Mad Libs: NATO

FP and the Atlantic Council asked a panel of experts to fill in the blanks on one of the world's most enduring alliances. 


Still the indispensable alliance. -Hans Binnendijk • In crisis, as per usual. -James Joyner • An indispensable part of the European and world security architecture (apart from the most successful alliance in history). -Ioan Mircea Pascu •  Remarkably relevant given fundamental changes in world politics. -David Aaron • The only international organization capable of mounting serious military operations, as we were reminded during the run-up to the Libya conflict. -James Goldgeier  •  In need of a strategy that moves it beyond Afghanistan. -Christopher Chivvis •  In trouble because of Europe's deficiencies; why should the U.S. keep paying for the bulk of it? -Daniel Keohane • As necessary as ever, but for different reasons. -Karl Kaiser • A large and important collective defense arrangement that has yet to clearly define its mission for the future. -P. Terrence Hopmann • In search of a role, in need of reform and a recommitment of all allies to do their share. -Toomas Hendrik Ilves • An alliance looking for a mission. -Sarwar Kashmeri • Made up of countries whose warring triggered the largest bloodshed in history only 70 years ago. But for over six decades these former enemies have had their militaries working side by side, as friends. And for all the alliance's shortcomings, this is no mean feat. -Clara Marina O'Donnell •

Composed of allies the U.S. would gladly trade in for better ones, if there were better ones. -Kori Schake • Like democracy: the worst possible institution except for all of the others. -Stephen Saideman • Like a local Rotary Club: still central to the lives of some members but increasingly quaint and of little interest to the rising generation. -Matthew Rojansky • Going to survive its disarray, as it has over the past two generations. -Lawrence Kaplan • One step from the museum. -Tomas Ries


NATO's members, egged on by the United States, put global ambition and political ambition ahead of the will and capabilities of its members. -Sean Kay • To act as if the Cold War was still on, e.g., by enlarging without taking into account Russian sensibilities and pursuing missile defense. -P. Terrence Hopmann • To set itself unattainable goals in Afghanistan. -Jan Techau • The huge scale and poor results of the Afghanistan involvement. -Aleksander Kwasniewski • Declaring Article 5 after 9/11. -Ulrike Guerot  • Not going in to Afghanistan as an alliance from the start after 9/11. -Damon Wilson• Allowing the focus to shift from Afghanistan to Iraq. -Shuja Nawaz •  The inability of the nations to reach consensus toward taking decisive action against Somali pirate strongholds ashore. -W. Eugene Cobble • Not to have built up, along with enlargement, a genuine partnership with Russia. -Karl Kaiser • Promising Georgia membership without giving Georgia membership. -Christopher Chivvis • Denying Georgia MAP, which Russia interpreted, as I predicted, as a green light to invade. -Toomas Hendrik Ilves • Enlargement. Most of the former WTO countries are poor fits and the almost-invite to Georgia put Article 5 in serious jeopardy. -James Joyner • Not pressing members for a larger defense effort. -David Aaron • To allow European forces to decay. -Ian Brzezinski • Harping on the capabilities gap between the U.S. and Europe instead of emphasizing the capabilities gap between Europe and anyone they could conceivably fight against. -Kori Schake • Not developing stronger partnerships with democracies outside of the transatlantic area. -James Goldgeier • Failing to clearly and explicitly explain and demonstrate its raison d'être to the public opinions of its members. -Jeremy Ghez 


A bridge too far, and a clear indicator that those who advocated for a "global NATO" were simply wrong. -Sean Kay • Sound, succeeding in its military elements, hindered by its timeline, but needing to be better supported with a regional political strategy and stronger non-military elements. -Kori Schake • Unloved. -Damon Wilson • Problematic, but so is the war. -David Aaron • A failure, given the means, time, and resources employed, despite some progress. -Ana Maria Gomes • Vital to the credibility of the alliance. However, as Emperor Charles V once said, "Once cannot have peace without the opponent's consent," and the military component of ISAF was not backed by sufficient political efforts to ensure security durability. -George Maior • Likely to be seen by future historians as a failure. -Daniel Keohane • NATO's biggest commitment and a headache. -Rasa Jukneviciene • To fight terrorism and to help the international community to rebuild a failed state in a critical part of the world. -Alessandro Minuto Rizzo • To hand power over to a legitimate government capable of maintaining order and to leave. -Toomas Hendrik Ilves • To limit the damage. -Jeremy Ghez • Get out and contain what remains. -Tomas Ries • To leave together. -Sarwar Kashmeri • Unclear. -Ken Weisbrode • On borrowed time. -James Joyner • To organize an orderly and graceful withdrawal. -Jan Techau • Coming finally to an end, but the lack of stability there will be a permanent challenge to the international community. We will have to newly define the NATO mission toward Afghanistan. -Aleksander Kwasniewski • Very soon going to be a problem for Moscow, New Delhi, and Beijing. -Matthew Rojansky • In trouble as individual nations pull out early. -Jason Healey • Vital beyond 2014. -Hans Binnendijk •  Far from completed. -Ian Brzezinski


