Stabilization and
Democratization: Renewing
the Transatlantic Alliance



2007 Zachary Selden

From Parameters,  Winter 2007-08, pp. 85-98.

The transatlantic disagreement over how to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 gave rise to a spate of warnings about the imminent demise of NATO.1 To some extent it is easy to discount many of those predictions based on the endurance of the alliance and its ongoing expansion. But there is an underlying concern that should not be ignored: The original mission of the alliance disappeared 15 years ago and nothing has completely taken its place. Throughout the Cold War, NATO was seen as absolutely essential to the core security interests of its members. Regardless of the disagreement, nothing undermined the fundamental necessity of the alliance.

That has not always been the case for the past 15 years. NATO is still a vital alliance with unique capabilities, and although it is involved in stabilization operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan, those missions are generally not viewed as essential to the core security interests of its members. If they were, the political and military leaders of NATO would not have to shuttle between European capitals begging for a few more helicopters and combat forces to be deployed beyond Kabul, nor would members of the US Congress muse openly about a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Yet, perhaps those missions should be seen as central to American and European common security given the interests underscored in the European Security Strategy and the National Security Strategy of the United States. Both documents outline similar threats and emphasize the importance of alleviating the underlying causes of instability in the developing world. NATO mem-


ber militaries are often said to be in the process of transformation, but perhaps it is time to consider transforming NATO itself into an institution capable of coordinating the range of assets and capabilities required to perform stabilization and democratization missions likely in the coming decades.

Doing so would make NATO the coordination point for long-term stabilization and democratization missions involving a broad range of military, paramilitary, and civilian capabilities. Adding this capability would involve creating deployable modules of different types of forces and capabilities. These organizations would range from military units to legal and civil administration experts capable of assisting in the creation and management of institutions vital to the promotion of long-term stability and development. This would be a radical change for the alliance, but it would refocus NATO on the issues that both sides of the transatlantic alliance recognize as central to their mutual security. It would also do so in a way that gives more weight to the civilian and paramilitary capabilities that Europe brings to the table, thus creating a more balanced alliance with a common purpose.

This article explores why and how this could be accomplished by focusing on the interests and capabilities of the members of the transatlantic alliance. First, it compares the European and American strategy documents. Despite the tendency to focus on the differences, there are points of commonality that indicate broad agreement on the challenges and necessary responses. Second, it examines how European and American strengths could be combined to produce robust long-term stabilization and democratization missions. Third, it will argue that it is in the interests of both the United States and Europe to reconstitute the transatlantic alliance around stabilization and democratization missions within the institutional framework of NATO.

US and European Security Strategies

Since 2001 diverging threat perceptions between much of Europe and the United States have become increasingly clear, but there are still some rather strong similarities. The European Security Strategy (ESS) and the National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS) both highlight the critical intersection of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, state failure, and the danger of regional conflict.2 Both strategies note the unreliability of a defensive posture with the ESS citing that “the first line of defense will often be abroad,”3 and the NSS


finding that the United States “cannot rely solely on deterrence to keep terrorists at bay.”4 Both documents emphasize the security imperative inherent in alleviating global poverty. The ESS notes that “poverty and disease cause untold suffering and give rise to pressing security concerns.”5 The NSS stresses that “helping the world’s poor is a strategic priority and a moral imperative.”6

The two documents also outline a similar range of policy instruments that can be used to implement the respective strategies. The ESS states, “Dealing with terrorism may require a mixture of intelligence, police, judicial, military, and other means. In failed states, military means may be needed to restore order, humanitarian means to tackle the immediate crisis.”7 The NSS speaks of harnessing “the tools of economic assistance, development aid, trade, and good governance,” which befits a document that is mainly devoted to nonmilitary aspects of security.8 Both strategies stress the importance of the transatlantic alliance as a forum for coping with those threats. The ESS identifies this forum as “one of the core elements of the international system” and singles out NATO as “an important expression of this relationship.”9 The NSS finds that NATO “remains a vital pillar of US foreign policy” and that it is “an instrument of peace and stability in many parts of the world.”10

