In a previous post, James Poulos led us to some of the blogospheric criticisms of Giuliani’s suggestion that we should consider expanding NATO to admit other countries such as India, Japan, Singapore, Australia and Israel. While a lot of the concerns expressed are valid, I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about Giuliani’s thinking. Also, it’s important to note that this is not some iron clad proposal that Giuliani hopes to ram down everybody’s throats, but a suggestion aimed at triggering a debate over what NATO’s role should be in the modern world.
When I spoke with Giuliani’s top foreign policy advisor, Charles Hill, one thing he emphasized over and over again was the need to strengthen the “international system.” The point is that this system–including NATO–was built to confront a threat that no longer exists, and yet we have not created global institutions–or altered old ones–to deal with a new enemy that presents an entirely different set of challenges. Regardless of where anybody is on the political spectrum, there is a broad agreement that building international alliances will be necessary to confront the terrorist threat. Expanding NATO to include countries that share our commitment to fighting terrorism would be one possible way to achieve this.
In his Foreign Affairs essay, Giuliani wrote:
At a press conference I attended last Thursday, Giuliani was asked to respond to concern about his suggestion that Israel be let into NATO. “I think that’s a good concern to have, a good debate to have,” he said. “Somebody has to start a debate about NATO …I spoke to the NATO meeting in Latvia last year, and there’s a real concern within NATO that some of the troops are on the front lines and other countries keep troops further back…The idea is if we’re going to have a certain number of NATO members that aren’t going to allow their troops to fully participate, maybe we ought to look elsewhere to those who will give us troops.”
Perhaps there would be certain restrictions on the participation of new NATO members, or perhaps we should be discussing the establishment of an entirely different global alliance built around the terrorist threat. Certainly, there are many valid criticisms of either approach. But I do not see why the mere suggestion of modernizing NATO should make a presidential candidate laughingstock, as James suggests. I really do think this is a debate worth having.