As George Marshall and Ernest Bevin looked out at the world in 1948 it was clear that a Europe decimated by the Second World War needed both the economic help that the Marshall Plan would provide, but also military help as well. Both Marshall and Bevin were visionaries who viewed cooperation as essential to meet with the challenges of the time. As the clichés goes, 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention.' Yet in every cliché lies truth.
Today, that necessity still exists. As importantly, those rising to power in America realize it. The so-called Millennial generation, defined as those born between 1982 and 2003, are the rising demographic power in the United States. Europeans may be surprised and relieved to know that these Americans are more inclined to be multilateral and conciliatory than older generations. That is to say, more like those in Europe.
A recent survey by the 21st Century America Project found that, by a three-to-one margin, Millennials believe that the United States should take the opinion of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions. By a nearly two-to-one ratio, Millennials believe that the best way to protect America's national security is through building strong alliances with other countries rather than by relying primarily on US military strength. This is an opportunity that NATO is in a unique position to seize. By harnessing this new generation, NATO will be come not just an inheritance but a point of pride.
NATO Undergraduate Ambassadorship Program
"If you want to make a friend, let someone do you a favor."
As Franklin once famously noted, when people give their labor they also give their loyalty. The current aim of the NATO internship program is to "provide a small number of current or recent students with the opportunity to intern with the International Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and in a few other NATO bodies."
One of objectives of the current NATO Internship program is to "expand understanding of NATO in Alliance countries." Programs designed to foster such exchanges have high success rates, as Kennedy Scholarships, Fulbright Scholarships, Israeli 'Birthright' trips, Rhodes Scholarships, and a plethora of student exchange and study abroad programs, all clearly demonstrate.
Yet, the small number of interns taken not only throttles the objective to promote understanding of NATO in Alliance countries. It also limits the amount of educated citizens of alliance countries who, armed with their personal experience, are ready to defend NATO from bureaucratic or rhetorical attack. In order to truly fulfill its objective of promoting understanding, NATO should dramatically expand the amount of interns it takes from the undergraduate level.
The current NATO funded internships are well known as difficult to obtain and highly rewarding. That program should remain intact but limited to those at the graduate level of studies. This would ensure that the quality of the current program remains untouched. NATO should then launch a new program, recruiting exclusively from the undergraduate level.
The Objectives of the NATO Undergraduate Ambassadorship would:
- Transfer course credits to students from their home universities, equivalent to that of a full time job
- Expect students to promote the Ambassadorship program at their universities immediately after the conclusion of their time at NATO
- Allow students to gain valuable skills and workplace experience
- Coincide with timing of Universities Semester Calenders: Summer (June-August), Fall (August-December) & Spring (January-May)
- Have students learn about the history of NATO and it's importance in global affairs
These objectives-TEACH for short-would provide more students with an opportunity to learn about and gain experience in international security than arguably any other program. Currently, students take advantage of exchange programs and study abroad opportunities to learn more about other cultures within the NATO alliance. The NATO Ambassadorship program would instantly become the premier program for students within the alliance.
By giving this opportunity to as many of our best and brightest students as possible, we would be promoting relationships that will endure. It is these relationships, with NATO the institution and amongst the students themselves, that will ensure that the partnership that has accomplished so much will continue to have the support it needs to move forward with its important work.
TJ Hatter is an MSc International Relations Student at the University of Edinburgh. He is an alumni of the University of Tennessee College of Law and a former Brookhaven Town Official.