What Libya Says About the Future of the Transatlantic Alliance
Tomas Valasek, Center for European Reform | August 2011
"Libya is the first NATO war in which the US is taking a back seat, while the European allies take decisive military action. This should be cause for cautious optimism about NATO," argues Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform. "In fact, if the war ends well, Libya may yet come to be seen in hindsight as the moment when Europe assumed its rightful share of responsibility for the security of its neighborhood."
Key points from his essay, which is available for download as a PDF:
- Libya is the first war fought according to Barack Obama’s rules: the United States is taking a back seat, while the Europeans absorb most of the risks and costs. So it is puzzling that so many Americans see the operation as reason to despair about the state of the transatlantic alliance.
- In fact, Libya is cause for cautious optimism about NATO. In contrast to the Balkan operations in the 1990s, the 2011 campaign demonstrates that the European allies can take decisive military action to maintain the stability of their neighbourhood, provided they have access to US equipment.
- The allies have arrived at a new division of labour for European operations, which should be encouraged and developed further. That will require a conscious effort from the Obama administration to challenge overly negative assumptions about NATO in the US. For their part, the Europeans need to make more common and efficient use of their military budgets and equipment if the transatlantic alliance is to remain credible.