For several years now disputes have rent the Atlantic Alliance. They have focused on such issues as nuclear strategy and control, the organization of Europe and the nature of an Atlantic Community. However, the most fundamental issue in Atlantic relationships is raised by two questions not unlike those which each Western society has had to deal with in its domestic affairs: How much unity do we want? How much pluralism can we stand? Too formalistic a conception of unity risks destroying the political will of the members of the Community. Too absolute an insistence on national particularity must lead to a fragmentation of the common effort.

One does not have to agree with the methods or policies of President de Gaulle to recognize that he has posed an important question which the West has yet to answer. There is merit in his contention that before a political unit can mean something to others, it must first mean something to itself. Though de Gaulle has often acted as if he achieved identity by opposing our purposes, our definition of unity has occasionally carried overtones of tutelage.

There is no question that the abrupt tactics of the French President have severely strained the pattern of allied relationships which emerged after the war. But no one man could have disrupted the Alliance by himself. Fundamental changes have been taking place in the nature of alliances, in the character of strategy and in the relative weights of Europe and the United States. A new conception of allied relationships would have been necessary no matter who governed in Paris or in Washington. The impact of particular statesmen aside, a farsighted policy will gear itself to dealing with these underlying forces. It will inquire into the degree to which objectives are common and where they diverge. It will face frankly the fact that different national perspectives-and not necessarily ignorance-can produce differing strategic views. It will examine the scope and limits of consultation. If this is done in a new spirit on both sides of the Atlantic, a more vital relationship can take the place of the previous U. S. hegemony.


Since the end of World War II an important change has taken place in the nature of alliances. In the past, alliances have been created for three basic reasons: (1) To provide an accretion of power. According to the doctrine of collective security, the wider the alliance, the greater its power to resist aggression. (2) To leave no doubt about the alignment of forces, It has often been argued that had Germany known at the beginning of both World Wars that the United States-or even England-would join the Allies, war would have been averted. (3) To provide an incentive for mutual assistance beyond that already supplied by an estimate of the national interest.

To be sure, even before the advent of nuclear weapons, there was some inconsistency among these requirements. The attempt to combine the maximum number of states for joint action occasionally conflicted with the desire to leave no doubt about the collective motivation. The wider the system of collective security, the more various were the motives animating it and the more difficult the task of obtaining common action proved to be. The more embracing the alliance, the more intense and direct must be the threat which would produce joint action.

This traditional difficulty has been compounded in the nuclear age. The requirements for tight command and control of nuclear weapons are to some degree inconsistent with a coalition of sovereign states. The enormous risks of nuclear warfare affect the credibility of traditional pledges of mutual assistance.

As a result, most of the theories of nuclear control now current within the Western Alliance have a tendency either to turn NATO into a unilateral U. S. guarantee or to call into question the utility of the Alliance altogether. American strategic thought verges on the first extreme; some French theorists have hinted at the second.

As for the United States, official spokesmen have consistently emphasized that the European contribution to the over-all nuclear strength of the Alliance is negligible. European nuclear forces have been described as "provocative," "prone to obsolescence" and "weak." For a considerable period after the advent of the Kennedy Administration, some high officials held the view that on nuclear matters the President might serve as the Executive Agent of the Alliance. Since then the United States has made various proposals for nuclear sharing, the common feature of which has been the retention of our veto over the nuclear weapons of the Alliance.

However sensible such schemes may appear from the point of view of the division of labor, they all would perpetuate our hegemony in nuclear matters within the Alliance. Allies are considered necessary not so much to add to over-all strength as to provide the possibility for applying power discriminately. In these terms, it is not surprising that some allies have considered their conventional contribution as actually weakening the overall strength by raising doubts about the nuclear commitment of the United States.

According to the contrary view, alliances have lost their significance altogether. The French theorist, General Gallois, has argued, for example, that nuclear weapons have made alliances obsolete. Faced with the risk of total destruction, no nation will jeopardize its survival for another. Hence, he maintains, each country must have its own nuclear arsenal to defend itself against direct attack, while leaving all other countries to their fate.

This formula would mark the end of collective security and would be likely to lead to international chaos. Under conditions of growing nuclear power on both sides, it would be idle to deny that the threat of nuclear retaliation has lost some of its credibility. The Gallois theory would, however, transform a degree of uncertainty into a guarantee that the United States would not come to the assistance of its allies, thus greatly simplifying the aggressor's calculation. Moreover, in order to protect itself in this new situation, each country would need to develop not only a nuclear arsenal of its own but also foolproof procedures for assuring the Soviets that a given nuclear blow did not originate from its territory. If Gallois is right, and each country is unwilling to risk nuclear devastation for an ally, it will also want to prevent itself from being triggered into nuclear war by a neighbor. Thus each country will have a high incentive to devise methods to protect itself from a counterattack based on a misapprehension. The Gallois theory would lead to a multiplication of national nuclear forces side-by-side with the development of methods of surrender or guarantees of non-involvement.

