The Op-Ed Obama & David Cameron Penned For NATO Is Progressive & Unexpected

Even before the NATO Summit began on Thursday, it was off to a dramatic start. In a strategic move, President Barack Obama published a joint op-ed with David Cameron, the British prime minister, in the British paper The Times — an op-ed that set the tone of the two-day meeting. Although the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine was going to be the centerpiece of the summit, it looks like the escalating violent threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have taken center stage.

In the op-ed, titled "We Will Not Be Cowed by Barbaric Killers," Obama and Cameron try to rally their fellow world leaders to take action against ISIS in the wake of the murder of a second American journalist, 31-year-old Steven Sotloff. The op-ed, with its strong wording and viewpoint, may be a response to recent criticisms of the president, who just last week said he had no definitive strategy for defeating ISIS.

Whether it is regional aggression going unchecked or the prospect that foreign fighters could return from Iraq and Syria to pose a threat in our countries, the problems we face today threaten the security of British and American people, and the wider world. ... That is why we have decimated core al Qaeda and supported the Afghan people. And it is why we will not waver in our determination to confront ISIL. If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong. Countries like Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers.
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But their op-ed isn't a battle cry. In fact, it's more of an invitation for NATO to enter the 21st century. Obama and Cameron are calling on NATO to "adapt to meet the new challenges" in the world, which not only includes the reign of ISIS but also the rise of global terrorism through the incredibly fast growth of technology, social media et al. But to do so, it seems like Obama and Cameron are requesting more militarization — a strange request, considering both leaders have been far more averse to putting boots on the ground than their predecessors.

So, here's what Obama and Cameron want from the alliance:

1. A New Philosophy

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No more "isolationist" approach, say Obama and Cameron. It worked in the 20th century, but the two leaders claim national security is drastically different now. Although NATO was built on a foundation of diplomacy and peace, it seems like Obama and Cameron want the alliance to take a more forceful stance on global conflicts:

Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria threaten our security at home. And NATO is not just an alliance of friends who come to the aid of each other in times of need, it is also an alliance based on national self-interest. ... We will be more forthright in the defence of our values, not least because a world of greater freedom is a fundamental part of how we keep our own people safe.

2. A Revamped Military

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Of course, a new philosophy based around outside aggression brings with it a new and improved — and bigger — military. NATO has a military capacity, including a rapid-response force that can be deployed in an emergency. There was discussion earlier this week that NATO will bolster its rapid-response force, adding more troops and placing equipment in Eastern Europe by the Russian border so it can be deployed quickly.

It looks like that plan might go into effect — and then some:

With Russia trying to force a sovereign state to abandon its right to democracy and determining the course of its future at the barrel of a gun, we should support Ukraine’s right to determine its own democratic future and continue our efforts to enhance Ukrainian capabilities. We must use our military to ensure a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, reassuring NATO members in Eastern Europe and making clear to Russia that we will always uphold our Article 5 commitments to collective self-defence. And we must back this up with a multi-national rapid response force, composed of land, air, maritime and special forces, that could deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice.

However, a stronger NATO military can only work if the other NATO nations increase their GDP defense spending to 2 percent, like the U.S. and Britain. So, good luck with that.

3. An International Coalition To Strengthen Others

As Cameron and Obama noted, the first two steps are going to take a lot of work — but there's more. The two leaders are calling on NATO members to use everything that's at their disposal to reach out to other nations and lay the groundwork for their democracies, starting with the Iraqi government. Obama has vaguely referenced an international coalition that will help strengthen and stabilize the Iraqi government in recent speeches, so here he is finally putting it in action:

We must invest in the building blocks of free and open societies, including the creation of a new genuinely inclusive Government in Iraq that can unite all Iraqis, including Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and other minority populations. When the threats to our security increasingly emanate from outside the borders of our Alliance, we must do more to build partnerships with others around the globe ... that includes supporting the partners who are taking the fight to ISIL on the ground, as we have done by stepping up support for Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces. And we should use our expertise to provide training and mentoring to forces elsewhere, whether in Georgia or the Middle East, strengthening the capacity of forces there to tackle local threats.

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