More Allies, More Problems

Expanding NATO to include Australia, Japan, Israel, India, and various other friendly nations is a marginally better idea, I'd say, than trying to start a "League of Democracies" from scratch. Maybe. But I'm going to have to agree with the paleocons and pomo-cons: It's still a really lousy idea.

Leave aside the issue of whether it's wise to belong to a treaty organization that might require us to intervene on India's behalf if they were attacked by Pakistan, or send troops to Lebanon the next time Hezbollah launches a major assault on Israel. I'm afraid I just don't see what pressing problem an expanded NATO is supposed to solve. Have we conducted any military operations lately where we slapped our forehead and said "wow, if only we had the Japanese locked into a mutual-defense pact, everything would be going much more smoothly?" Back when the Clinton Administration was struggling to convince the Western European powers to intervene more forcefully in Bosnia, did anyone think to themselves "if only we had the Israelis, the Australians, the South Koreans and the Singaporeans at table as well, this would be a piece of cake?"

I suppose one possible idea is that adding India to our primary military alliance would give us more local credibility if NATO wanted to intervene in, say, Bhutan, or that adding Singapore would give our potential operations in Borneo more multilateral cred. (Let's leave aside the question of what adding Israel would do to NATO's credibility in certain areas of the world.) But isn't that what we have diplomats for? When we needed to intervene in Afghanistan, we persuaded the Pakistanis and the Uzbeks and the Russians to go along with it, even though they weren't NATO member states; conversely, when we felt we needed to invade Iraq, we couldn't persuade the French and the Germans to sign on to the invasion, even though they were theoretically our "partners" in NATO. In neither case did the military alliance, or lack thereof, matter nearly so much as old-fashioned diplomatic skill (or, in the latter case, the lack thereof).

Maybe there's some important military advantage to a bigger, badder NATO that I'm missing - smoother joint anti-terror operations, maybe? But more likely, it's just pointless chest-thumping - the equivalent of Romney's pledge to "double Guantanamo" or Thompson's brag about how we're better at defending liberty than everybody else in the whole wide world put together.