When views such as these carry influence on both sides of the Atlantic, it is no accident that much of the debate on nuclear matters within NATO turns on the question of confidence. We tend to ask those of our allies possessing nuclear arsenals of their own: If you trust us, why do you require nuclear weapons? Our nuclear allies reply: If you trust us, why are you concerned about our possession of nuclear weapons? Since the answer must inevitably emphasize contingencies where either the goals or the strategy would be incompatible, the debate on nuclear control within NATO has been inherently divisive.

The concentration of nuclear power in the hands of one country poses one set of problems; the range of modern weapons raises another. In the past, a threatened country had the choice either of resisting or surrendering. If it resisted, it had to be prepared to accept the consequences in terms of physical damage or loss of life. A distant ally could be effective only if it was able to bring its strength to bear in the area of conflict.

Modern weapons have changed this. What each member country wants from the Alliance is the assurance that an attack on it will be considered a casus belli. It strives for deterrence by adding the strength of a distant ally to its own power. But, equally, each state has an incentive to reduce damage to itself to a minimum should deterrence fail. The range of modern weapons provides an opportunity in this respect for the first time. In 1914 Belgium could not base its defense on a strategy which transferred to Britain the primary risks of devastation. In the age of intercontinental rockets this technical possibility exists.

Part of the strategic dispute within the Alliance, therefore, involves jockeying to determine which geographic area will be the theater of war if deterrence fails (though this obviously cannot be made explicit). A conventional war confined to Europe may appear relatively tolerable to us. To Europeans, with their memory of conventional wars, this prospect is not particularly inviting. They may find a nuclear exchange which spares their territory a more attractive strategy and the threat of nuclear retaliation a more effective deterrent. The interests of the Alliance may be indivisible in an ultimate sense. But this does not guarantee the absence of sharp conflicts on methods to reach these objectives.

In short, the destructiveness and range of modern weapons have a tendency to produce both extreme nationalism and neutralism. A wise alliance policy must take care that in dealing with one of these dangers it does not produce the other.

The nature of alliances has changed in yet another way. In the past, one of the reasons for joining an alliance was to impose an additional obligation for assistance in time of need. Were each country's national interests completely unambiguous, it would know precisely on whom it could count; a formal commitment would be unnecessary. Both the aggressor and the defender would understand what they would confront and could act accordingly. Wars could not be caused by a misunderstanding of intentions. They would occur only if the protagonists calculated the existing power relationships differently.

Traditionally, however, the national interest has not been unambiguous. Often the aggressor did not know which countries would ultimately be lined up against it; Germany in 1914 was genuinely surprised by the British reaction to the invasion of Belgium. Occasionally the defenders could not be certain of the extent of their potential support-as was the case with the Allies in both wars regarding U. S. participation. Historically, the existence of an understanding on this point, tacit or explicit, has often been the determining factor in the decision to go to war. In the decade prior to World War I, the staff talks between Britain and France, which led to the transfer of the French fleet to the Mediterranean, were one of the key factors in Britain's decision to go to war in August 1914. (Thus the talks achieved one objective of traditional alliances: to commit Britain to the defense of France. They failed in another: to make the opposing alignment clear to the potential aggressor.)

One of the distinguishing features of the nuclear period is that the national interest of the major powers has become less ambiguous. In a bipolar world, a relative gain for one side represents an absolute weakening of the other. Neither of the major nuclear countries can permit a major advance by its opponent regardless of whether the area in which it occurs is formally protected by an alliance or not. Neutral India was no less assured of American assistance when the Chinese attacked than allied Pakistan would have been in similar circumstances. In these conditions, the distinction between allies and neutrals is likely to diminish. A country gains little from being allied and risks little by being neutral.

This inevitably results in the weakening of allied cohesion, producing what some have described as polycentrism. But polycentrism does not reflect so much the emergence of new centers of actual power as the attempt by allies to establish new centers of decision. Polycentrism is virulent not because the world has ceased to be bipolar, but because it essentially remains so. Far from doubting America's military commitment to Europe, President de Gaulle is so certain of it that he does not consider political independence a risk. He thus adds American power to his own in pursuit of his policies.

