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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One NATO Is Not Enough

In international relations, leadership often involves getting allies and friends to do things they have not done but need to do. For example, one challenge facing the United States is to get more European countries to do heavy lifting in Afghanistan, where British, Canadian, Dutch and U.S. troops are bearing the brunt of battles with Taliban forces. This needs to happen if NATO is to make good on its commitments in Afghanistan, which rightly have wide international support and legitimacy.

But the larger issue stemming from that overstrained mission is that NATO is not enough. Like the one strong horse that carries load after load, NATO is getting tired of having to serve as the proxy both for the United Nations and feeble regional organizations. While I am not, of course, authorized to speak in an official capacity, I have some thoughts, based on personal experience, on how to ease NATO's burden.

The sad truth is that there will be ever more failed states requiring long-term multinational intervention. NATO should not be expected to be everywhere. While it has evolved to handle new missions beyond Europe in the 21st century, it is not a bottomless well of troops.

NATO leaders should be asking this question: What are the other regions of the world prepared to do in order to handle the next likely conflagrations, be they in Sudan, Fiji, Congo, Somalia, Bolivia, North Korea or Nepal? We must get much more creative about preserving stability at such fault lines. Too many interventions, like the African Union's in Darfur, are done in an ad hoc and episodic manner; little wonder they usually fail.

What we need are more permanent regional security and defense organizations supported by major powers. It is in the basic national interest of the local states and the big nations, never mind any high-minded values. While states may have legitimate concerns about things like sovereignty, the alternative to constructive cooperation is the wildfire of anarchy, which spreads beyond borders and burns too many others.

The efforts of powerful Western countries to aid regional organizations' efforts in humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and nation building -- which increased after the UN proved, in situations like Somalia during the early 1990s, to be incapable -- have been inconsistent. Many arrogant policymakers continue to argue that, in effect, "superpowers don't do windows." Many major powers continue to focus their military programs on conventional warfare. The problem is that conventional wars these days are few, while failed states are many.

Rather than rely on regional groups to coalesce on their own, the United States and its allies should work to create a minimum of six additional security and defense organizations patterned on NATO -- one each for North America, South America, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia and the Middle East. Headquarters for these organizations might be, respectively, in Colorado Springs, Brasilia, Johannesburg, Beijing, New Delhi and Amman, Jordan. But troops would be trained in all states that joined.

Each of these new alliances would have to be prepared to deploy rapidly at least a brigade-level force -- about 6,000 troops with ground, sea and air capacities -- anywhere in its sphere of influence. They would also need to have diplomatic and economic teams to move in after the fighting and get the government and markets of the affected country restarted.

Considering the vast scope of each of these six regions, the individual contributions required from the members would be fairly meager, and the richer and more populous states could be expected to supplement the offerings of their less-advantaged neighbors.

Each of these new organizations would need at least one big power as a member; this economic and military linchpin would be expected to provide the trained personnel, equipment and money to begin the enterprise. Obviously, the United States would play that role in the North American group; but it and the European and Asian powers might have to take leading roles in some alliances that were geographically distant. This shouldn't be a stumbling block: After all, NATO spans the Atlantic.

Of course, all of these new alliances would need the blessing of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and their efforts would be coordinated through the organization's Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The secretary-general should be expected to welcome the arrangement: It would relieve his organization of its role in centrally planning operations and creating interim forces after conventional combat stops, at which it has floundered repeatedly.

Yes, creating these new alliances will mean that many states will have to change their approach to internal security and defense. But in this age of globalization, countries will have to be as flexible and cooperative on security matters as they have been on trade pacts.

In the end, two facts will drive many states to sign up for regional security organizations: The current system is largely dysfunctional, and joining would give each member greater international standing. For now and for the future, NATO is not enough.

Joseph R. Nunez, a U.S. Army colonel, is the chairman of the art of war department at the Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College. This comment was published in The New York Times.