Last month, a Turkish warship came one step away from firing missiles at a French naval vessel off the coast of Libya. In response, Paris suspended its involvement in Operation Sea Guardian — a multinational maritime effort to provide security in the Mediterranean Sea and halt the arms trafficking fueling Libya's ongoing civil war. Initially, only eight member states — notably excluding both the U.S. and U.K. — supported France's official complaint. This was only the latest incident in the increasingly frequent — and exceedingly awkward — tensions between several of Washington's core North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.
Indeed, from South America to East Asia, NATO members stand divided over many critical foreign policy issues of the moment.
On the subject of NATO — as with much else — President Trump is obtuse and ill-informed. Only here he isn't exactly wrong. In fact, recent events raise serious questions about the 70-year old alliance's lingering relevance and utility — as in what, so to speak, NATO is for?
Sure, The Donald is hardly a bridge-builder, but the media's temptation to blame him alone for NATO's growing fissures ultimately misses the mark — and the backstory. While his foreign policy fiascos have widened its divisions, the alliance's inherent contractions and hypocrisies preceded Mr. Trump.
Indeed, some of the current fracture traces back to NATO's complicated genesis; the rest, mainly, to the problematic pivot after the collapse of its justification-boogeyman - the Soviet Union - and its leading American member's hyper-imperial post-9/11 turn.