The United States and NATO Out-Of-Area Disputes: Does the Cold War Provide Precedents, or Merely Prologue?
In March of 1949, the Washington policy community was busy preparing a lavish reception to celebrate the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. Secretary of State Dean Acheson made one notable contribution to the planning. He asked the US Army band to play “It Ain’t Necessarily So” during the festivities. After a year of difficult negotiations, Acheson’s cynicism was understandable. But even if the treaty talks had been easier, Acheson would have had ample reason to question the future of NATO. History provided him with few reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for a large, voluntary alliance system in peacetime. As a student of international relations he recognized that the term unconditional alliance is an oxymoron, and that such arrangements usually collapse due to the inevitable tension between the general interest which brings the signatory nations together and the differing particular interests which are always right beneath the surface.
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