Sure, "NATO's operations in Libya got off to a rocky start," says James Joyner in Foreign Policy. The western military alliance faced a Goldilocks-like dilemma — slammed by The Arab League for being too aggressive, while rebels "bitterly complained the alliance wasn't doing enough." When NATO failed to quickly curtail the fighting, those critiques led to inevitable handwringing over whether Libya represents the organization's downfall. But such "dire predictions" are all too hollow. Indeed, NATO has already proven that, as an interventionist force, it provides value greater to western nations than the sum of their individual parts. Here, an excerpt:
The political value in a NATO operation is that the alliance's name is a stand-in for the developed world and operating under its name confers a legitimacy that national flags don't. This is particularly the case for Britain and France, whose colonial histories bring enormous baggage in the Middle East and North Africa — not to mention the United States, with its own more recent complicated history in the region. With the notable exception of Russia, NATO does not have imperialistic connotations. In its 62 years of operation, the alliance has deployed its might sparingly: humanitarian protection missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Libya; maritime missions against the Somali pirates; and fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. While not all uncontroversial, these operations all had widespread international approval....
Though NATO's bureaucracy is a favorite butt of jokes by even the alliance's staunchest supporters, its existence provides a massive head start. As a standing alliance, NATO has been the main venue for making sure that different countries' command structures and systems can work together, creating standard operating procedures, and ensuring a degree of uniformity in weapons and equipment.
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