NATO Cohesion from Afghanistan to Iraq

  • Christian Tuschhoff


NATO’s decision to invoke its mutual defense clause (Article 5 of the Washington Treaty) after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon surprised the world. No one expected that the NATO Alliance would take such a bold step without extensive debate among the allies, national governments, political parties and the public. Yet, it took the North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting at the level of Permanent Representatives (not ministers) only two meetings and a few hours to determine that the attack on the United States was an attack on all of the NATO allies, provided that further evidence proved it was an attack from abroad. This step came at a time when most experts had lost faith in the value of the Alliance in light of the Kosovo experience, during which it seemed more sensible to abandon NATO in favor of other security institutions, such as the European Union or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), institutions that appeared to be geared more towards the post-Cold War security environment. At a time when states had every reason to run for the exit because they risked becoming the next terrorist target, governments decided to honor the treaty commitments that they had agreed to under very different circumstances and expectations. This decision is strong evidence of the endurance, cohesion and vitality of the Alliance. Despite academic predictions that its years are numbered, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization persists and adapts.2 It has been argued, however, that since the 12 September 2001 decision, NATO has appeared to be marginalized because the United States did not ask for substantial support nor did NATO substantially contribute to the war effort.3


Member State Terrorist Attack Territorial Integrity North Atlantic Treaty Organization Armed Attack 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Christian Tuschhoff

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