This month marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of NATO, the most successful alliance in history. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will address a joint session of Congress, an event that will allow American lawmakers to demonstrate that they still care about an alliance that President Donald Trump views as an anachronism. NATO’s supporters, however, should not be content to glory in past achievements. They should be thinking about how to adapt America’s alliances to a world in which the clash between liberalism and autocracy is worldwide.
The idea of globalizing U.S. alliances is not new. In 1961, John F. Kennedy called for a “grand and global alliance” uniting mankind against tyranny, poverty, disease, and war. During the George W. Bush years, there were calls to create a “global NATO” or a “league of democracies.” These Bush-era proposals went nowhere, in part because NATO was still recovering from the wounds inflicted by the Iraq War, and because there was not an obvious threat that would unite the world’s democracies. Today, however, circumstances are different.