Thus, there is some broad agreement on both the threats and the tools that can and should be employed to counter them. What most of these threats share are common root causes: the lack of functioning governmental institutions, rule of law, and democratic governance that is common across broad parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. It is likely in the coming years that considerable effort will be expended by both Europe and the United States on various stabilization and democratization missions in a number of failed or failing states. There are many observers who are justifiably skeptical of the utility of such missions given the record associated with state-building efforts since 1990. However, the fact that such missions in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans have either failed or achieved much less than what was expected is arguably grounds for refining and redoubling those efforts rather than prejudging future missions to be failures. The fact remains that the range of threats identified in the ESS and NSS are rooted in the fallout from failed and failing states; states where the United States and Europe will likely be asked to support stabilization and democratization missions in the future. It is fair to question if such missions should be attempted in the first place, but given the inevitable political pressures to “do something,” perhaps it is more productive to consider how they might be better performed.

The key issue for successful stabilization and democratization missions, however, is the building of institutions on which a sustainable democracy can be developed. Democratization can only succeed in conjunction with the development of solid governmental institutions. Without this coordination the pro-


cess of democratization risks becoming an exercise in “one man-one vote-one time” or a series of moves into and out of autocratic rule. With stronger institutions premised on the rule of law it may be possible to establish the basis on which economic and democratic development can take place over the long-term.

It can be argued that stabilization and democratization are completely separate issues. In fact, one of the notable differences between the European Security Strategy and National Security Strategy of the United States is that only the latter emphasizes the importance of democratic institutions. Critics of the current attempts at democratization are correct in pointing out the problems associated with establishing an electoral democracy before building the underlying liberal foundations. While it is possible to separate stabilization and reconstruction from democratization on a conceptual level, they are intimately connected in practice. First, it is highly unlikely that stabilization missions whose sole accomplishment is to leave in place a dictatorial system will be successful in maintaining the necessary long-term popular support in the United States and Europe for such missions. Second, the number of democratic states in the world has expanded dramatically since the end of the Cold War to encompass not just the developed world but also states once thought to be too underdeveloped to sustain democratic principles. Democracy is broadly viewed as the only legitimate form of governance in the current strategic environment because there is little else to compete with it. If democracy has a competitor it may be the political Islamist movements that seek to impose religious law over secular authority. Such movements have limited worldwide appeal, and even in Muslim countries that appeal is very limited, according to recent surveys.11 The broad appeal of democracy is recognized by autocratic regimes eager to gain the appearance of democratic legitimacy. As Fareed Zakaria notes, “When the enemies of democracy mouth its rhetoric and ape its rituals, you know it has won the war.”12 In short, stabilization can exist as a separate concept from democratization, but this distinction cannot be maintained in the long-term as the foundation upon which to build a successful political policy.

This is not to imply that there is anything simple or inexorable about stabilization or democratization. To the contrary, they are extremely complex goals and attempts to make progress on either front will be costly and time consuming. Nor should we ignore the differences between European and American perceptions of the threats facing their societies and how best to counter them. Nevertheless, both sides of the transatlantic alliance place considerable emphasis on similar challenges and the tools required to successfully confront them.

The Nature of the Security Challenge

As detailed in the European Security Strategy and the National Security Strategy of the United States, many of the anticipated threats to both


Europe and North America in the coming decades will originate in failed or failing states. Mass illegal immigration to Europe is mainly a product of state failure across a broad swath of Africa. Weak and failed states such as Somalia provide ungoverned space where terrorists can train for attacks on western targets. The dangers associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is particularly acute across a range of failed and failing states from Pakistan to North Korea. Narcotics production and trafficking is in part a byproduct of the inability of states to exercise control over their national territory, or in some instances to prevent the control of much of the national territory by criminals and terrorists.

None of those problems are likely to fade with time; in fact, most are likely to grow. If the most dire predictions regarding climate change come to pass, the environmental pressures on Africa in particular could spark even higher levels of illegal immigration. Environmental pressures could also lead to increased civil unrest and the collapse of state authority in already weakened states, increasing the ungoverned spaces in which terrorist organizations thrive.