No matter how troublesome a major ally may be, it cannot be allowed to suffer defeat. France's policy is made possible by our nuclear umbrella-a fact which adds to the irony of the situation and the annoyance of some of our policy-makers. Our frequent insistence that in the nuclear age an isolated strategy is no longer possible misses the central point: for this precise reason allies have unprecedented scope for the pursuit of their own objectives. And the more the détente-real or imaginary-proceeds, the more momentum these tendencies will gather. We live in a curious world where neutrals enjoy most of the protection of allies and allies aspire to have the same freedom of action as do neutrals.

These conditions turn coalition diplomacy into an extraordinarily delicate undertaking. Appeals which were effective in the past either work no longer or turn counterproductive. Thus the warning that certain European actions might lead the United States to withdraw is bound to have consequences contrary to those intended. If believed at all, it demonstrates that there are at least some contingencies in which the United States might abandon its allies, thus magnifying pressures for European autonomy.

The scope for real Third Force policies is vastly overestimated. Realism forces close association between Europe and the United States whatever the vagaries of individual statesmen. But it has happened often enough in Western history that an underlying community of interests was submerged by subsidiary rivalries. Ancient Greece foundered on this discord. Western Europe nearly tore itself apart before it submerged its rivalries. And now the Atlantic area faces the challenge of how to combine common action with a respect for diverse approaches to the central problem.


The destructiveness of modern weapons gives the strategic debate unprecedented urgency. The speed with which they can be delivered complicates the problem of command and control in a way unimaginable even a decade and a half ago. Doctrinal and technical disputes occur within each government. It is not surprising, then, that they should rend the Alliance as well.

The novelty of modern weapons systems gives the disputes a metaphysical, almost theological, cast. Never before in history has so much depended on weapons so new, so untested, so "abstract." No nuclear weapons have been exploded in wartime except on Japan, which did not possess means of retaliation. No one knows how governments or people will react to a nuclear explosion under conditions where both sides possess vast arsenals.

Moreover, modern weapons systems are relatively untested. During the debate in this country over the nuclear test-ban treaty, a great deal of attention was focused on the adequacy of our warheads. In fact, the other components of our weapons systems contain many more factors of uncertainty. The estimated "hardness" of Minuteman silos depends entirely on theoretical studies. Of the thousands of missiles in our arsenal, relatively few of each category have been thoroughly tested. There is little experience with salvo firing. Air-defense systems are designed without any definite knowledge of the nature of the offense. A high proportion of the phenomena discovered in nuclear testing have been "unexpected."

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the purpose of modern weapons is deterrence: to prevent-by a particular threat-a certain course of action. But deterrence is primarily a psychological problem. It depends on the aggressor's assessment of risks, not the defender's. A threat meant as a bluff but taken seriously is more useful for purposes of deterrence than a "genuine" threat interpreted as a bluff. Moreover, if deterrence is successful, aggression does not take place. But it is impossible to demonstrate why something has not occurred. It can never be proved whether peace has been maintained because NATO pursues an optimum strategy or a marginally effective one. Finally, the longer deterrence lasts the more color will be lent to the argument that perhaps the Communists never intended to attack in the first place. An effective NATO deterrent strategy may thus have the paradoxical consequence of strengthening the arguments of the quasi-neutralists.

Even if there is agreement about the correct weapons system, there may be disagreement about how it can best be coupled with diplomacy to produce deterrence. How does one threaten with solid-fuel missiles? As these are always in an extreme state of readiness, how then does one demonstrate an increase in preparedness such as historically served as a warning? From a technical point of view it is highly probable that missiles can perform most of the functions heretofore assigned to airplanes. The shift to missiles and the elimination of airplanes envisaged by the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric[i] makes a great deal of sense technically. But has adequate attention been given to the kind of diplomacy which results-particularly in crisis situations-when the retaliatory threat depends on solid-fuel missiles in underground silos? During the Cuban missile crisis, dispersing SAC planes to civilian airports proved an effective warning. What will be an equivalent move when our strategic forces are composed entirely of missiles?

These questions do not permit clear-cut answers. Yet they are at the heart of many of the disputes within NATO. The United States has held the view that deterrence was best achieved by posing a credible threat. And it has related credibility to whether the risks, if deterrence failed, were tolerable. The Europeans for a variety of reasons have generally been of a different opinion. They have maintained that deterrence depended on posing the most extreme risks. They have been prepared to sacrifice a measure of credibility in favor of enhancing the magnitude of the threat. This debate has been inconclusive because it ultimately depends on a psychological, not a technical, judgment.

