has become a kinder and gentler place save an occasion Balkan bloodletting. Most European states spend less on defense and more on their publics than in the past. The emerging EU owes some of its success to U.S. protection, NATO for instance. Thus, two disastrous world wars, imperialism, debilitating arms races, and many Byzantine military alliances later, Europe now finds satisfaction in its social, cultural, and commercial achievements. The United States, conversely, has become more and more militarized. The center of U.S. foreign policy has moved from the State Department to the Department of Commerce to the Department of Defense. Military bombast has largely replaced commercial and political diplomacy. A comparison of GDPs and defense budgets starkly reveal the dissonance on both sides of the Atlantic. The change up is striking.
    NATO, in its early years, provided the United States a mechanism with which to pacify Europe and avoid a third world war (I do not subscribe to WWIII-VI). Simply, NATO was a brake, and the United States was the driver. What the WAPO article implies is a change of drivers: NATO is still a brake but European states want their turn at the wheel.
    The EU is still emerging, and NATO provides a ready model for a future European military alliance. Such an alliance, without the United States, might become a serious challenger to the United States. The NATO budget is about 60-40, United States-European members. That is significant European military spending which is about triple to what China spends not to mention the equal technological capabilities. Moreover, Europe and Russia have good reasons for closer cooperation in which both sides have much to gain—markets, resources, etc. The bi-polar international order is gone, Europe, Russia, China, India, and even Venezuela are forming new centers of power that the United States cannot ignore or, apparently, dominate.
    This brings us back to NATO. For the United States, NATO amounts to the chair at the head of the table of the World’s most powerful economic-military alliance. I think the more relevant question is not whether or not NATO is past its shelf life but how much longer will the SACEUR be an American.

  26. Duncan Kinder says:

    Really, what the Europen Union needs is a new improved updated version of the Holy Roman Empire with a dominant role for Germany. That is the only way, in my judgement, that EU’s pretensions to an independent security policy can be based.

    In order to accomplish that,the Ghibelline Party would have to be revived.

  27. Andy says:

    And then there is this:

    PARIS: And now for something radical. It’s an idea that comes from a dour-looking man with an acute political mind whose ecclesiastically scarlet or royally purple socks peak out from under the dark trousers of Savile Row suits.
    Here’s his notion: The United States and Europe soon risk being overtaken by the rest of the world. To hold on to their place and value system, they ought to form an organic alliance, a Union of the West.
    The time to get moving is now.
    The idea comes from Edouard Balladur, the former French prime minister whose belly-of-the-beast Gaullist establishment credentials stretch back 40 years. Today, part of his pertinence lies in a close relationship with Nicolas Sarkozy, once his budget minister and spokesman, who a decade ago argued that Balladur would make a better president than Jacques Chirac.

    If this viewpoint is at all common in Europe I don’t see much chance that NATO will go the way of the dodo.

  28. arthurdecco says:

    “Some types at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, among others, have pushed the Israel in NATO concept. It is built into the “Princeton Project” recommendations also.” Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe
    Thank you for the information, Clifford. I’m very interested in who’s behind this outrageous proposal.
    David W said: “Instead, why not focus on building up INTERPOL? There is some consensus that a police -style approach tends to be more effective than military operations in combatting terrorism.”
    Great idea, David W. We tend to forget that police investigations are usually more successful than acts of war when attempting to solve criminal and/or political problems.
    The first finds the evidence of malfeasance, the second destroys it.

  29. JJackson says:

    As a Brit disenchanted with US foreign policy should the UK withdraw from NATO? Short answer = Yes
    Condfusedponderer wonders if it is not better to have the US in NATO and engaged rather than brooding over there. I question how much influence the UK and other members of NATO have over the US. In recent times the US seems to view NATO, the UN and other multi-national organisations as useful if they can be used to add a veneer of legitimacy to what the US was going to do anyway otherwise an annoying irrelevance. Long ago there was a short sketch on UK TV (‘Not the 9’Oclock news’ I think) which always comes to mind when the US is ‘negotiating’ with foreign friends.
    Camera opens on conference table with heads of all the major unions seated around it.
    Chairman: “Good discussion gentlemen but I am sure we are all ready for a break. Who is for tea and who is for coffee? Show of hands brothers.”
    “Tea?” All raise their hands bar the chairman.
    “Coffee?” Chairman raises his hand.
    “Coffee it is then by 3.7 million votes to 2.3.”
    Duncan Kinder points out you get what you pay for while agree I am not sure if he thinks the UK should spend more on its military and be more like the US or the US should spend less and have universal health care for its citizens. I am glad we opted for the health care and wish the US would go from a military configured to impose its will anywhere on the globe to one aimed at protecting the US of A from foreign powers.
    The current size and shape of the US military leave the rest of us wondering why the overkill and should we be banding together in a military alliance to protect us from the US?

