(Gen. Lauris Norstad - leaving the picnic early)
As my colleague Jason Sigger over at C&L pointed out this morning, it's been hard getting other NATO allies to commit their fair share of troop strength during the current Afghan crisis. Sad to report, it's always been that way.
In fact, it's had wide ranging political ramifications for quite some time. As evidenced by this Meet The Press interview from January 1963, then NATO Commander General Lauris Norstad was asked why it was difficult to some NATO allies (in that case France) to commit to a security force in the region of Europe.
Marquis Childs: “General Norstad, during your six years as Supreme Commander of NATO, one of the important duties was to try and persuade the French, and in the last four years President DeGaulle, to integrate his forces with NATO. But progressively the direction has been the other way, toward not . . toward against integration. What is your explanation for this?
Norstad: “Mister Childs you’re laying a tremendous responsibility on my shoulders, I’m not so sure I deserve all of this. But, to answer your question, I think General DeGaulle has made it extremely clear throughout the years, and perhaps particularly in his press conference earlier . . last week that he feels very strongly that France must have some independent strength. He is increasing the strength of France including the military strength, but he is not putting it within the Alliance. I may deplore this, as a matter of face I have deplored this, but I think we should recognize first that he is increasing strength. I hope that circumstances, and these are political considerations and not military considerations as you appreciate – I hope that circumstances will permit him to commit these forces to the Alliance in the future.”
Granted, Norstad was a big believer in nuclear weapons as a viable and active option. Something that staggers the imagination today. But even at the height of the Cold War, it was difficult to get support from a unified NATO without walking through a political minefield in order to do it. It was widely thought the fallout between Norstad and DeGaulle quickly aided in his premature resignation from his NATO command
It begs the question just why there still is a NATO, since it really was the byproduct of the Cold War and could be considered something of a historic curio. But I will leave that up to my colleagues to discuss at length and with better information at their disposal.