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Why Red Lines Matter

9:15 AM, Sep 14, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Paul Bremer emails with this observation:

Fareed Zakaria’s piece in the Post today contains a real howler. Arguing against defining red lines, he states that to "define a red line in advance would commit the United States to waging a war; no country would make such a commitment." 

He seems to have slept through most of the 20th century, and would be advised to review the NATO treaty, signed by Harry Truman, which does precisely that, as do many of the existing security treaties to which the United States has for decades been a party. These agreements were the direct outgrowth of the second world war, brought about by the persistent, and wrong headed, refusal of European countries in the 1930s to establish clear red lines for German actions. And that NATO red line, reaffirmed by eight presidents of both parties, contributed in no small part to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Article Five of the NATO treaty reads:

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

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