  30. Duncan Kinder says:

    Developments such as the following will probably make discussions of NATO’s future academic:

    Russia strengthened its grip on Europe’s energy supplies on Friday as it signed a major gas deal with Bulgaria that analysts said would further undermine the European Union’s attempts to diversify its energy sources.
    Skip to next paragraph
    Times Topics: Gazprom
    Under the agreement, the $15 billion South Stream pipeline will be built under the Black Sea, allowing Russia to send natural gas directly to Europe through Bulgaria and bypassing Turkey, which has been a crucial transit route for Russia’s gas exports to European markets.

    The counter to this would be to develop diversified, localized energy supplies based upon solar and perhaps wind and other such sources.
    The objection to such diversified power sources has been that they are more expensive than petroleum and gas supplies. However, R&D expenditures amounting to a fraction of what has been spent on the Iraq War should help reduce these costs.
    This point, however, has been obvious since at least the 1973 oil shocks; but no such effort has been attempted. This lapse, in turn, suggests that there is something deeply imbedded in the Western psyche that either opposes diversified sources, desires petro power, or both.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Duncan Kinder:
    I think solar energy will be practicable only if solar cells can be as cheap as concrete. If allowing for that remote possibility, its deployment will not be practiacable in Northern Europe and North America were the number of sunny days is quite low. In fact, the deployment of cheap solar cells will more likely benefit the oil producers of the Middle East; they will use solar energy and sell their excess oil [similar to Venezuela’s use of hydro-power].
    Wind energy, geothermal, and tidal energy generation are also pipe-dreams since their deployment can only be locale-specific; they cannot be widely deployed.
    I think natural gas in the best alternative to oil; many countries have natural gas and the technology to have the internal combustion engine run on natural gas has been around for decades [I do not mean hybrids].

  32. Duncan Kinder says:

    Babak Makkinejad:
    Your assessment of solar and other alternative energy sources is reasonable given the current state of the art.
    Whether or not it would remain so after a trillion dollars of R&D were to be spent on the subject could very well be a different matter.
    That trillion dollars would be a better expenditure than the trillion spent on Iraq.
    And that is my point.

  33. Cieran says:

    In your comments on renewable energy, this stuck out as in need of clarification:
    solar energy will be practicable only if solar cells can be as cheap as concrete
    It’s important to appreciate that solar energy forms a lot bigger piece of the renewable energy puzzle than merely the market for solar cells. The term “cells” is usually taken to refer to conversion of sunlight into electricity, a process that is technologically quite difficult because it is also thermodynamically intractable.
    Solar energy can (and does) contribute to the energy picture, and in ways where solar cells could not using current technology. One oft-forgotten venue for such contributions is in personal transportation, where electricity provides virtually no energy contribution at present (though such contributions have been promised for many years, and were promised again this last week in Detroit).
    But solar energy can be used in transportation quite effectively, even in cloudy locales, e.g., the bike-friendly city of Portland, Oregon. In fact, eschewing the family car whenever possible as one’s primary means of transportation is among the most effective steps that can be taken towards reducing both consumption of crude oil, and concomitant generation of greenhouse gases.
    So while solar cells are indeed difficult to realize, many important aspects of solar energy are not only cost-effective already, but are working well today, often in venues where they escape notice simply because they are so ubiquitous.
    This is a minor quibble from your well-expressed comments, but one worth noting, given the importance of the energy picture to planetary health.

