Letters

Who Needs NATO?

Dmitry Rogozin and Ronald Asmus on why Andrew Bacevich's call to pull America out of NATO is unrealistic.

Andrew Bacevich is quite right that Europeans are not happy about NATO being used as an instrument for "underwrit[ing] American globalism" ("Let Europe Be Europe," March/April 2010). And I agree with his premise that European pacifism has taken over the organization, which evidently runs counter to U.S. military aspirations. However, he has chosen to omit some important political realities.

There's not much point in talking about letting Europeans take responsibility for their own security at a time when U.S. nuclear weapons are still deployed in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. In addition, the United States makes no secret of its plans to deploy its missile defense systems in Southeastern Europe. As residents of Odessa say to such proposals, "Don't make my slippers laugh!"

Bacevich also suggests that a NATO free of U.S. influence could take responsibility for "guarantee[ing] the territorial integrity of Poland and Lithuania." As a linguist by training, allow me to translate. In the Western press, "the territorial integrity of Poland and Lithuania" tends to mean "defense from Russian aggression." This idea is simply ridiculous: Democratic Russia has never given cause for Baltic or Eastern European states to tremble over their sovereignty or security, despite NATO's attempts to portray Russia as an enemy threatening to attack in the dead of night (the way "NATO ally" Mikheil Saakashvili launched an attack on South Ossetia in 2008).

Moscow intends to develop partner relations with NATO as a military bloc and with each of its 28 members on a bilateral basis. All the initiatives of Russia's political leadership are aimed at our dream to be friends with the peoples of Europe, to live in the same home with them.

We will even find a place in this common cause for Bacevich, too.

Dmitry Rogozin
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to NATO
Brussels, Belgium

I would like to disagree with Andrew Bacevich's argument that the United States should pull out of NATO. In Afghanistan, U.S. allies have now deployed more troops than they did in the Balkans in the 1990s and have absorbed casualty rates equal to or even exceeding America's. In response to U.S. President Barack Obama's latest request, they contributed an additional 10,000 troops. Their civilian contribution is also critical. Although far from ideal, it's a sacrifice we shouldn't diminish or demean.

There is no push in Europe for the United States to go home. Opinion polls regularly show that the U.S. and European publics have similar views of the threats they face and the agenda they want their leaders to pursue. The fact that Europeans have largely banned war on the continent is to be welcomed. But European officials often tell me in private they wish they had a few more sticks in their foreign-policy portfolio. The United States will certainly need their cooperation in managing a nuclear Iran or if it ever achieves a breakthrough in the Middle East.

The United States is in NATO today because it is a power that shares values and interests with Europe. There is no effective multilateralism without Atlanticism. If the United States withdraws from NATO, it will simply find itself with fewer allies and more instability. You don't need to be Carl von Clausewitz to understand why that is not a good outcome.

NATO today has real problems. But it needs to be fixed, not abandoned. A U.S. president who followed Bacevich's advice would indeed be guaranteed to go down in history -- as a failure.

Ronald Asmus
Executive Director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center
Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
Brussels, Belgium

Andrew Bacevich replies:

If Europeans choose to help in "managing" a nuclear Iran or achieving "a breakthrough in the Middle East" -- whatever that means -- they will act because doing so accords with their interests. The United States' remaining in NATO will do nothing to increase the likelihood of European assistance. Or has Ronald Asmus -- as with most other Americans -- already forgotten the Iraq war?

Dmitry Rogozin assures us that Russians "dream to be friends with the peoples of Europe." This is excellent news. Yet we should treat such assurances the same way Russians respond when NATO expansionists claim that their proposed incorporation of Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance merely reflects the West's commitment to peace and democracy.

Letters

Fighting the Last War

Max Boot says John Arquilla's vision for transforming America's military will put the country at risk.

John Arquilla ("The New Rules of War," March/April 2010) thinks the U.S. military remains too conventional, and his solution is a radical one: cut defense spending 10 percent a year, declare "a moratorium … on all legacy-like systems," and cut active military manpower by two-thirds. The model for military intervention, he believes, should be the "200 Special Forces 'horse soldiers' who beat the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan late in 2001."

I give Arquilla props for out-of-the-box thinking, as well as for demonstrating why it usually makes sense to stay in the box. The Afghan model he cites has been found wanting since 2001 -- a few Special Forces troops could overthrow the Taliban but haven't been able to keep them down. That task requires dispatching many more troops, which is what U.S. President Barack Obama is wisely doing today.

Likewise, the projection of U.S. power around the world requires more, not fewer, soldiers. Counterinsurgency warfare of the kind that is occurring in Afghanistan is notoriously resistant to the kinds of technological fixes that Arquilla seems enamored of. And I wouldn't be so quick to junk legacy weapons systems, which for years to come will give the United States an invaluable edge over potential adversaries.

Arquilla is right to guard against overly cautious, old-fashioned thinking. But he goes too far in the other direction, making arguments for extreme change, which if taken seriously, would hollow out the armed forces, undermine U.S. power, and destabilize the entire world.

Max Boot
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
Council on Foreign Relations
New York, N.Y.

John Arquilla replies:

Max Boot suggests that the situation in Afghanistan worsened after the United States' opening victory because there were too few troops, but he does not acknowledge that violence levels were extremely low there for several years after the Taliban's fall -- despite NATO having only a relative handful of soldiers in the country. Things actually worsened as we put in more troops and began to rely on conventional approaches, instead of the swarming style that won the initial victory.

As to the need for a U.S. presence around the world, my recommendations would allow the United States to operate in more places, for longer periods, and more effectively. The idea that the United States has to send large forces wherever it goes is guaranteed to limit it in ways that embolden its adversaries.

With regard to my being "enamored" of "technological fixes," as Boot suggests, I would simply note that my recommendations are for organizational redesign and doctrinal innovation. I argue against developing the latest fighter aircraft, the new generation of carriers, and other boondoggles.

When it comes to the possibility of a big, old-style war breaking out, the United States would not have to wage it in an old-style manner. Let's not remain wedded to fighting the last war just because that's the kind of conflict the United States prefers and is prepared for. There will be too much at stake in the next one for the country to dismiss the idea of making major changes now.