The obvious solution is to assist in building and strengthening state institutions in failed or failing states in an effort to arrest their decline into dismal places for their inhabitants to live, while at the same time negating the possibility of broader threats to regional and global security. As already noted, the history of state-building is not terribly encouraging, and many, if not most, efforts end with the accomplishment of far less than what was originally desired. Nevertheless, it is possible to improve the functioning of the government in failing states. The key is building and improving state capacity. Doing so involves a broad range of assets and skills resident in both North America and Europe. Many, if not most, of the skills required will be civilian in nature, but the military will play a critical role in providing the security and logistics that will permit civilian state-building to take root.

State-building should focus on improving the capacity of the state to create the foundation on which private enterprise can thrive. The key factor is rule of law, encompassing a variety of issues. The provision for security is critical; citizens must feel that they can travel and gather with some reasonable assurance that they will not be set upon. Bureaucracies need to be able to operate free of endemic corruption and burdensome regulation. Few businesses will be created, at least legally, if the processes associated with registration and establishment are too onerous. The enforceability of contracts is another key factor requiring a civil legal infrastructure. The list goes on, but what is clear is that much of what needs to be done falls outside of the traditional functions of the military. Military force plays a necessary but not all-inclusive role. It can create the conditions in which state-building can take place, but it cannot replace the civilian expertise needed to set a failing state on the path to lasting stability.


This point has been emphasized by military personnel with recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, most notably General David Petraeus, and it is highlighted in the new US Army counterinsurgency manual.

As Francis Fukuyama has pointed out, in the 1980s the international development community may have put too much emphasis on forcing aid recipients to minimize the impact of the state and free the economy to market forces.13 In theory this liberal approach to development can produce desired outcomes, but in practice it often produces undesired results. Often aid recipients reduced spending on precisely the aspects of the state needed to provide the appropriate level of governance and increased spending on the aspects that benefited the executive. The question, therefore, is how to reduce the excess scope of the state while at the same time increasing its strength and ability to provide the critical public services necessary to sustained development. This means emphasizing the areas where the state has exclusive competency, such as providing security and ensuring the rule of law. At the same time there is a need to restrain bureaucratic growth and the overly burdensome intrusion into other aspects of a particular society, which in some cases can become a source of corruption and counterproductive to the development of a stable government. Thus, it is possible, and in fact necessary, to reduce the scope of the state while increasing its strength and ability to provide fundamental public services.

The need to intervene in failed and failing states is recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, although the current discourse puts more emphasis on the differences rather than the similarities. On the American side the emphasis appears to be on military intervention and regime change, although this is an incomplete characterization given the large investment by the United States in state capacity-building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other developing countries. In Europe the emphasis is on the “soft” aspects of security and foreign policy, although Europe has somewhat more military capability than is commonly assumed.

It is true that Europe spends far less on defense than the United States and has far fewer deployable forces. But do not overlook Europe’s significant military capabilities, for they represent the bulk of deployable military power in the world compatible with the US military, thanks to the NATO standardization process. It is worth recalling that the vast majority of the approximately 30,000-strong International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the 16,000-strong NATO force in Kosovo are from NATO member militaries other than the United States. America spends vastly more on defense than its NATO partners and has done so since the beginning of the alliance, but the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh top spenders on defense in the world are NATO members.

There are signs that Europe is developing the ability to deploy and sustain small but significant military forces in challenging environments.


Progress in strategic airlift and sealift could give the European members of NATO the ability to move their forces with less direct support from the United States. Recent lease agreements for the use of Ukrainian Antonov 124-100 commercial aircraft will provide Canadian and European militaries increased reach as well.14 European countries are investing in a number of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.15 If properly leveraged, those developments could allow European states as individuals or the European Union as a collective body to project a greater number of sustainable military forces in the near future.

At the same time, the United States has far more capability in civilian agencies than is generally acknowledged. A National Security Presidential Directive issued in 2005 created the position of Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction at the State Department reporting directly to the Secretary of State. It is an interagency office with personnel drawn from the intelligence community, Agency for International Development, and Departments of Defense, Treasury, and Justice. Pursuant to legislative efforts led by Senators Richard G. Lugar and Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Representative David Dreier, the State Department is working to build a civilian reserve program that would be able to deploy civilian experts in various specializations required for stabilization missions. At the moment the plan calls for the creation of a core of several hundred personnel with a reserve of an additional 500 personnel. Given the thousands of judges, prosecutors, and others who could be available for rule of law missions alone, the United States is a major source for civilian personnel that could be called upon to support stabilization and reconstruction missions.