  34. David Habakkuk says:

    Further to Duncan Kinder’s argument: On the failure of Washington’s attempts to prevent increasing Russian control of European energy supplies, the former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar, who writes for Asia Times, is useful. From an article he wrote just before Christmas on ‘Russia, Iran tighten the energy noose’ (available at
    ‘The month of May stood out as the watershed when the geopolitics of energy in Eurasia decisively turned in Russia’s favor. At a tripartite summit meeting in the city of Turkemenbashi (Turkmenistan) on May 12, Putin and his Kazakh and Turkmen counterparts signed a declaration of intent for upgrading and expanding gas pipelines from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan along the Caspian Sea coast directly to Russia. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, also signed up separately on May 9 for a modernization of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Russia pipeline. Both pipelines are components of the Soviet-era Central Asia-Center pipeline system bound for Russia. The quadripartite project essentially aims at the transportation of Turkmenistan’s gas output, which almost in its entirety would be bought up by Russia for a 25-year period.
    ‘Subsequently, the US and EU have made herculean efforts to get Ashgabat to resile from the commitment to the project with Russia, but have failed. During the past year, 16 high-level delegations from Washington visited Ashgabat in this regard. Thus, when Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov finally signed the agreement relating to the Caspian littoral pipeline on December 12 with his Kazakh and Turkmen counterparts, the curtain came down on one of the grimmest struggles of the great game in the post-Soviet era. Moscow came out the winner by far, reasserting its pre-eminent position in the Caspian.
    ‘The commitment of Turkmen gas to Russia has broader implications. For one thing, the fate of the US-supported proposals for a trans-Caspian pipeline and the Nabucco pipeline depended significantly on the availability of Turkmen and Kazakh gas. Their future is now up in the air. That, in turn, means Europe is increasingly left with only one serious option for diversifying its gas imports – Iran.’
    On the European end of all this, an extremely useful source of is the Jérôme Guillet, a French investment banker who specialises in energy, who is a key figure on the Eurotrib website — He argues that European governments have dug a whole for themselves, in part through unquestioning adherence to free market dogma. The guts of his view was summed up in an article in Foreign Policy last February (see
    ‘Europe, led by the United Kingdom, has made a conscious choice to rely on gas as its main new source of energy at a time when its domestic supplies are declining—and declining a lot faster than everybody expected. And Europe’s economic liberalization encourages market players to build easier-to-finance gas-fired plants, thus feeding demand for more gas. If political leaders were really worried about gas supplies from Russia, they should change that structural feature of the market rather than wailing about Gazprom’s clumsy—but ultimately harmless—fights with its neighbors.’
    Guillet is very interested in renewables, as well as seeing a role for nuclear power — but also suggests that curbing demand is crucial and possible.
    On the question of the malign effects of free market dogma run riot, there was an interesting comment during a discussion on the Europe Tribune site of the implications of the electoral victory of the China-leaning Kuomintang in Taiwan.
    ‘As I’ve mentioned before, this is strategically very serious for the West. Somewhere norht of 95% of the world’s computer chips are manufactured in Taiwan, including military standard and custom design chips. Having a status of a US-client state has previously enabled them to capture this market without any ripples of concern, but if China were to take control of this globally militarily-vital industry then we should expect sparks to fly. The US simply could not allow it.
    ‘Of course, we might question US industrial policy that allowed their militarily vital infrastructure to become so exposed, but that’s a question for another day. Right now the military political significance of this cannot be overstated.’
    I do not know whether these fears have any foundation or not. Does anyone have any ideas?

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with you that solar energy, in its various incarnations, does contribute to the energy budget of many states. However, I think it is a marginal contribution.
    The compact cities with relatively mild winters might be able to use bicycles but not spread-out cities in cold climates.
    I think fighting the inetrnal combustion engine or the family car is non-starter both within US and outside of US.
    Duncan Kinder:
    You wrote: “..after a trillion dollars of R&D were to be spent…” This is something akin to a relgious faith, expecting positive results after a large research effort.

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    In regards to Taiwan: I expect China to invade Taiwan in the event that she declares her independence.
    It is true that there are many chip foundries in Taiwan but the intellectual property (IP)often comes from US. Taiwan also produces her own IP but I do not know how much of that IP is used by US military.
    The trend in embedded systems now is away from ASIC towards FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) which mitigates the need for specialized foundries.
    I think US can re-create the foundry business within her borders for military chips – it is quite doable.
    In regards to the US industrial policy – she has none. If you consider that the entire personal computing revolution, it started without US Federal government being in any way involved in nurturing it. [Unless, of course, you give credence to those who claim that the first Intel microprocessor was based on the design of chips from that crashed UFO in Rosewell which the USG gave to Intel.] In fact, USG, with their relentless pursuit of both IBM and Microsoft under trumped up anti-Trust charges, hurt those plenty.

  37. Duncan Kinder says:

    You wrote: “..after a trillion dollars of R&D were to be spent…” This is something akin to a relgious faith, expecting positive results after a large research effort.

    With all due respects, I expressly stated,

    Whether or not it would remain so after a trillion dollars of R&D were to be spent on the subject could very well be a different matter.
    That trillion dollars would be a better expenditure than the trillion spent on Iraq

    We deal in probabilities all the time, Babak. Indeed, my belief that the sun will rise tomorrow in the east is, ultimately, a matter of faith.

