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NATO and Libya

NATO and Libya

French Air Force Mirage 2000 jet fighter takes off for a mission to Libya, at Solenzara 126 Air Base, Corsica island, Mediterranean Sea, on March 24, 2011.

Sarwar Kashmeri, a senior fellow in the International Security Program of the Atlantic Council and a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, has two recent offerings that give excellent insights into how the Libya operation might affect NATO’s future:

1. A posting on European Geostrategy, CSDP – the Atlantic Alliance’s Saviour? (CSDP is the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy).   Here is the post in its entirety:

Even before the onset of hostilities in Libya it was obvious to insiders on both sides of the Atlantic that NATO was increasingly dysfunctional. Libya has now shown the wider public that the emperor has no clothes.

Cohesion used to be NATO’s trademark, but there is little of that left. And the reputation of the ‘greatest military alliance’ is a diminishing commodity for younger American military officers as I recently found out during a visit to a United Sates Navy aircraft carrier. During dinner I was seated between the ship’s two senior officers. The older Executive Officer felt NATO was the cornerstone of Western defence, while the younger commander of the ship’s attack squadrons told me it still had to be proven to him that NATO was still useful.

Left dangling in this state NATO will soon become irrelevant to the security needs of the Euro-Atlantic area. Worse, its internal tensions will continue to damage the already brittle transatlantic ties.

After speaking with over fifty military and government leaders from Europe and the United States, I believe the answer to NATO’s woes is to bridge the alliance with the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy, and shift the responsibility for the defence of Europe and its periphery to the European Union. In a forthcoming report for the United States Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, I recommend that the President of the United States initiate a meeting with the leadership of the European Union and Canada to execute this change over a period of three to five years.

America has underwritten the security of Europe for over sixty years. It is not a state of affairs that I believe the increasingly pressured American taxpayer will look upon favourably any more. Especially considering that the European Union’s gross domestic product now exceeds America’s and the combined defence budget of the Member States of the European Union of around €200 billion (over $300 billion) is not appreciably smaller than America’s defence budget – after removing the expenses of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and subtracting the expenses of America’s world-wide responsibilities, a global role that Europeans seem to have no desire to underwrite or assume.

Rebalancing security responsibilities will also be a sign of how deep and wide the transatlantic relationship really is, and how far it has come from the days when Europe was completely reliant on the United States for its very survival. Yet, a refashioned NATO with a unified European pillar existing alongside the North American pillar will ensure that there is a mechanism to enable the European Union, the United States, and Canada to act together, if that should ever become necessary again.

It would be a pity to let NATO fade away; because it will then have to be reinvented someday. And that will not be easy.

One has to wonder how the recent attack that killed Qaddafi’s son will exacerbate the pressure on and tensions within NATO.

2.  In the latest installment of the New Atlanticist Podcast Series, Atlantic Council senior fellow Sarwar Kashmeri interviewed Juurd Eijsvoogel, International Relations Columnist for the NRC Handelsblatt . The conflict in Libya is NATO’s first war without America in the lead. What is the reaction in Europe? The Dutch just announced a drastic cut in their defense budget. How are they reacting to the Libyan campaign? Will there be European boots on the ground in Libya?  The podcast is available here.

For a broader discussion of NATO’s future take a look at Kashmeri’s recently released book, NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete?

NATO and Libya

Sarwar Kashmeri – Image Credit: Atlantic Council



James Ketterer

James Ketterer is Dean of International Studies at Bard College and Director of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. He previously served as Egypt Country Director for AMIDEAST, based in Cairo and before that as Vice Chancellor for Policy & Planning and Deputy Provost at the State University of New York (SUNY). In 2007-2008 he served on the staff of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education. He previously served as Director of the SUNY Center for International Development.

Ketterer has extensive experience in technical assistance for democratization projects, international education, legislative development, elections, and policy analysis – with a focus on Africa and the Middle East. He has won and overseen projects funded by USAID, the Department for International Development (UK), the World Bank and the US State Department. He served on the National Security Council staff at the White House, as a policy analyst at the New York State Senate, a project officer with the Center for Legislative Development at the University at Albany, and as an international election specialist for the United Nations, the African-American Institute, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is currently a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has also held teaching positions in international politics at the New School for Social Research, Bard College, State University of New York at New Paltz, the University at Albany, Russell Sage College, and the College of Saint Rose.

Ketterer has lectured and written extensively on various issues for publications including the Washington Post, Middle East Report, the Washington Times, the Albany Times Union, and the Journal of Legislative Studies. He was a Boren National Security Educational Program Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and in Morocco, an International Graduate Rotary Scholar at the Bourguiba School of Languages in Tunisia, and studied Arabic at the King Fahd Advanced School of Translation in Morocco. He received his education at Johns Hopkins University, New York University and Fordham University.

Areas of focus: Public Diplomacy; Middle East; Africa; US Foreign Policy

Contributor to: Global Engagement