A Two-Tier Alliance?
If there's one thing that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - and arguably, sad to say, Vietnam - have proved is that in order to bring peace and stability to a country you need a lot of troops, a lot of money and a lot of time. All of them must be spent wisely.
That was the essence of Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous failure of vision, the deeply misguided belief that the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs was the be all and end all. But he eventually found out that once the high-tempo warfighting phase is over, then the force multipliers of US technology count for nothing.
Incredibly, the US Army has only just redrafted its manual to suggest that "stabilising countries and winning over locals required more than just military skills... and knowledge of foreign languages and local cultures are also important." Duh. That says it all.
That's why developments in NATO are alarming. The SecGen attempts to gloss over the problem, but it's certainly the case that many of the old European nations are still cashing in on the post-Cold War peace dividend. Times have changed, however. At least France under Sarkozy is beginning to pull its weight.
What NATO has to do is create a virtuous circle in Pakistan: contain the Taliban long enough for development and prosperity to flourish, which in turn will provide people with an alternative to fighting for scarce resources and political control. For that there need to be boots on the ground, because one thing's for sure - there's plenty more where the Taliban came from.
In Washington on Wednesday Gates told the House of Representatives' armed services committee that the alliance could split into countries that were "willing to fight and die to protect people's security and those who were not". He added: "My view is you can't have some allies whose sons and daughters die in combat and other allies who are shielded from that kind of a sacrifice."
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary-general, said more forces were needed to combat Taliban and al-Qaida violence but dismissed Gates' suggestion that Nato could become a "two-tiered alliance" based on a country's willingness to fight. "I do not see a two-tier alliance, there is one alliance," he said as he arrived for the Vilnius meeting.