Finally, NATO must address its members’ lack of willingness to serve. In October 2006, Gen. James Jones -- then NATO’s top commander -- estimated that member nations had placed more than 100 restrictions on what their troops could do. At least half of those restrictions, he said, significantly hampered alliance operations. In fact, only six NATO nations placed no restrictions on the forces they sent to Afghanistan.
NATO was a critical reason the West won the Cold War. Just by existing, it proved to the Soviets that many nations were united against them, ready to defend freedom at a moment’s notice. To remain relevant, the alliance must beef up its forces to send the same message to today’s threat, radical Islam.
It’s worth noting that Gates’ criticism didn’t upset everyone, since some nations have well-trained troops. “U.K. forces have extensive experience in counterinsurgency” and maintain a “good working relationship with the U.S. and other NATO allies,” the British Ministry of Defense said.
Britain is confident because it knows its troops are prepared. The truth doesn’t hurt in London. But to make NATO the alliance it needs to be, we must extend that truth to more capitals across western Europe.