The fiftieth anniversary of America's long entanglement with Western Europe in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presents an appropriate occasion to look back on the history of that alliance. The implosion of the Soviet empire in the early 1990s left NATO seeking new reasons for its existence. Even if centrifugal forces may be greater today than were during the Cold War, none of the members wishes to abandon the alliance. While NATO has been the subject of many books, few of them have examined its history, and those few have been surveys rather than in-depth studies. The NATO archives are only beginning to be opened, but it is possible to use declassified documents in the U.S. National Archives and the presidential libraries to examine the American role. This book consists of twelve monographs and essays, most of which have appeared in conference proceedings. They examine critical issues in the organization's history and are connected by brief narratives. The result is intended to be an interpretation of a fifty-year history in which the difficulties in reaching a consensus among sixteen allies rival those dealing with the Communist adversary.
My interest in the Atlantic alliance goes back almost to the beginning of NATO, to 1951 when I joined the Historian's office of the secretary of defense. Among the duties of this office was the preparation of a monograph on the Defense Department's contribution to the Military Assistance Program in which NATO was the major beneficiary. The project was initiated by the head of the office, Rudoph A. Winnacker. It was not completed until 1980 under the sponsorship of Winnacker's successor, Alfred