The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept reflects a changing NATO: no longer is the alliance a reflection of Cold War aims. Not only are there more members to mirror the growing democratic sphere in Europe, but NATO's very aims now reflect a 21st century response to security threats. This combination of shared democratic values and mutual responses to threats flows from the foundational alliance of NATO.
But despite a strong foundation, the alliance faces irrelevance in the current international environment due to the lack of a primary, overarching, and uniting threat. Beyond the elimination of the Cold War threat, the EU and North America are witnessing a separation between the goals of the leaders and the commitment of citizens to the organization. Europeans point to divides in cultural values as a reason to limit their NATO involvement, and Americans feel burdened by heavily contributing to European security. While this divide cannot be bridged by a simple advertisement campaign to NATO citizens, a campaign could be used as its own grand strategy to draw attention to two salient goals of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic: we want to be able to influence each other, and in these times of financial turmoil, we want any joint action to cost less through the alliance than it would for any individual state to take on a burden on its own.
To commit citizens to NATO, I suggest a three tiered strategy through an advertising campaign reminiscent of the United States Army's "Be All You Can Be" to remind citizens of their shared values, advocate for diplomatic influence in security decision making, and highlight the economic value of NATO.
The first goal to reconfirm the commitment of NATO citizens to the organization would be through reminding us of our shared values. This will minimize the assumed value-divide. These values, taken from the Strategic Concept, are a mutual commitment to individual liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. This part of the campaign reminds citizens of ideals which are universal between Alliance members. It also assures those citizens who have witnessed state deviations from these norms in recent years that these are still our highest values.
The second part of the campaign appeals to the desire of NATO citizens to impart their values on their counterparts. Here the strategy may have to diverge between the appeals to North Americans versus the appeals to Europeans. Europeans want to emphasize negotiations and international organization partnership commitments before resorting to military action. Through NATO, Europeans are able to assure that all other means are exhausted before force is used. North Americans want all available lines of communication to influence European policy making to assure action is taken when necessary to secure American interests, especially allies' security and economic interests.
The third aspect of the grand strategy to gain citizen support is to emphasize the cost effectiveness of NATO operations as compared to unilateral action for the United States or creating a solely EU response force. During this economic crisis for Alliance members, the ability to limit costs while maintaining security is a primary concern for all citizens.
The Strategic Concept states upfront that one of the primary goals of NATO is to provide an "effective, efficient, and flexible" NATO so that "taxpayers get the most security for the money they invest in defense."
Look to the Libya intervention to understand the economic appeal to the EU-North American alliance. The costs of the Libya intervention are minuscule compared to involvement in other American interventions: in the first four months of Libya, America contributed $896 million, while in a comparable time period in Afghanistan, American involvement cost closer to $36 billion.
Not only is the Libya operation relatively inexpensive compared to unilateral action, but the authority of action stemming from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 gives the alliance a high level of international legitimacy and support. With high legitimacy for present actions and vast support both within and outside of the EU, future actions of NATO are more likely to be looked upon favorably by the international community. While NATO will act with only its own authority to defend its members, international support and legitimacy will allow a broader pursuit of its goals as outlined in the Strategic Concept.
With this three tiered campaign to create ownership and fidelity for NATO and its goals, a strong, legitimate, cost saving NATO will assure the security of its members for years to come.
Megan A. Reiss is a PhD student in Public Policy (in International Security) at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds an LL.M. in International Criminal Justice and Armed Conflict from the University of Nottingham and a B.A. from Stanford University.