After more than 60 years of being able to look to the U.S. to ensure its security — and two decades after the end of the Cold War — Europe still finds it hard to accept that it should take the lead in handling a crisis on its doorstep. Sarkozy and Cameron have been at the vanguard of the diplomatic and military efforts to stop Gaddafi, cajoling fellow European nations, Arab countries, and even Obama (according to some accounts) into action. But although France and Britain have Europe’s biggest militaries — and last November agreed an historic defense-cooperation treaty — they still rely on U.S. aircraft, missiles, intelligence and infrastructure to maintain the no-fly zone.
The handover to NATO may well herald the moment when Europe rises seamlessly to the challenge. With the U.S. stepping back from its Cold War commitments to NATO, and the E.U. talking increasingly about its security and defense activities, this is the obvious opportunity. But while Spain, Denmark, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania and Belgium are involved in the Libyan campaign, it is France and Britain that have assumed the effective command.