NATO Secretary General Rasmussen addresses a news conference in Brussels.
Francois Lenoir / Courtesy Reuters

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

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