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All Dressed Up and No Place to Go: Why NATO Should Be on the Front Lines in the War on Terror

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Following the 2000 American presidential election, some analysts worried that transatlantic relations would be strained by the policies proposed by the incoming Bush Administration. From disagreements over the Kyoto Treaty to
the decision to proceed quickly with the deployment of ballistic missile defenses, a functional split between America and its European allies threatened to emerge. While the attacks of 11 September 2001 changed US interests and priorities overseas,
these disagreements will not dissolve completely. They have receded, however,
in immediate importance to the American goal of fighting terrorists with a
global reach. As European officials were quoted to have told an American official
after 9/11, “Kyoto is an issue you argue about when all else is well.”

Retaining the commitment of a broad-based coalition is critical to the success of America’s evolving war against terrorism. Although the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) is an obvious hub from which to organize this coalition, and alliance members have shown their eagerness to respond to common
threats such as terrorism, Washington has held true allied support at arm’s length.
While officials in Washington have endorsed NATO’s invocation of Article 5 for
the first time in the alliance’s history and accepted limited contributions of troops
and equipment for the military campaign and later support for the restricted peacekeeping
mission in Afghanistan, they have refused to allow NATO to engage in the sort of operations the alliance embraced when it affirmed its Article 24 commitments
in April 1999. This refusal, while puzzling given the consistent willingness of the European allies to contribute troops and resources, is even more surprising when one remembers that it was the United States, not Europe, that initially pushed
for the inclusion of Article 24 during the Washington Summit in April 1999.

This article argues that the United States should work with its NATO allies in fulfilling their Article 24 commitments. It is organized in three sections.
First, we examine the decisionmaking procedures immediately following 9/11 to
determine the reasons behind the Bush Administration’s opposition to a muscular NATO presence in the war against terrorism. In this section we answer Washington’s
objections that an active NATO role would undermine US operational
autonomy and reveal stark inequalities in alliance readiness.

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