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Seen as Obsolete by Some, NATO Sends Out Officers to Defend Current Role

Seen as Obsolete by Some, NATO Sends Out Officers to Defend Current Role

Lieutenant Commander Tania Price from Britain's Royal Navy said her role now is to educate people about NATO's present importance.

NATO has been around for so long that people just assume that it's an irreplaceable and essential part of international life.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Jackie Barber, Daily Bruin

SIXTY-THREE YEARS after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's establishment, some have begun to question its continued necessity, so NATO has appointed briefing officers to explain its current purpose, one of whom visited campus Monday afternoon.

Lieutenant Commander Tania Price from Britain's Royal Navy said her role now is to educate people about NATO's present importance.

NATO originally came together to form a collective defense against threats during the Cold War, Price said.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO argued its existence was still necessary and began looking for a new cause – and found several, Price said. Weapons of mass destruction, radical ideologies and global terrorism all contribute to "a new range of threats," she said.

One of NATO's efforts to find and fight global terrorism is Operation Active Endeavor, a maritime operation in the Mediterranean, she said.

Other NATO operations include Afghanistan, where it is helping rebuild and restructure after the Taliban's reign, Price said.

"All eyes of the world are on us to see how successful we will be," she said of the Afghanistan operation.

NATO does not engage in combat in Afghanistan because it was not approved by consensus within the organization. The controversy over whether to engage in combat was one of NATO's greatest trials yet, she said.

The Darfur region of Sudan is the site of another operation, she said, though she spoke of it using a pessimistic tone.

"It's ethnic cleansing at its worst," she said. "We're very rapidly moving towards 'Hotel Rwanda 2.'"

Marc Trachtenberg, a political science professor, said he believes NATO's formation was crucial.

"When there was a threat to the world balance in power posed by the Soviet Union ... an alliance that committed the United States to provide a counterweight to Soviet power was essential," Trachtenberg said.

But he added that he believes NATO is no longer necessary to the international community.

"Now that there's no longer any Soviet threat, the whole rationale for American military presence in Europe ... is much less clear. NATO has been around for so long that people just assume that it's an irreplaceable and essential part of international life," Trachtenberg said, adding that people should consider the question of its necessity.

Alfredo Baluyut, a graduate public policy student, said he attended the event in order to learn about NATO's plans for the future and its post-Cold War role.

"Its (original) reason for being has pretty much disappeared," he said.

NATO helped during Hurricane Katrina, lifting people in and out of New Orleans, Price said. It also assisted in rebuilding infrastructure in Pakistan after the country endured a major earthquake in October 2005, she said.

After Price's lecture, Baluyut said he sees NATO as still being a positive organization.

"I see them as doing more good than harm," he said.

Kal Raustiala, a law professor and director of the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, organized the lecture.

"NATO's an unusual, obviously very important organization," he said.

Some believe NATO should not be part of humanitarian efforts because it raises questions about how big the organization should get, Price said.

Currently, 26 nations belong to the organization.

According to Price, NATO is changing according to current events and the complicated nature of terrorism.

"We are really in a moment of transformation," she said.

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