  38. David Habakkuk says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    ‘The compact cities with relatively mild winters might be able to use bicycles but not spread-out cities in cold climates.’
    I do not know what count as ‘compact cities with relatively mild winters.’
    I suspect that many US cities do not have harsher winter climates than Oxford (England) where I grew up. Children of my generation thought nothing of cycling quite long distances to school in cold weather.
    Nowadays, they expect their parents to drive them. This is partly because the roads are more dangerous — but some of us would say they that parents both spoil and mollycoddle their children, in a way that would have been unthinkable back in the Fifties and Sixties.
    An added consequence of this (together with the widespread consumption of junk food) is that far more of our children grow up fat, unhealthy, and — just plain ugly.
    Moreover — if one could construct an efficient system of cycle lanes, one would be able to get into central London from the suburbs on a bicyclce far more quickly than one can either by car or by public transport.
    Some progress has been made on this, but a lot more could be made if private car users were still not given an excessively favourable treatment.

  39. Cieran says:

    Thanks for your comments. I especially appreciate your suggestion of “the energy budget”, as that’s proved to be a very useful way of contemplating both energy use, and the role of solar power within that larger energy budget.
    On some level, virtually all of humanity’s energy use arises from solar sources, as fossil fuel resources are derived from sunlight that fell upon the earth long ago. Hence our “budget” is based on drawing down supplies that were invested long ago, and that we are depleting at an unsustainable rate today.
    One obvious corollary of this budget-based viewpoint is that we are borrowing energy supplies from the past, while squandering resource opportunities for the future of the human race. This is becoming more widely recognized as a serious moral problem as the time horizons associated with irreversible environmental degradation have become short enough so that we now must consider that we risk ruining the world of our children (if not our own).
    Many people simply assume that some appropriate technological fixes will be developed that will reverse this unfortunate situation, but as something of a expert in this particular field, I don’t share their optimism. The problems are hard, and the solutions are constrained by more forces than merely those of feasible science and technology.
    Colonel Lang raised the question of killing whales for food on another thread here — it’s not that much of a stretch to frame that question in a larger context of our own selfish use of the world’s resources. When framed in this larger setting, something as simple as driving a car becomes a decision with substantial moral implications (e.g., the recent “what would Jesus drive?” religious discussions on SUV use here in the U.S.)
    So while I would agree with your assertion that removing our dependence on automobiles in the U.S. is a non-starter, I would also state that this is an accurate perception today, in a world where the U.S. projects military force abroad to guarantee that happy-motoring way of life, and few citizens yet contemplate the underlying moral ramifications of those actions.
    But the circumstances that underpin our current situation are tenuous on many fronts (Al Gore just shared a Nobel Peace Prize for helping to publicize that fact), and so I try not to assume that the energy budgets of today will necessarily be those of tomorrow.

  40. Petreaus Next NATO Chief?

    One of my Atlantic Council colleagues forwards a report that David Petraeus is being considered for the Supreme Allied Commander post.
    A senior Pentagon official said that it was weighing “a next assignment for Petraeus” and that the NATO post was …

  41. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habbakuk:
    By compact cities with mild winters I had in mind places like Bologna, Utrecht, etc.
    US cities are spread-out; bicycles are not an option for much of US. Moreover, US has a significant security problem that Europe does not have. Bicycling in US will get you killed.
    I do not think England is a god example because, at least until 1970s, during Winter the temperature inside an English building and outside of it were the same. I do not think that very many people would go for it – I think the English people have been willing to tolerate significantly more amounts of discomfort than many other people.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I think that there is a secular rise in the surface temperature of Earth. I do not think that human activity has caused it – rather I think it is related to the variations in solar energy impinging on Earth caused by the orbital motion of the Earth around the Sun.
    I also do not think that global warming is such a bad thing; a warmer Earth will be, on the average, more moist and there will be more plant life. Moreover, when considering human deaths caused by extremes of temperature it is always cold that kills more people, by a factor of 10.
    Environmental degradation is definitely an issue all over the world but much of it has to do with greed and stupidity of human beings rather than the specific technologies employed.
    You wrote: “Many people simply assume that some appropriate technological fixes will be developed that will reverse this unfortunate situation, but as something of a expert in this particular field, I don’t share their optimism. The problems are hard, and the solutions are constrained by more forces than merely those of feasible science and technology.” Indeed many people expectation of science and technology is akin to what previous generations expected from God. But I also think that there already are outlines of possible solutions: natural-gas powered internal combustion engines and breeder reactors come to mind.
    You are correct that burning oil is very wasteful. I think that there are other solutions that are not seriously considered; such as giving people money to stay home. In the West and indeed in much of the Northern Hemispheres jobs have been created to keep people busy. The infrastructure for creating and maintaining these (fake) jobs is a wasteful drain on resources. I should think that in EU and North America much of the productive labor is performed by less than 25% of the ostensibly working population. We need to send the other 75% home – they would not need then daily transportation to and from work, office clothing, office buildings, etc.
    Of course, before that happens we would need to pass laws guaranteeing a certain level of income to everyone.

