Not Whether but When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO
By James M. Goldgeier
Brookings Institution Press, 1999, 218 pp.
Strange Bedfellows: NATO Marches East
By George W. Grayson
University Press of America, 1999, 268 pp.
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.