". . . it is sometimes necessary to repeat what all know. All mapmakers should place the Mississippi in the same location and avoid originality. It may be boring, but one has to know where it is. We cannot have the Mississippi flowing toward the Rockies, just for a change." --Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet
In many ways NATO is a boring organization. It is a thing of acronyms, jargon, organizational charts, arcane strategic doctrines, and tired rhetoric. But there is no gainsaying that it has a Mississippi-like centrality and importance in American foreign policy. When, then, proposals are made to change it radically--to give it new (and very different) members, new purposes, new ways of conducting business, new non-totalitarian enemies (or, conversely, to dispense altogether with the concept of enemies as a rationale)--it is sensible to pay close attention and to scrutinize carefully and repeatedly the arguments that bolster those proposals. Even at the risk of making NATO boring in new ways, it is important to get things right.
Before getting down to particular arguments, the proposed expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe should be placed in the wider context that made it an issue. For nearly half a century the United States and its allies fought the Cold War, not, it was always insisted, against Russia and the Russian people, but against the Soviet regime and the ideology it represented. An implicit Western objective in the Cold War was the conversion of Russia from totalitarianism to a more or less normal state, and, if possible, to democracy.