There is room for specialization, but this does not suggest a relationship where the United States provides only “hard” security and Europe supplies the “soft” aspects of stabilization. What should be increasingly clear is that there is reason to view all aspects of intervention as important given that achieving the ultimate goal requires a closely managed program involving both military and civilian capabilities. It should also be apparent that Europe and the United States are working to develop both hard and soft capabilities better suited to addressing the particular demands of long-term stabilization missions. The question remains, however, if the two sides can transcend Robert Kagan’s “Europeans are from Venus and Americans are from Mars” characterization and renew the transatlantic security partnership on a more balanced basis.

Working Together?

Both the United States and Europe would benefit from reconstituting the transatlantic partnership. For the United States, Europe provides considerably more deployable military and civilian personnel vital to the success of long-term stabilization missions than is generally believed. For Europe, a


renewed partnership with the United States brings access to resources and personnel that Europe is hard pressed to provide given its demographic trends that require devoting increasingly larger proportions of national wealth to support its aging population.

The United States is likely to need European assistance in future stabilization and democratization missions for political and practical reasons. The political benefits are obvious, although the complexity of coordinating policy and specific actions across the alliance is daunting. NATO members agreed, for example, to the military action in Kosovo, but disagreements over the type and level of involvement necessary led to claims by military leaders that the conflict was prolonged by political interests.16 Operations conducted with a smaller number of partners are less likely to experience similar problems.

Those considerations need to be balanced against the fact that more rather than fewer partners may be necessary as operations are extended into several rotations that may involve tens of thousands of personnel. It was one thing, for example, to keep the coalition restricted in the initial phase of operations in Afghanistan. The logistical challenges of getting a force into a landlocked country far from any US base were daunting enough for the American military alone without attempting to coordinate and assist with the deployments of large numbers of allies. But the follow-on that began in 2002 and continues today requires a large coalition of forces. The mission spans the range of capabilities from the military to the purely civilian. There is a real practical need for the United States to find partners for stabilization and state capacity-building among its European allies because that is where most capability for this sort of support exists.

Establishing a rule of law mission, for example, will require judicial, law enforcement, and other specialized personnel who can work under the basic security umbrella formed by a military intervention. Those civilian personnel will have to be maintained in place for several years at a minimum, and even for a relatively small country this could involve several thousand individuals at any one time. Therefore, a pool of tens of thousands of deployable nonmilitary personnel will be required for more than one of these missions. No single country, not even the United States, currently has the resources to do this on its own.

European countries also bring something else to the mix that fills the critical gap between military and civilian capabilities. Several European nations have deployable paramilitary police forces that are a mixture of light infantry and police forces. They are trained for police activities in a manner that almost no military personnel are. These forces are relatively heavily armed when compared with other police forces and can be fitted into the military chain of command. The United States does not have such a force at its disposal.

Recent developments could make European paramilitary forces even more relevant in future missions. The European Gendarmerie Force


(EGF) was created in 2004 with the participation of France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands. The five contributing member states are all NATO members, and they have announced that the EGF could be made available to other international organizations, including NATO.17 Although still a small force the EGF might serve as a prototype for future forces most needed in situations where traditional military units are inappropriate.

So the United States needs Europe, but does Europe need the United States? A glance at the annual Failed States Index published by the Fund for Peace in Foreign Policy shows that Europe is cradled in a band of failed or failing states to its south and east.18 Europe will likely bear the brunt of the consequences of state failure or inadequacy in terms of massive illegal immigration, organized crime, and terrorist activity. It could attempt to implement a unilateral strategy to secure its borders from such threats, but a more productive path would be to restructure the transatlantic alliance such that it is more capable of addressing these common threats.

Several recent books, however, argue that Europe is increasingly capable of providing an alternative model of international engagement based on “soft” power. These works allude to the proposition that this model will prove to be a more effective form of international influence than reliance on the “hard” power of the United States. This belief is founded on the premise that a more sustainable European economic model will eventually give rise to a European superpower.19 While the United States overextends itself in counterproductive military engagements, Europe will be able to build a more secure international environment based on its ability to offer developmental assistance, trade incentives, and stabilization and reconstruction through the utilization of its deployable civilian and military personnel.