The controversy originated in an attempt by the United States in 1961 to change the relative weight to be given to conventional and nuclear weapons in NATO doctrine. The method of effecting this change was not new-though it was urged with new insistence. NATO had been presented many times before with American blueprints and had seen its consultative role limited to discussing the technical implementation of an American conception. What gave the dispute its particular urgency was that the advent of a new, highly analytical American Administration coincided with the growing strength and self-confidence of Europe and the deliberate policy of President de Gaulle to assert a more independent role.

In the process, many of the issues that had been obscured in the previous decade by the curious, somewhat one-sided nature of the transatlantic dialogue came for the first time into sharper focus. This highlighted a difference in perspective between the American and the European conception of NATO which had existed since its beginning.

When the Korean War raised the spectre of Soviet military aggression, both sides of the Atlantic made a serious effort to turn NATO into a more effective military instrument. However, given the enormous disparity in military and economic strength between the United States and Europe, the primary concern of the European countries was to commit the United States to their defense. They saw in NATO above all a means to obtain American protection, by which was meant American nuclear protection.

However, the Europeans had too much experience with the tenuousness of formal commitments not to strive for more tangible guarantees. This led to pressures for the stationing of American troops in Europe. European reasoning was similar to that ascribed to a French marshal in 1912 when he was asked how many British troops he wanted for the outbreak of a European war. He is reported to have replied: "We need only one, who we will make sure is killed on the first day of the war." In the nuclear age, the price of a guarantee has risen to something like five divisions.

With so many American troops permanently stationed in Europe, it was only sensible to try to give them some meaningful military mission. Even during the period of the doctrine of massive retaliation, NATO forces were larger than the prevailing strategic concept seemed to demand. Indeed, the number was somewhat inconsistent with it. Despite our commitment to a retaliatory strategy, we constantly pressed for a European contribution of ground forces. The Europeans, though they agreed to a succession of NATO force goals, never really believed in the doctrines used to rationalize them. Rather they saw in their military contribution a form of fee paid for United States nuclear protection. The Europeans agreed to our requests. But they tried to see to it that their actual contributions would be large enough to induce us to keep a substantial military establishment in Europe, yet not so high as to provide a real alternative to nuclear retaliation. They were opposed to giving the conventional forces a central military mission; but they also resisted any hint of American withdrawal.

This ambivalence was brought into the open by the shift in United States strategic doctrine in 1961. The American attempt to strengthen the forces for local defense had the paradoxical consequence of bringing to the fore the issue of nuclear control which for many Europeans had always been the crux of the matter. For the first time, U. S. strategic views were publicly challenged, at first hesitantly, then ever more explicitly. Europe had now gained sufficient strength and confidence so that the mere enunciation of an American policy no longer guaranteed its acceptance. The peremptory way in which the United States proceeded only sharpened the controversy. And France added fuel to the flames by giving European misgivings their most extreme formulation.

But if French policy has deliberately sharpened conflicts, the United States tendency to turn an essentially psychological issue into a technical one has unintentionally exacerbated disagreements beyond their intrinsic significance. Our spokesmen often leave the impression that disagreement is due to the ignorance of our allies, and that it is destined to yield ultimately before extensive briefings and insistent reiteration. Faced with opposition, we are less given to asking whether there may be some merit in the arguments of our allies than to overwhelming them with floods of emissaries preaching the latest version of our doctrine.

But the real problem is not that the Europeans fail to understand our quest for multiple options. They simply reject it for themselves. When the issue is Asia or Latin America, Europeans favor an even more flexible response than we do; with respect to the defense of Europe, their attitude is more rigid. As long as the United States retains ultimate control over nuclear weapons, the European incentive is bound to be exactly the opposite of ours. Rather than permit a "pause" for "appreciating the wider risks involved," Europeans prefer to force us to make our response as automatic as possible.

This problem has little to do with whether the United States could afford to give up Europe. It is rooted in the nature of sovereignty and made more acute by the destructiveness of nuclear weapons. Robert Bowie, one of the most eloquent spokesmen of the dominant school of U. S. thought, criticized British nuclear policy before the Assembly of the Western European Union as follows: "Britain has retained its national command structure and the right to withdraw them at its option. This means that they certainly could not be counted on by any of the others to be available in case of need."[ii] [Italics supplied.] If this concern is real regarding British nuclear forces, which are, after all, assigned to NATO, it must be even stronger regarding U. S. strategic forces which remain under exclusive American control.

