Mobilizing NATO for Afghanistan and Pakistan
In a recent commentary released by the Center, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO David Abshire advocated mobilizing NATO to achieve victory over Al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Abshire called NATO “once the greatest alliance in human history,” one that “won the Cold War without firing a shot.” He lamented, however, that it “is not meeting its challenge in the 21st Century.”
One reason for this failure, writes Abshire, was the U.S. “strategic blunder” of starting a second war in Iraq before winning the first war in Afghanistan. Abshire also advises President Obama to learn from the successful NATO diplomacy of Ronald Reagan near the end of the Cold War and George H.W. Bush during the first Gulf War.
The current war in Afghanistan, Abshire writes, is at a crisis point, and the President is receiving conflicting advice from his war cabinet. Abshire characterizes General Stanley McChrystal’s proposed surge strategy as bold, innovative, and troop intensive. He cautions, however, invoking the prudent counsel of President Eisenhower (who was both field commander and Commander in Chief) that field commanders can “never look over and across the strategic horizon as the Commander-in-Chief must.”
A successful strategy, according to Abshire, will link alliance efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including “the development of a comprehensive strategy on the overall use of hard, smart, and soft power.” Abshire believes that President Obama has a strong war cabinet, and if he uses it wisely he can “become a great Commander-in-Chief in the mold of his hero, Abraham Lincoln.”
Despite Abshire’s positive outlook, however, NATO’s relevance to the strategic challenges of the 21st century remains in doubt.