NATO is generally thought of as a Cold War institution. It is better understood as a continuation of the World War II alliance that defeated Germany, although expanded and focused on a former ally, the Soviet Union. Looked at in that way, it was a response to the Munich Agreement, which symbolized the failure of Europe to prepare for war and deal decisively with Nazi Germany. NATO’s culture can be understood by thinking of how history might have changed had the British and French been prepared and proactive in dealing with Hitler.
NATO was created not only to bind together Western Europe, but to create a coalition that was prepared for war and on constant alert for threats. Most important, it had a clear mission, a consensus about the importance of the mission and a willingness to bear the real economic burden of defense and the risks of war.
The alliance continues to exist. But the consensus about what the mission is and the willingness to bear the burdens and risks of war hav