These predictions are unlikely to materialize. Contrary to those who envisage the European Union as becoming some sort of counterweight to the United States in international affairs, Europe will likely grow weaker, not stronger, over time as an independent player in the international affairs arena. This will occur in both absolute and relative terms compared to the United States for the simple reason that the resources and personnel needed to exercise greater influence in the world are diminishing across the European theater.

These trends are driven by a demographic shift with profound consequences. The economic consequences of this shift have been spelled out in detail in a number of studies, and the strategic consequences associated with such a shift are significant as well. At precisely the time that Europe is attempting to create a common foreign policy and the means to implement it, the continent will be set upon by a host of difficult choices whose likely resolutions will deprive Europe of the financial resources required to play a completely independent role on the global stage.


Over the next several decades, the average age of the population of Europe will increase dramatically. According to estimates by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 46 percent of the population of Italy and Spain and 35 percent of the population of France will be above the age of 60 in 2040.20 Based on current benefits, each retiree in Germany will have to be supported by 1.6 workers, and each Italian and Spanish person of working age will have to support one retiree. The consequences of this situation should not be underestimated. Either benefits will have to be severely reduced, taxes will have to increase, governments will have to borrow more to sustain their aging population, or immigration will have to sharply increase in an effort to reinforce the workforce and rebalance the population. All of those choices have consequences that will make another near-term option more likely: shifting resources from other government spending to shore up the pension system. The likely candidates for cuts are the defense and international affairs budgets. Those programs do not have domestic constituencies, and leaders can readily enact cuts without suffering the political consequences they would if they pursued cuts in pensions or health care benefits.21

Thus, over the next several decades, Europe on the whole will likely have fewer resources to devote to international affairs. The projections do not bode well for the vision of a Europe capable of maintaining an international presence completely autonomous from the United States. We may in fact be seeing the peak of European military spending, developmental assistance, and international trade. The most realistic alternative is a renewed transatlantic partnership that permits Europe to combine its specific strengths with those of its North American allies.


At the basic level, NATO is a club of democratic states. Article II of the founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, speaks to the importance of spreading democratic values. It specifically states that the alliance will contribute to the strengthening of “free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being.” In the wake of the Cold War, that aspect of the alliance has gained in importance. Every Membership Action Plan, the agreement that guides candidate countries on the path to NATO membership, includes significant sections on democratic governance, rule of law, and civilian control of the military as critical aspects required for accession to the alliance.

More importantly, NATO has the institutional framework to assume this role and nearly 50 years of experience in coordination, force planning, and crisis management. Assuming this new role, in reality an expansion of its exist-


ing mission, would entail doing many of the same things NATO does now within a somewhat different context. NATO has a committee of military officers that advises the North Atlantic Council (the governing body of NATO composed of the ambassadors from each member state) on military matters. It would not be a conceptual stretch to create a civilian capability committee parallel to the military committee. This committee could advise the council on what is necessary in terms of civilian capabilities in support of a given mission.

NATO has tremendous planning capability that can turn the political guidance of the council into an executable plan. Again, it is possible to have a civilian planning cell within the larger military planning structure. This cell could be linked to the European Union’s nascent efforts in this arena. Such a structure would unite North American and European assets for missions leveraging each member’s comparative advantage.

NATO could also contribute to a register of deployable civilian capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic. Judicial, law enforcement, and other specialized civilian personnel could be integrated into a force planning process. NATO might also assist in the conduct of training exercises incorporating civilian, paramilitary, and military personnel. NATO has long since cataloged the capabilities of its members and analyzed possible requirements for various contingencies. Assuming this additional role would more than likely place a strain on an already stretched headquarters staff, but it would not be a conceptual stretch to integrate such a capability into the existing structure.

