- - Monday, February 20, 2017

Is NATO obsolete? That question has been debated since the end of the Cold War. I suggest that what NATO needs is a makeover for the 21st century.

NATO needs urgent reform for its new main mission: defending against international Islamist terrorism. Two initial steps can be taken: increase the number of member nations and insist that all members meet their obligations.

It’s hard to find much on which Presidents Trump and Obama agree, but they both agree that it is imperative for every NATO member to carry its weight, financially and militarily. A partnership has vitality only when everyone has skin in the game.

It is also time to make NATO stronger by expanding its membership to include other countries that are with us in the defense of our values and with the willingness to share the burden of counterterrorism. NATO could begin by inviting India, Israel, Japan and Singapore to become members.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, spoke plainly about NATO’s new mission, and its need to be strong. On Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, she said, “The Europeans alone cannot cope with fighting international Islamist terrorism. We also need the support of the United States.”

Fighting terrorism is a two-way street. The U.S. needs European support, too. America can’t fight global terrorism alone, not when most of the terrorist attackers in Europe have been native sons and tomorrow or the next day any radicalized Frenchman, Brit or Belgian can freely board a plane to vacation in New York.

The West needs NATO, but not your grandpa’s NATO. In 1949, NATO was conceived as a European, American and Canadian alliance for border defense, primarily from the Soviet threat. Today’s Russia continues to threaten Europe, as well as the Middle East through its alliance with the world’s chief supporter of terrorism, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.

While continuing to be concerned with Russia, NATO’s new mission and priority is defense against Islamist terrorism — defending not just borders, but internally, within its member countries. NATO needs to defend civilian targets, as well as military, in virtual as well as real battlegrounds, with social and psychological, as well as physical, defense measures.

NATO might even consider creating alliances with more Muslim states that share some of our defense values. Islamist terrorism is a scourge of Muslim societies. Combining forces with Muslim states would help prove that the fight against Islamist terrorism is not anti-Muslim.

The 21st century NATO has to prepare for a long haul, as the Islamists are already training the next generation now. Reuters found evidence of training — brainwashing — when it visited an area in Mosul, Iraq, recaptured from Islamic State. The retreating Islamists left an orphanage with schoolbooks designed to teach children its worldview and deadly ethos. Everything was taught in terms of bombing, killing, infidels and martyrdom. A fourth-grade math book cover was a rifle made up of equations. History books focused exclusively on the early years of Islam, emphasizing warfare. Local residents reported that new batches of children arrived at the orphanage every few weeks from outside Mosul, including some from neighboring Syria.

Islamic State itself has published videos showing its training methods for young fighters. The methods include making them execute prisoners.

Defending against today’s global terrorist threat requires a reformed, expanded and revitalized NATO.

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