Fred Kaplan thinks that the U.S. may be able to count on NATO to provide cover for attacking Syria:
But where can Obama turn for the legitimacy of a multinational alliance? Nobody has yet said, but a possible answer is, once again, NATO—this time led perhaps by Turkey, the alliance’s easternmost member, whose leaders are very concerned by the growing death toll and instability in Syria just across their southern border.
It’s always possible that alliance members could be pushed into authorizing a mission to fight yet another “out of area” war that they don’t really support, but I doubt that the U.S. will be able to use NATO for political cover this time. Most NATO members didn’t want the alliance involved in Libya, but they grudgingly went along in authorizing a mission that was fought by a handful of member states. That was probably only possible because there was a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya. In the absence of such an authorization, it is doubtful that NATO members are going to endorse what would end up being an unauthorized (and therefore illegal) U.S.-U.K.-France military operation against the Syrian government. Kaplan makes the Kosovo comparison, but as far as most European members of NATO are concerned this is nothing like Kosovo. As absurd as it was to argue that NATO’s “credibility” was at stake in Kosovo, most European saw the Balkans as their responsibility in a way that definitely does not apply to Syria. In addition to this, most European members are tired of being pulled into what are primarily Anglo-American wars. Germany isn’t going to be interested in another foreign war for NATO. The alliance’s eastern European members were already unhappy that the alliance was being pulled into Libya, so it seems unlikely that they are going to give Obama cover for military action that he doesn’t have to take. No, if the U.S. stupidly goes ahead with launching strikes on Syria it is going to have to do it without the pretense that NATO has approved it. As a military matter, that might not change very much, but it would convey how little support in the West there is for this course of action.