A sad story

My nine year old came home from school today and said he was very upset.  He told me that a group of his friends had been having a party at the house of a very posh friend and a few of them had been telling stories when one of the group started mocking another kid for spending too much time showing off. When the other kid heard this, he took offence at the idea he had been showing off at all and called the first child two-faced because they had been nice to each other earlier in the day. My son was upset to see the other boys treating each other this way because they were all members of a group that stopped others bullying them. He was worried they might not stop the bullying if they didn’t get along better.

Ok, true confession: this is all fake news. I don’t have a nine year old son at all and the entire story is fictitious.  However, anyone who has followed what has been happening at the NATO meeting over the last two days may have seen uneasy similarities in my fictitious story of squabbling children and the leaders of the western alliance meeting at Buckingham Palace and in Watford.

Sad if children squabble for apparently trivial reasons. Sad when egos are too prominent, and reason takes a back seat. Sad when important friendships are jeopardised. But tragic when all this happens at a meeting of NATO: the alliance that is designed to stand as a bulwark and deterrent against external aggression.

Far from feeling deterred, an expansive Russia or China might rightly conclude that the pact that binds NATO together will be more undermined by fragile egos internally than by any action taken by a third party.

President Macron has accused the alliance of lacking strategic direction. It is also clear that it lacks alignment, that the relationships are strained, and that team working is therefore impoverished. Any hope for potential operational effectiveness cannot be sustained unless the strategic and interpersonal domains receive attention; urgent attention.

by Professor David Pendleton

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