NATO, the Sequel

BRUSSELS – The Arab Spring entered a new phase with the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, but it is still far too soon to pronounce North Africa stabilized. International peacekeeping arrangements may yet be needed in a Libya riven by ethnic and religious cleavages, and policymakers should think about long-term arrangements and consider a new collective security framework for the Maghreb region as a whole. In short, the region needs a new NATO – the North Africa Treaty Organization.

The unrest and instability of the Arab Spring – a term that many Arab political activists reject in favor of revolution or uprising – is far from over. And the best way to calm tempers and move towards democratic governments and more vibrant economic development is for Europe to balance economic cooperation with a regional approach to security.

The Arab League failed to play an adequate role as the popular uprisings gathered momentum, and NATO says that its own role in North Africa is coming to an end. The Alliance has neither the political appetite nor the financial resources to remain involved in Libya. With tensions between the country’s western and eastern parts likely to persist, the way ahead is probably a force of United Nations peacekeepers drawn from Asia or Africa, along with a distinctly Arab international security mechanism. Hence the idea of NATO II.

But it would be preferable to create a new North African security umbrella under the aegis of the European Union, rather than to link it to NATO. European governments know that they must be in the vanguard of a strategy to reconstruct the Arab world’s failing economies, and it would make sense to introduce a strong security component to their development partnerships.