The problem can then be summed up as follows: Exclusive U. S. control of nuclear strategy is politically and psychologically incompatible with a strategy of multiple choices or flexible response. The European refusal to assign a meaningful military mission to conventional forces in Europe is incompatible with the indefinite retention of large U. S. forces there. If the United States prizes a conventional response sufficiently, it will have to concede Europe autonomy in nuclear control. If the Europeans want to insist on an automatic nuclear response, a reconsideration of our conventional deployment on the Continent will become inevitable. Refusal to face these facts will guarantee a perpetuation of present disputes and increasing disarray within NATO.

The United States-European dialogue on strategy is confused further by the nature of the intra-European debate. Many of those who applaud our views do so for reasons which may not prove very comforting in the long run. We must be careful not to take every agreement with us at face value. Acquiescence in our opinion can have two meanings: It can represent either a sincere commitment to Atlantic partnership or disguise a neutralist wish to abdicate responsibility. For the American nuclear umbrella, now sometimes exploited by President de Gaulle for his own purposes, can also be used-and more dangerously for the West-to support policies amounting to neutralism. In many countries it is the leaders and groups traditionally most committed to national defense who have developed views on strategy which challenge American concepts; while some of those most ready to accept U. S. strategic hegemony have in the past been the least interested in making a serious defense effort. We may therefore have to choose between our theories of nuclear control and Atlantic cohesion, between the technical and the political sides of Atlantic policy.


Some of the strains in Atlantic relationships have resulted from factors outside anybody's control. Many reflect the growth in Europe of the very strength and self-confidence which American policy has striven to promote since the end of World War II. Others have been caused by the tactics of President de Gaulle, whose style of diplomacy is not really compatible with the requirements of coalition. We share the responsibility through too much insistence on technical solutions and too little allowance for the intangibles of political judgment and will.

But perhaps the deepest cause of transatlantic misunderstandings is a difference in historical perspective. Americans live in an environment uniquely suited to an engineering approach to policy-making. As a result, our society has been characterized by a conviction that any problem will yield if subjected to a sufficient dose of expertise. With such an approach, problems tend to appear as discrete issues without any inner relationship. It is thought that they can be solved "on their merits" as they arise. It is rarely understood that a "solution" to a problem may mortgage the future-especially as there is sufficient optimism to assume that even should this prove to be the case, it will still be possible to deal with the new problem when it materializes.

But Europeans live on a continent covered with ruins testifying to the fallibility of human foresight. In European history, the recognition of a problem has often defined a dilemma rather than pointed to an answer. The margin of survival of European countries has been more precarious than ours. European reasoning is likely to be more complicated and less confident than ours. This explains some of the strains in Atlantic relationships. Americans tend to be impatient with what seems to them Europe's almost morbid obsession with the past, while Europeans sometimes complain about a lack of sensitivity and compassion on the part of Americans.

In the fall of 1963, our newspapers were filled with derisory comments about French man?uvres then taking place. The scenario of these man?uvres supposed that an aggressor force was attacking France through Germany. France's allies had surrendered. As the aggressor's armies were approaching her borders, France resorted to her nuclear weapons. It is, of course, easy to ridicule this scenario by contrasting the small size of the French bomber force with the magnitude of the disaster envisaged. But the crucial issue is not technical. It arises from the fact that France has undergone shattering historical experiences with which Americans find it difficult to identify. The scenario of the French man?uvres recalled importantly-perhaps too rigidly-France's traumatic experience of 1940, when foreign armies attacked all along the Western front and France's allies collapsed. The British Fighter Command remained in England; the fact that this critical decision was wise does not affect the basic psychological point. Moreover, the French disaster came at the end of two decades in which France almost single-handedly shouldered the responsibility for the defense of Europe while her erstwhile allies withdrew into isolation or offered strictures about France's obsession with security. The nightmare that some day France might again stand alone goes far deeper than the obstinate ill-will of a single individual.

A comparable problem exists in Germany. Washington has at times shown signs of impatience toward the German leaders and their constant need for reassurance. Secretary Rusk has been reported more than once to be restless with what he has called the "pledging sessions" which the Germans seem so often to demand. However, insecurity is endemic in the German situation. A divided country with frontiers that correspond to no historical experience, a society which has lived through two disastrous defeats and four domestic upheavals in 40 years, cannot know inward stability. The need to belong to something, to rescue some predictability out of chaos, is overwhelming. The memories of our allies should be factors as real in the discussions of our policy-makers as the analysis of weapons systems.

The importance of this difference in historical perspective is compounded by the continuing disparity in strength between the two sides of the Atlantic. While it has become fashionable to speak of Europe's new-found equality, it is important not to take it too literally. Europe has gained in strength over the past decade and a half. It can and should play an increasingly responsible role. But for the foreseeable future we are likely to be by far the stronger partner.

