In This Review

Not Whether but When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO

Not Whether but When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO
By James M. Goldgeier
218 pp, Brookings Institution Press, 1999
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Strange Bedfellows: NATO Marches East

Strange Bedfellows: NATO Marches East
By George W. Grayson
268 pp, University Press of America, 1999
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These two books tell how NATO expanded to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Grayson is a loose, fluid writer, but he gets some facts wrong; Goldgeier is more careful. Although its importance was understandably exaggerated by both advocates and enemies, this story is significant -- roughly comparable to the importance of NATO's 1952 expansion to include Greece and Turkey. Former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and then-Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke get their share of credit. Yet both authors (especially Grayson) tend to treat midlevel bureaucrats as the heroes in the story, focusing on American interagency arguments rather than international politics. The key task for these officials was to make NATO enlargement a priority for the president. Once Clinton was committed, there were few ways the initiative could go wrong, given the wide Republican support. But both books have a problem with context. While this play unfolded, the Balkans were burning and Russia was smoldering. In these accounts, the players and the audience barely notice the odd wisps of smoke that drift across the stage.