NATO has become increasingly anachronistic in the post-Cold War world, gradually weakening in support and funding. However, NATO is still a key multilateral institution in the international community. The United Nations and its Security Council are often hamstrung by politics and ineffective when quick action is needed. Smart Defense is the future of NATO, and would be best implemented by creating a high-ranking position for Smart Defense to coordinate and oversee unification of each countries’ contributions. Through a sustained public relations campaign, NATO can increase citizen support for the reorganization and investment.
Although General Stephane Abrial and ambassador Claudio Bisogniero have been assigned as special representatives for Smart Defense, their primary duty is to visit member countries’ capitals and promote the idea of Smart Defense. While this might be helpful in the short term, it does not address any real implication needs.
In order to successfully integrate and promote a policy of the magnitude of Smart Defense, NATO member countries must create a new, high-ranking position to coordinate and advocate Smart Defense. I believe this position (ideally promoted from within NATO by a democratic voting process weighted to length of membership, but barring France and America) should be a second ‘Deputy Secretary General for Smart Defense’ or a third command, a ‘Supreme Allied Command for Smart Defense.’ This senior position would carry with it the power and legitimacy to ensure that Smart Defense becomes reality.
Furthermore, all NATO partners together need to decide which alliance tasks should receive the most priority, and divide the work accordingly. Gone are the days of the Cold War when defense budgets were huge. NATO should concentrate on only a few priorities – judging both how essential and how economical a project is. After creating a list of only the most necessary strategies and needs together, each country should seek and receive the assignment that is best suited to its areas of expertise, promoting economies of scale while maintaining sovereignty. With each country having had a say in the debate over the key objectives, structures, and weapons systems, there would be more political will for each country to do its part.
A re-tooling of defense policy is always costly, even in an attempt to become more economical and efficient. Although initial investments in Smart Defense might be moderately expensive, NATO needs to publically advertise the policy initiative as one that will provide significant long-term savings and better NATO capability overall.
In the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq, support for NATO is waning in Europe. Americans, tending towards isolationism, do not understand why they continue to contribute the majority of money and manpower to Europe’s defense. In this context, NATO needs a public relations campaign to reestablish its image and create more domestic support in all member countries.
By explaining how Smart Defense will create a more effective, efficient, and economical NATO (“The Three E’s”), the publics of member states will support the implementation of Smart Defense, which in turn will lead to increased political will. The campaign should also highlight the essential role NATO has played in the Middle East, Libya, and the Balkans, by including images, quotes, and interviews of citizens in these areas who now have hopes of a better future. By promoting “The Three E’s” and underscoring the vital humanitarian role NATO plays, support for NATO and Smart Defense can be greatly improved.
NATO remains a crucial defensive structure in our world today, but the alliance is undergoing a crisis due to lack of funds and declining political and public interest. In order to stay strong, NATO must fully embrace the policy of Smart Defense by creating a new, high-ranking position in charge of promoting the policy, paring down priorities to only the most essential and economical, and engaging in a wide-spread media campaign to encourage continued support of NATO and its Smart Defense reorientation. A more integrated, agile NATO is simply the smartest defensive choice.
Ashley Hess, a graduate of Brown University, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations at Seoul National University in South Korea.