It is important to be clear about this because it requires us to show unusual tact and steadiness. Many of our allies have been guilty of unilateral actions far more flagrant than ours. But when we act unilaterally, disarray in the Alliance is almost inevitable. Drastic changes in U.S. strategic doctrine or action without adequate consultation- such as the removal of I.R.B.M.s from Italy and Turkey or the withdrawal of troops from Germany-create either a sense of European impotence or increase the pressure for more autonomy. Bilateral dealings with the Soviets, from which our allies are excluded, or about which they are informed only at the last moment, are bound to magnify Third Force tendencies. When our allies resist such U. S. policies and practices, it is not necessarily because they disagree with our view but because they are afraid of creating a precedent for unilateral changes in other policies. (Even statements of substantive disagreement may be a smoke-screen for deeper concerns.) Moreover, many allied leaders who have staked their prestige on certain U. S. policies can suffer serious domestic consequences if we change them drastically.

Thus the voice of Europe reaches us in extremely distorted form. President de Gaulle sharpens all disputes and even creates them in pursuit of his policy of independence. But some other leaders do not give full expression to their disquiet because they do not want to undermine further the solidarity on which their security is thought to depend. Whereas France exaggerates her disagreements, some other countries obscure theirs. Thus the dialogue with Europe is often conducted on false issues, while real issues-like the future of Germany, or arms control, or the role of tactical nuclear weapons-are swept under the rug in order not to magnify the existing discord.

We, in turn, are faced with the problem that technology and political conditions are changing so rapidly that no policy can be maintained over an indefinite period of time. How to shape policies that are responsive to change while maintaining the confidence of our allies? The future vitality of the Western Alliance depends on understanding the possibilities and limits of the consultative process.


The always difficult problem of coalition diplomacy is magnified by three factors:

(1) The fact that the two superpowers are committed to the existing balance provides their European allies with wide scope for purely national actions.

(2) The internal workings of modern government are so complex that they create a variety of obstacles to meaningful consultation. Nations sometimes find it so difficult to achieve a domestic consensus that they are reluctant to jeopardize it after wards in international forums. The tendency of the United States to confine consultation to elaborating its own blueprint reflects less a quest for hegemony-as some of our European critics occasionally assert-than a desire to avoid complicating still further its own decision-making process.

(3) As governments have found in their domestic experience, access to the same technical data does not guarantee unanimity of understanding. In an alliance of states very unequal in size and strength, and with widely varying histories, differences are almost inevitable. And they are likely to be made all the more intractable by a technology of unprecedented destructiveness and novelty.

Thus consultation is far from being a magic cure-all. It will not necessarily remove real differences of geography, perspective or interest. Nevertheless, an improvement in the consultative process should be one of the chief concerns of the Alliance.

The dominant American view has been that consultation would be most effective if there were a division of labor within the Alliance according to which the United States retained control over nuclear weapons while Europe specialized in conventional forces. Similarly, it has been suggested in Great Britain that the independent British nuclear deterrent could be given up in return for a greater voice in American policy.[iii] The proposed NATO Multilateral Force on which the United States increasingly stakes its prestige is basically a device to make its nuclear hegemony acceptable.[iv]

In other words, the thrust of our policy is to create a structure which makes it physically impossible for any of the allies (except the United States) to act autonomously. This raises the following problems: (a) How effective will consultation based on such premises be? (b) Is such a system as useful for the long-term political vitality of the Alliance as it is for the conduct of a general nuclear war?

With regard to the first of these, any process of consultation must be responsive to the following three questions: Who has a right to be consulted? Whose voice carries weight? Who has enough competence?

These three levels are not necessarily identical. Many agencies in our own government have a right to express their views, but not all carry the same weight. When some of Britain's Labor leaders suggest that they want a greater voice in our decisions in return for giving up British nuclear weapons, the answer has to be: Like whose voice? Like that of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency? Or the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Or the State Department? Or the Commerce Department? In our interdepartmental disputes, clearly, the outcome often depends on the constituency which the agency or department represents. The weight given to advice is inevitably related to the competence that it reflects.

If the United States retains indefinitely an effective monopoly of nuclear power, we would probably find in time that Europe simply does not have sufficient technical competence for its views to carry weight. And this in turn is likely to breed irresponsibility on both sides of the Atlantic. A right of consultation without the ability to make a serious judgment may, in fact, be the worst possible system. Over a period of time it is bound to reduce Europe's voice in Washington; while in Europe it must produce a sense of impotence or extreme nationalism. Indeed, it may enable neutralists to focus all Europe's anti-nuclear sentiment against the United States. Some European autonomy on nuclear matters-preferably growing out of existing programs-seems therefore desirable.

