The obvious starting point of analysis here is that the odds of any American troops dying in a war for the defense of Albania are vanishingly small. And that’s the point. Albania is a small and weak country that one could imagine some neighbor maybe trying to push around with military force. But nobody’s going to want to take on NATO over some beef with Albania. Meanwhile, over the longer term the goal would be to bring the entire Balkans into a common security architecture that could help ensure the peace among all of them.
Recall that NATO’s great achievement in the 1940s and 50s wasn’t just that it helped face down the Soviets. That was important, of course, but in many ways equally important was that it allowed the various countries of Western Europe to rebuild their militaries without those militaries appearing threatening to other European countries. ~Matt Yglesias
Of course, the odds of the U.S. having to go to war to defend Estonia are much greater, and that is a better example of NATO expansion that is positively dangerous. The entry of Albania is not necessarily quite so dangerous as it is absurd. It’s probably true that Albania will not pull us into a war, because no one threatens Albania, and no one is likely to threaten them (the main territorial dispute they have is with Greece, a NATO member, so presumably Albania would not start a war with NATO, either). Albania will contribute little or nothing to the alliance, except to become a market for weapons systems (which is one of the real reasons for this round of expansion), and in the event that another state did attack Albania Washington would simply pay no attention to its obligations, because it would dawn on most everyone that Americans fighting for Albania is pointless. Extending defense guarantees that we have no intention of keeping is an inherently bad idea, and I do not believe for a moment that Washington is going to come to Albania’s defense. Never mind the problem of allying oneself with a government that promotes irredentism and regional instability.
Now that the USSR is gone and those European militaries have been shrinking, can we please close down the entire shop? NATO has outlived its usefulness, which this latest round of expansion underscores. There is no menacing or aggressive power that threatens any of these countries. I think this is what Krikorian is really getting at: there is no reason why the United States should be guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Albania, or any other Balkan states, because it is of no consequence to us whether Albania and its neighbours are at war. To the extent that anything happening in Yugoslavia did matter to the West, it was the risk to NATO’s “credibility” that seemed to be invoked most often as the strategic rationale for intervening. But alliances that serve no purpose don’t need credibility, because they are obsolete. Nothing could better demonstrate that obsolescence than the incorporation of the land of Enver Hoxha into NATO.
Update: Clark joins the swelling anti-NATO chorus over on @TAC.