Uneven division of labor. -Daniel Serwer • Lack of commitment on Europe's part (with some exceptions). -Toomas Hendrik Ilves • Low military spending from European allies burdened with sickly economies. -Jason Healey • The United States plays too dominant a role, which explains Europeans' excessive dependency and insufficient financial and practical commitment in times of economic crisis. -Ana Maria Gomes • That Europeans vastly underestimate security as a category in their political thinking. -Jan Techau • The combination of growing American disinterest and Europe's declining geopolitical ambition. -Ian Brzezinski • That it consistently amounts to less than the sum of its parts when dealing with Russia. -Matthew Rojansky • That it is an organization constrained by a regional membership despite being called upon to act across the globe. -James Goldgeier • The constant pressure from many politicians and pundits to prove its relevance beyond the Article 5 guarantee. -Jeorg Wolf • A culture of bureaucracy and status quo thinking. -Barry Pavel • A dwindling deterrent. -Ken Weisbrode • Weariness from dealing with all the challenges of the past 22 years. -Kori Schake  • It needs to find a new narrative for young people and profoundly modernize. -Ulrike Guerot • That it lacks a long-term future conceptual framework. -Marios Efthymiopoulos • Resolving its raison d'être. -Lawrence Kaplan • People do not realize that we have few alternatives. -Stephen Saideman

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In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive, by Robert F. Worth. The New York Times.

The tables have been turned -- brutally -- on Qaddafi loyalists:

Of course Najjar remembered. Until a few weeks earlier, he was a notorious guard at one of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's prisons. Then Tripoli fell, and the same men he'd beaten for so long tracked him down at his sister's house and dragged him to their base. Now they were mimicking his own sadistic ritual. Every day, Najjar greeted the prisoners with the words What do you want? forcing them to beg for the pipe -- known in the prison by its industrial term, PPR -- or be beaten twice as badly. The militia commander now standing behind him, Jalal Ragai, had been one of his favorite victims.

"What do you want?" Jalal said for the last time. He held the very same pipe that had so often been used on him.

The Frequent Fliers Who Flew Too Much, by Ken Bensinger. The Los Angeles Times.

In the early '90s, American Airlines began selling lifetime passes for unlimited first-class travel. It hasn't worked out well for the airline:

It was, and still is, offered in a variety of formats, including prepaid blocks of miles. But the marquee item was the lifetime unlimited AAirpass, which started at $250,000. Pass holders earned frequent flier miles on every trip and got lifetime memberships to the Admirals Club, American's VIP lounges. For an extra $150,000, they could buy a companion pass. Older fliers got discounts based on their age.

"We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees," said Bob Crandall, American's chairman and chief executive from 1985 to 1998. "It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were."

The unlimited passes were bought mostly by wealthy individuals, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner and computer magnate Michael Dell.

Mike Joyce of Chicago bought his in 1994 after winning a $4.25-million settlement after a car accident.

In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn't pay a dime.

Afghanistan: The Growing Menace, by Neil Shea. The American Scholar.

On the ground with U.S. troops in Afghanistan:

Spend time around soldiers and you realize a lot of this is part of the game, part of being a young man in war. Still, I sensed more anger and hatred than I had encountered before. Givens spun at its center like a black hole. He was in his mid-20s, charismatic and quick, a combat veteran. He threw down declarations like a hip-hop star -- respect yourself and no one else; fuck bitches, get money -- and the younger infantrymen revered him. Even officers appeared to defer to his humor, efficiency, and rage.

Platoons are often structured like high school cliques, and Givens stood at the apex of his, setting the tone and example. A list of characteristics scrolled through my mind as I listened to the men, traits I probably learned from episodes of Law & Order, or Lord of the Flies. Pop-culture sociopathy. Sexualized aggression. The displays of wolves.

"This is where I come to do fucked-up things," Givens said. "So I don't do them at home."

The Visionary, by Ben Birnbaum. The New Republic.

A profile of Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister:

At the time, negotiations had been frozen for more than a year. Yet Fayyad boldly predicted that his program would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state by August 2011. "By then, if in fact we succeed, as I hope we will," he said, "it's not going to be too difficult for people looking at us from any corner of the world ... to conclude that the Palestinians do indeed have something that looks like a well-functioning state in just about every facet of activity, and the only anomalous thing at the time would be that occupation, which everybody agrees should end anyways. That's the theory." As Fayyad finished his speech-saying that his people aspired "to live alongside you in peace, harmony, and security"-several audience members stood up to applaud. For a moment, anyway, just about everyone seemed to be rooting for Salam Fayyad.

In Fukushima, by Rebecca Solnit. London Review of Books.

A visit to the epicenter of the tsunami and a society still in turmoil:

An earthquake can be a great social leveller at first, but policy and prejudice will decide who gets aid and recompense and compassion later, and it will never be equitable, as this farmer knew well. Disaster solidarity often fractures along these lines. But it is important to keep the generosity in mind: Hirani estimated that between ten and twenty thousand volunteers had come to his small town alone. Last year young Japanese people were volunteering in large numbers and at least in some cases rethinking their ambitions and purpose in life. Every disaster leaves a small percentage of people committed to ideals they might not have found otherwise.

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