This week, Chicago will host the 25th Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The stakes are high: the capitals of nearly all NATO member nations are wrestling with unprecedented economic challenges -- fiscal crises that have forced unwelcome austerity measures, declining defense budgets, and weak economic growth -- as well as a rapidly evolving security situation, including rogue nations with nuclear ambitions, unrest in the Middle East, instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and global terrorism.
Noting all these challenges, critics have lamented the "decline of the West," and have started to question NATO's relevance. It is hardly the first time they have done so. Just seven years after NATO's founding, General J. Lawton Collins, the former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, summarized the criticism of NATO in a 1956 Foreign Affairs essay defending the alliance:
Since the Geneva "summit" conference [in 1955], questions have been raised as to whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has outlived its usefulness. Is it outmoded in these days of possible thermonuclear war? Is it sufficiently flexible and viable to meet the new threats posed by the "atomic stalemate" between East and West? These and other similar questions have arisen in the minds of responsible men.
More than fifty years later, I have been hearing similarly misguided rhetoric from naysayers in the halls of the Capitol and in forums across the Atlantic. So how should NATO respond to these arguments about its alleged weakness?
With strength and pride. At this year's summit, the West must push back and remind the world that the United States and its NATO allies still wield unrivaled power to shape the world for the better. This summit should demonstrate NATO members' commitment to the principles that have fed its strength for two generations: perseverance and a dedication to meeting the challenges of the day. Members should set an agenda for NATO that will both address its shortfalls and build on its successes -- starting with the recent operations in