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Europeans' aversion to military force is limiting NATO's ability to fight wars effectively, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
In remarks to a forum on rewriting the basic mission plan for the NATO alliance, Gates called for far-reaching reforms in an organization that was created 61 years ago as a political and military bulwark against the former Soviet Union and its Red Army.
The early successes of NATO in averting post-World War II eruptions of European conflict have led to a new set of concerns, Gates said.
"The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told an audience filled with uniformed military officers from many of NATO's 28 member countries.
The danger, he added, is that potential future adversaries may view NATO as a paper tiger.