The emphasis placed on a unitary strategic system for the Alliance has reversed the proper priorities. The real challenge to the consultative process is less in the field of strategy than in diplomacy. The ability to fight a centrally controlled general war is useful; but the ability to devise common policies in the face of a whole spectrum of eventualities is much more important.

If the Alliance cannot develop procedures for a common diplomacy-or at least an agreed range of divergence-it seems contradictory to insist on a system of unitary strategic control. When NATO has proved unable to develop even a common trade policy toward the Communist world, it is not surprising that countries are reluctant to entrust their survival to a NATO ally, however close. Policies on a whole range of issues such as Suez, the Congo, negotiating tactics over Berlin or the defense of Southern Arabia have been unilateral or divergent. The United States is now in the curious situation of staking a great deal of its prestige on establishing the NATO Multilateral Force and a system of unitary strategic control while East- West negotiations or the war in Southeast Asia or arms control are dealt with more or less unilaterally.

In re-assessing these priorities, it may be important to ask how unitary a system of control for strategy and diplomacy is in fact desirable. What kind of structure is more vital in the long run: An Atlantic system that automatically involves all partners? Or one that permits some autonomy? On many issues-particularly East-West relations-united action is essential. With respect to others, some degree of flexibility may be desirable. Over the next decades the United States is likely to find itself increasingly engaged in the Far East, in Southeast Asia and in Latin America. Our European allies will probably not consider their vital interests at stake in these areas. President de Gaulle's views on this subject are far from unique in Europe, even if his methods are.

If the Atlantic system is absolutely centralized, policy may be reduced to the lowest common denominator. The Soviets may use our involvements elsewhere to blackmail Europe. This, combined with the lack of interest among Europeans in the issues involved, may strain the Alliance beyond the breaking point. On the other hand, if Europe is accorded some capacity for autonomous action-military and political-its concern would be no greater, but the temptation for Soviet adventures might be reduced. Put positively, a structure which permits a variety of coördinated approaches toward the new nations could enhance the vigor of our policies, the self-confidence of our allies and the long-term vitality of the Alliance. Paradoxically, the unity of the Atlantic area may well be furthered by a structure which grants the possibility of autonomous action while reducing the desire for it.


The most delicate problem faced by the United States in its Atlantic policy, then, is to promote cohesion without undermining the self- confidence and the political will of its allies. Formal structures can help in this effort. But when they become ends in themselves they may cause us to beg the key question by the very terms in which we state it.

Some of the current theories of Atlantic partnership run precisely this risk. According to the dominant U.S. view, shared by such wise Europeans as Jean Monnet, there is only one reliable concept of Atlantic partnership- that described by the image of "twin pillars" or a "dumbbell," composed of the United States and a united Europe organized on federal lines with supra- national institutions. This is, of course, one form of Atlantic partnership. But is it wise to stake everything on a single approach? History is rarely such a linear and simple process.

Every European state is the product of some process of integration at some time over the past four centuries; and Germany and Italy achieved unity less than one hundred years ago. European history suggests that there is more than one way to achieve integration. In Italy, it came by way of plebiscite and annexation abolishing the individual states. In Germany, unification occurred under the aegis of one state but as the act of sovereign governments which remained in existence after unity was achieved. The resulting structure clearly did not lack cohesiveness.

Moreover, how valid is a concept of European integration which is rejected by both France and Great Britain? In the outrage over Britain's exclusion from the Common Market, it has not always been noted that Britain's view (shared by both major parties) of the organization of Europe is almost identical with that of France. Both countries would find it difficult, if not impossible, to commit themselves now to a federal structure and a common parliament. It only adds to the irony of the situation that many of the most ardent advocates of Britain's entry into the Common Market both here and in Europe are also dedicated proponents of a federal Europe. How do they propose to reconcile these two objectives?

There may be various roads to European coöperation. The one traced by the Fouchet Plan-calling for institutionalized meetings of foreign ministers and sub-cabinet officials-is not the least plausible, and indeed it is the one most consistent with British participation. It has the advantage of producing some immediate progress without foreclosing the future. It would also permit a more flexible arrangement of Atlantic relations than the "twin pillar" concept now in vogue.

