- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

NATO's overwhelming response of solidarity and empathy after last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is having a hard time finding an outlet. Perhaps the political leaders from 15 European countries who have come to Washington today for meetings will be able to offer more definite contributions.
When the member states invoked Article 5 of the NATO charter last week, they agreed that an armed attack against the United States was considered an attack against all. Should it be determined that the attack came from abroad, the allies will respond in whatever way each state deems appropriate in concert with NATO. One week after this commitment, the Bush administration and its allies are seeking to understand what they committed themselves to in this "historic" moment last Wednesday.
The problem with seeking to apply Article 5 to the current crisis lies in three areas: First, the world is attempting to apply a Soviet-era document in a post-Soviet world. Second, a commitment meant to be used by states against states is being applied by states against non-state actors. Third, NATO's eagerness to put their stated cooperation into action is being met by a perceived lack of direction by the Bush administration.
The challenges to Article 5's current application begin with the undefined nature of the attack. Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty was created to ward off the threat of an "armed attacker" against most likely a European nation. The defender against such injustice would be the United States, together with its NATO allies. The article was meant to be a mirror of the cohesion that existed among the World War II allies and a signal to the Soviets that they couldn't advance, said Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century. Military action was implied as part of that allied defense response. Now that it is the United States, which has been attacked, and its European allies, which are being asked to come to the rescue, military response by all members is not implied. Isn't something wrong with this picture.
As the administration enters the second week of the investigation, NATO members are also getting restless. Britain, Canada, Norway and Australia have offered troops and military assistance. Germany and France have offered medical and other humanitarian assistance. But frustration has increased as even offers of humanitarian assistance have gone unanswered by the United States.
"NATO nations unlocked the door and the U.S. just needs to kick it open," Mr. Schmitt said. The Bush administration should be in intense consultations now to define the parameters of the mission for the Allies. They must know if a military component, human intelligence or other aid is needed, and that the mission to eradicate terrorism will be a long-term one, said Jeffrey Gedmin, executive director of the New Atlantic Initiative said. The alliance, which was tested in the Balkans, still stands. That foundation should serve as the beginning of a new era of defense.

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