  43. “Instead, why not focus on building up INTERPOL?”
    I learned a very important lesson about INTERPOL while working in Honduras: it’s only as good as the local police force.
    Case in point…the US government rented vehicles from a local Avis office. Turned out most of those vehicles were stolen (most likely from the USA). We find this out when two local officers who were working with INTERPOL stop one of our guys as he is leaving a hardware store. These local officers talk to the Avis owner in his back office. Later, we have to trade in our vehicles for new ones brought in from another Avis shop in another city. Our old vehicles end up in that other shop. Problem solved.
    We always wondered how much cash was slipped under the table to make that problem go away.

  44. Stan Sloan says:

    The NATO members have been forced to adapt the organization to changing international conditions throughout the history of the alliance. As a student of the alliance for over 40 years, I am very familiar with its weaknesses and the challenges it faces in Afgahnistan. I am also familiar with the fact that NATO does not provide all the necessary responses to the security requirements of the United States and Europe.
    The two sides of the Atlantic, along with other democracies in other parts of the world, need additional cooperative frameworks for application of soft-power approaches to the security problems confronting Western democracies today. The key question, already raised in a previous posting, is what would replace NATO if it disappeared? Even if the EU nations were to take development of defense cooperation more seriously, they still would need to coordinate their efforts with the United States, Canada, and other European countries that are not members of the EU. And, don’t count on seeing anything like a European army any time soon. The members of the EU will not be willing to give up their sovereign defense and foreign policies until the EU becomes a unitary international actor. That may one day happen, but it won’t take care of business in the foreseeable future.
    From the US point of view, the simple fact is that “coalitions of the willing” (the Bush Administration’s early preference) would simply not work very well if NATO weren’t providing the common standards and habits of cooperation that make such coalitions work, even when NATO as an organization is not involved.
    Is it in the common interest of the United States and Europe to face security challenge through cooperative approaches? I don’t see another alternative. Is military cooperation part of that requirement? Yes, unfortunately.
    You can bet safely that, in spite of all its shortcomings, NATO will be around for many years to come. The question is whether the member states will make the necessary adjustements to their efforts inside and outside the alliance to deal effectively with current security challenges.

  45. different clue says:

    ( I typed and sent a comment which, when I submitted it, TypePad itself
    labelled as “spam”. I am experimentally sending this comment to see if it is auto-spamlabelled by TypePad. If it isn’t, I will send a hopefully-substantive comment).

  46. different clue says:

    The rising distaste for NATO among our European allies as shown by the first
    two comments may be due in part to the uncalled-for expansion of NATO east and southeast far beyond the North Atlantic or even Europe, combined with the Administration’s evident desire to treat NATO resources as colonial auxillaries in service to the far-flung ambitions of His Imperial Deciderness.
    I remember reading (and I
    can’t remember the sources) that under President Bush 41, the unwinding of the Soviet Satellite Empire was peacefully accomplished by, in part, Bush 41’s offering to Gorbachev of unwritten understandings and undertakings to the effect that a Re-Unified Germany would become non-NATO neutral, and that no new NATO members would be recruited from among the ranks of the freed Warsaw Pact ex-satellites.
    President Clinton’s Administration went back on those understandings and undertakings and recruited Eastern European members into NATO right to the borders of Russia, quite predictably disturbing the Russian Leadership, and severely diluting the North Atlantic and European cultural and political orientation and cohesion of the NATO membership. Turkey
    was always a keystone/cornerstone of NATO, guarding the Southeast
    Gates of Europe as it does.
    But Israel (suggested)? Georgia (under way even now)? By what logic except grand imperial ambition?
    Here is an article about the ongoing DC-Federal Cold War against the Russian Federation, initiated by the
    Clinton Administration and pursued ever since. The article is by Professor Stephen Cohen, whom I believe is respected in the field of Soviet and Russian studies. He is considered to be genuinely intelligent,
    as against being merely intellectual.

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