While the United States should welcome any European structure that reflects the desires of the Europeans, it would be unwise to stake everything on one particular formula. A very rigid conception of Atlantic partnership can easily fail to do justice to the richness and variety of relationships possible within the Atlantic context. Is it really possible or useful to lump the countries of Europe together on all issues? Are they always inherently closer to one another than any of them is to the United States? Do the Dutch inevitably feel a greater sense of identification with the French, or the British with the Germans, than either does with the United States? If we separate the question into political, military or economic components, is the answer always uniform and does it always point in the same direction? Would it not be wiser to retain some flexibility? There is a grave risk that too doctrinaire an approach will produce either a collapse of political will, or more likely, a new and virulent form of nationalism, perhaps even more intense than the nationalism of the patries. A Europe largely constructed on theoretical models might be forced into an anti-American mold because its only sense of identity will be what distinguishes it from America. Our bent for structural remedies sometimes blinds us to the fact that institutions produce their own momentum and that this cannot be foreseen from the proclamations of their founders.

In assessing our own Atlantic policy, we must cut through slogans to such questions as: Is it wise to insist that the only road to European unity is by institutions unacceptable to both France and Britain? Is the best way to solve the strategic problem by staking our prestige on a device-the Multilateral Force-which compels us to oppose the existing nuclear programs in Europe while bringing a host of presently non-nuclear countries (among them Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey) into the nuclear business, occasionally with only their reluctant assent? Can it be in the interest of NATO, of the Federal Republic, or of the United States, to make Germany the senior European nuclear partner in the Multilateral Force and to create an institution which can rally all anti-U.S., anti-German and anti-nuclear sentiments against us?

European history teaches that stability is unattainable except through the coöperation of Britain, France and Germany. Care should be taken not to resurrect old national rivalries in the name of Atlanticism. The United States should not choose a special partner among its European allies. The attempt to woo one, or to force European countries to choose between us and France-a tendency which despite all disavowals is real-must magnify the European nationalism which French policy has already done so much to foster.

Our concern thus returns to the somewhat out-of-scale figure of President de Gaulle. A sense of frustration resulting from his policies, and even more from his style, has caused many to see him as individually responsible for the failure to realize many deeply felt objectives. This is not the place to attempt an assessment of his character. Conceivably he is as petty, as animated by remembered slights, as some of our commentators suggest. It is also possible that a man so conscious of his historic role has larger purposes. At any rate, we will not know until we have had a real dialogue with him. In a period of détente with Soviet Russia, is it impossible to conduct a serious conversation with a traditional ally? President de Gaulle has repeatedly expressed his willingness to coördinate strategy rather than to integrate it. We should make new efforts to explore what he means. His 1958 proposal of a Directory is not acceptable when confined to Britain, France and the United States. Do we know his attitude toward a wider forum?

Irritation with de Gaulle's tactics does not change the fact that in his proposals of 1958 for a Directory he put his finger on perhaps the key problem of NATO. In the absence of a common foreign policy-or at least an agreed range of divergence-the attempt to devise a common strategy is likely to prove futile. Lord Avon and Dean Acheson have come to the same conclusion. The time seems ripe to create a political body at the highest level-composed perhaps of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Federal Republic and Italy-for concerting the policies of the nations bordering the North Atlantic. Such a body should discuss how to implement common Atlantic purposes and define the scope of autonomous action where interests diverge. It should also be charged with developing a common strategic doctrine.

Conceivably this could end the sterile scholastic debate over the relative benefits of integration as against coördination. It might heal a rift which if continued is bound to hazard everything that has been painfully built up over 15 years. Both the United States and France are able to thwart each other's purposes. Neither can create an alternative structure-France even less than we. As in a Greek tragedy, each chief actor, following a course that seems quite reasonable, is producing consequences quite different from what he intends.

This should not happen. The problems will become insuperable only if technique is exalted above purpose and if interest is too narrowly conceived. The West does itself an injustice by comparing its disagreements to the rifts in the Communist bloc. In the Communist world, schisms are inevitable and unbridgeable. Western societies have been more fortunate. Their evolution has been richer; they have forged unity by drawing strength from diversity. Free from the shackles of a doctrine of historical inevitability, the nations of the West can render a great service by demonstrating that if history has a meaning it is up to us today to give it that meaning.

[i] "Our Defense Needs: The Long View," Foreign Affairs, April 1964.

[ii] Proceedings of Western European Union Assembly, Ninth Ordinary Session, December 3, 1963.

[iii] See "The Labor Party's Defense and Foreign Policy," by Patrick Gordon Walker, Foreign Affairs, April 1964, p. 391-398.

[iv] For the author's view on the NATO Multilateral Force see, "NATO's Nuclear Dilemma," The Reporter, March 28, 1963.

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