Some might argue that these missions are not appropriate for NATO and that the United Nations is the proper executor for stabilization and democratization missions. But the UN is based on the premise that all states regardless of their form of government are equal, be they democratic, autocratic, or a barely functional state with limited control over the national territory. This premise creates a fundamental contradiction: The purpose of long-term stabilization is to build sustainable democratic states, but that threatens more than a few of the UN’s members who are considered in good standing with the assembly. An organization such as NATO does not face this contradiction. All of its members are democracies, and their leaders have nothing to fear and everything to gain from the spread of the conditions that underpin democracy.

Thus, the United Nations can be a partner, particularly in the provision of humanitarian assistance and the coordination of some civilian capabilities, but it is not the optimal institution to execute these missions. Only an institution such as NATO that is directly responsible to the democratically elected leaders of its member states can maintain legitimacy in the performance of this type of mission.

This does not mean that NATO should ignore other partners. It would be a tremendous leap in logic to assume that membership or the Article


V commitment of mutual defense is realistic for countries as distant as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, but there is no reason that they cannot be included in an expanded partnership. New Zealand is heavily engaged in Afghanistan, while Japan and Australia are making significant contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly the interest and political will to participate in such missions is resident in all three of those democracies, and there should be a way to include them and others within the institutional framework of NATO as it moves forward in its execution of stabilization and democratization missions.


For too long Americans have complained, with some justification, that their European allies have not shouldered a fair share of the burden regarding mutual security. In the past the main measurement of contributions to security was based on defense spending and the numbers of deployable forces, but the threat has changed and so have the appropriate responses. Many of the capabilities required to transform the current security environment that gives rise to such threats are no longer military but civilian. A better measurement of a partner’s contributions to transatlantic security might include a range of deployable assets encompassing both military and civilian. In the long-term it is this mix of assets that will permit the United States and Europe to address the underlying causes of the security threats they face today and in the future. Europe has latent civilian capabilities that—if developed and included in future missions—would make NATO more balanced.

Some might see these recommendations as a plan to steal away the European Union’s “soft power” as exemplified by its planning cell for police actions, rule of law missions, and other traditional assistance programs. Far from it, this is a way to use NATO as a force multiplier for these nascent capabilities. There is nothing stopping the EU from solely executing separate missions. This would be accomplished in much the same manner as France (at first) ran its unilateral mission in the Cote d’Ivoire while still participating in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The EU as an institution or its member states could still choose to execute separate operations simultaneously.

Many in Europe and in the United States will view this proposal as a means of maintaining US hegemony and restricting Europe’s independence.22 In fact it recalibrates the alliance to give greater standing to the specific assets that European nations can supply. Nothing will erase the fact that the United States remains the sole military superpower, but Europe’s choice is to either work through a consensus-based alliance to utilize that power in support of its security interests or to attempt to implement a completely autonomous strategy in the face of burgeoning fiscal constraints.


The benefits to the United States are obvious, however, the most compelling reason for Europe to pursue this new path is simply a question of numbers. Europe is experiencing a long-term demographic decline, and the need to devote more resources to sustaining the benefits of welfare states will generate political pressure to reduce commitments for international operations. The best chance for Europe to maintain or extend its influence in international security affairs is to reaffirm the transatlantic partnership by way of a revamped alliance that implicitly recognizes the value of nonmilitary contributions to stabilization and democratization missions.

Many will argue that Europe’s demographics simply highlight its irrelevancy with regard to international security affairs. Yet the specific capabilities that Europe can bring to the table in terms of deployable law enforcement assets and civil assistance teams will be critical to the success of long-term stabilization and democratization missions, and are the type of capabilities the United States may lack in sufficient quantity. Both the United States and Europe possess the necessary capabilities to support such missions but not in sufficient numbers to cope with the total range of long-term stabilization and democratization missions that are likely to emerge. There is a correlation between the numbers of personnel deployed relative to the host nation’s population and the success of a particular stabilization mission.23 In short, more is better; this equation underscores the need to have reserves of deployable personnel capable of spanning the spectrum between “hard” and “soft” capabilities. Given the fact that Europe and the United States have identified similar challenges to their security and already have an established record of interoperability within NATO, the benefits of coordinating missions and combining assets should be clear.

The default option is to maintain the status quo, but the current status quo is debilitating. It will certainly lead to an increasingly weaker Europe; a Europe less capable of maintaining the sustained presence required to successfully execute stabilization operations. The status quo may well lead to an increasingly frustrated United States reluctant to undertake such long-term missions. Additionally, it may lead to missions being abandoned as soon as it is politically possible rather than when the mission is accomplished.

