Mission impossible?

The US is a vast country, with a growing population and a myriad of cultures. Getting your message across is not always easy. NATO is no exception. So we asked five Americans how they would try to convince their compatriots of the value of NATO.

Colin Clark, AOL defence editor: If I wanted to bring the American public into a greater appreciation of NATO: I think I’d simply point out relentlessly that those Allies are part of NATO. That they are NATO. And that the military effectiveness of our country is made much greater because of the command and control agreements, the standards, the common acquisition policies that NATO has made possible, etc. But that means these politicians have to mention NATO whenever they make these statements - and I don’t know how likely that is.
Robert Haddick, managing editor of Small Wars journal and contributor to Foreign Policy Magazine: I would stress the long cultural ties between the United States and Europe that go back 400 years, 500 years or more. A lot of American heritage comes from the European continent. That is a message, I think, that resonates with a lot of Americans. The second thing I would say is that the European countries that are part of the Alliance with the United States have been some of America’s best and most reliable Allies. And that’s an important thing to maintain into the future.
Dan Futrell, US Army veteran, Harvard Kennedy Sch.: There is going to be a segment of the US that will not opt-in to issues around NATO, because they are more concerned about getting a job, they are more concerned about their health care, or whatever. And I think that’s okay. Certainly people should not be forced to know something. But what I think it means is that people who agree with the mission and the values of an alliance like NATO just ought to keep talking about it. It should continue to be part of the discussion and that really comes from, you know, talking with your friends and co-workers.
Jim Arkedis, director for the Progressive Policy Institute’s National Security Project: I found success actually occurs when you get out and you take the time to talk to the smaller regional papers, and some regionally-based websites, because these are outlets that have hundreds of thousands of readers who don’t think that they should pick up a copy of the New York Times every day. I’m thinking of the Norfolk Virginian Pilot, for example, which is an area of the country that is very heavily populated by United States Naval members, their families, maybe civilians, and they are interested in this kind of stuff. Those outlets may draw some news from the New York Times and reprint it, but ultimately some original reporting and good interviews with correspondents from these kinds of papers might help spread the word a little more effectively.
Ronda Scholting , journalist blogger and public relations expert: For most people in America, since there is such a small percentage of folks that are actively serving, they don’t really get that connection with how NATO really impacts your life. Or sometimes even how the rest of the world can impact your life. With what was going on in Greece, with the economy there, what happened to the American stock market, it’s difficult the sense of isolationism when you’re worried about your economy, mortgage payment, whether I’m going to have a job tomorrow, to sort of look outside that. So it’s a hard question to answer.