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The Future Of NATO Part Five

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Paolo Liebl Von Schirach
Washington (UPI) April 16, 2009
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was and is supposedly based on common values and a shared worldview, which would include a shared understanding of what constitutes a threat. But that shared view is sadly lacking today across the many states of the sprawling 28-member NATO alliance.

The need to share common values and a shared worldview is does not entail unanimity, nor should it imply that the United States can or should merely command and then expect the 26 European member states of the alliance to obey. However, the approaches of the United States and its European partners in the Atlantic alliance to this supposedly significant military engagement against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan are remarkably different. Indeed, if the issue were not so serious, they are so different as to be almost funny.

For example, to get a flavor of what is going on, one can go and check the NATO Web site, maintained from its headquarters outside Brussels, the capital of Belgium. One can read every single one of the headlines without finding the word "war."

Even the prominent announcement of a high-level visit to Afghanistan by NATO officials fails to mention that this is where the alliance is engaged in its most significant military operation. A distracted reader could think that this is part of some kind of diplomatic tour.

One would have to read more than halfway into a speech delivered recently in Poland by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands to find the word "Afghanistan." And when Afghanistan is mentioned at all, it is not referred to as a major issue but as one of the things on the table, only routine stuff.

None of this indicates that there is any shared perception among the NATO member states about any urgency regarding this ongoing and long-lasting major military operation, or that the NATO military deployment in Afghanistan and commitment to maintaining the integrity and internal security of that nation has repeatedly been described as a crucial test of the alliance's military credibility in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, policymakers and pundits in the U.S. capital, Washington, continue to discuss Afghanistan as a worrisome geopolitical threat because of all the implications on regional security in Central and South Asia, stability in Pakistan and the need to avoid the creation of another breeding ground for radical Islam in a country controlled by guerrillas. However, that sense of urgency does not appear to be shared by the many governments of America's NATO allies on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Part 6: Why allowing Afghanistan to fester and to become chaos is deemed to be dangerous for world security and against the interests of the United States

.-- (Paolo Liebl von Schirach is the editor of, a regular contributor to Swiss radio and an international economic-development expert.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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