The strategy outlined above is a deceptively simple proposition, but it adds an entirely new dimension to NATO. After nearly 60 years of coordination between member states in an effort to better cope with common threats, the alliance is the natural nexus between North America and Europe in planning for and executing large-scale operations. Adding this improved capability to the alliance requires a significant change in NATO. The alliance went through a similar transition in the early 1990s as it transformed itself relevant to the post-Cold War security situation in Europe. The reason NATO did not fade away after its original raison d’etre disappeared is because it was able to transform itself from a mili-


tary alliance focused on the inter-German border to one focused on stabilizing nations within its traditional boundaries and beyond. By once again transforming the alliance in a way that emphasizes the nonmilitary capabilities Europe has to offer, the transatlantic partners can reforge the alliance on a more equal basis while countering any emerging threats to their mutual security.


The author would like to thank John Lis and Christopher Layne for their comments on earlier drafts.

1. E. Wayne Merry, “Therapy’s End: Thinking Beyond NATO,” National Interest, 74 (Winter 2003), 43-52; Anatol Lieven, “The End of NATO,” Prospect, December 2001; “The End of NATO?” Wall Street Journal, 10 February 2003, A14.

2. European Union, A Secure Europe in a Better World: The European Security Strategy, 12 December 2003,; George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington: The White House, March 2006),

3. European Union, 7.

4. Bush, 8.

5. European Union, 2.

6. Bush, 31.

7. European Union, 7.

8. Bush, 4. The bulk of the 2006 National Security Strategy is focused on democracy promotion, and pages 19-54 are mainly given over to a discussion of trade, financial assistance, regional cooperation, and international institutions.

9. European Union, 9.

10. Bush, 38.

11. See for example, The Asia Foundation, A Survey of the Afghan People: Afghanistan in 2006 (Kabul, Afghanistan: The Asia Foundation, October 2006); Oxford Research International, National Survey of Iraq, November 2005 (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford Research International, 2005); The Asia Foundation, Democracy in Indonesia: A Survey of the Indonesian Electorate 2003 (Jakarta, Indonesia: The Asia Foundation, November 2003).

12. Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), 13.

13. Francis Fukuyama, State Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 2004).

14. The Strategic Airlift Interim Solution is a NATO effort with 15 NATO members as partners in the lease agreement. Two non-NATO European countries—Sweden and Finland—have also joined the group. “Strategic Airlift Agreement Enters into Force,” 23 March 2006,

15. Michelle Flournoy, et al., European Defense Integration: Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Capabilities (Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS], October 2005); John Shimkus, Progress on the Prague Capabilities Commitment (Brussels: NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2005).

16. William Drozdiak, “War Effort Restrained by Politics, Clark Says; NATO Chief Reviews ‘Lessons’ of Kosovo,” The Washington Post, 20 July 1999, A14.

17. David T. Armitage, Jr., and Anne M. Moisan, “Constabulary Forces and Post-Conflict Transition: The Euro-Atlantic Dimension,” Strategic Forum, 218 (November 2005).

18. The Fund for Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “The Failed States Index 2007,” Foreign Policy, 161 (July/August 2007), 54-63.

19. Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2004); T. R. Reid, The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy (New York: Penguin Press, 2004); Mark Leonard, Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century (London: Fourth Estate, 2005).

20. Richard Jackson and Neil Howe, The 2003 Aging Vulnerability Index: An Assessment of the Capacity of Twelve Developed Countries to Meet the Aging Challenge (Washington: CSIS, 2003).

21. The United States will face a similar problem but it is buffered by two factors: The population is not aging nearly as quickly as in Europe and retirees are more reliant on private pensions and savings than government benefits.

22. Christopher Layne, “US Hegemony and the Perpetuation of NATO,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 23 (September 2000), 59-81.

23. James Dobbins, et al., America’s Role in Nation Building: From Germany to Iraq (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2003).

Zachary Selden is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Director of the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and will become the Deputy Secretary General for Policy of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in January 2008.

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Reviewed 12 December 2007. Please send comments or corrections to