How capable is NATO?

Saw this item over at Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) as he cites this item over at OxBlog (Patrick Belton) that says NATO really can't do much outside of Europe.

Of 1.4 million soldiers under Nato arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. Then there are the problems of interoperability: there is a recurring problem of coalition-wide secure communications which can be drawn on in operations. Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.
55,000 non-US troops in all of NATO?

It that right?

I did a search with the key words, size of nato armies, and got this web page. The article supports Beltran's point that NATO isn't very capable but the 55,000 number might be a bit low.

It is Kosovo which has both brought the problem to a head and made it plain to see. European armies number over 2 million in total and less than 2% of this military manpower is deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia. Yet this is putting an enormous strain on national military systems. Furthermore, despite the significant sums spent on defence, Europe lacks certain basic, up-to-date military capabilities and cannot effectively deploy its forces out-of-area without US support. Something is wrong, clearly.
Recent experience indicates that when soldiers are called on to meet a security challenge today, it is likely not only to be to fight, but to do a whole host of other duties. The Bosnia and Kosovo operations have demonstrated not only the need for soldiers [including of course airmen and sailors] to fight in what for the individuals concerned are very 'high-intensity operations', but also to be capable of a wide range of very stressful and demanding skills that modern 'peacekeeping' requires. These cover the whole spectrum from diplomat through policeman and arbitrator to first-aid worker, hospital manager or city administrator.
tomorrow's armies will have to have a much broader range of competence than was the case in the past. The individual soldier will have to be more flexible and have a wider training and education, and the forces will have to be capable of rapid, decisive, and sustained deployment abroad.
Ten years ago, at the end of the Cold War, most European countries had relatively large armed forces based on conscription and large-scale mobilization, and designed to fight in defence of national territory. Neutral countries [such as Finland and Switzerland] had to maintain very large force structures capable of independent operation in order to make their defence credible. Members of NATO, secure under the US nuclear umbrella, could afford to spend less and maintain smaller armies, and still have credible defence through mutual support and deterrence.
Ten years on, under pressure of finance [the need to find a peace dividend] and logic [no Soviet Union = no threat of WWIII and therefore no need for large armies], most European countries have reduced their budgets and force structures considerably. But many have not yet fundamentally changed their structure. Instead of large conscript armies for national defence, they now have smaller conscript armies.

Not only that, but these armies, East and West, are today very reduced in capability. This is due to a combination of political and financial reasons. Conscription periods have been shortened [in many cases to below the desirable minimum time]. Equipment has not been upgraded. Munition stocks [especially of the more expensive high-tech items] have been allowed to fall. Training has been cut back [both to save money and under pressure of civilian societies no longer prepared to accept low-flying aircraft or roads blocked with tanks]. European NATO armed forces allowed themselves to become dependent on US 'force multiplier' technologies which were available because of coalition warfare.
If a modern army is to be sustained on operations, experience shows that a simple rule can be applied. Land forces need to have at least three times the manpower of the actual battalions making up the force structure deployed. To generate a combat force [including all necessary direct support functions] of 60,000 will require a total force of some 200,000. In addition, a large number is needed to staff the infrastructure to support the whole. To buy a modern regular army, you need to buy five or six men for every one you want to deploy, and many would argue that this estimate is on the low side.
UPDATE: Did a little more digging around the NATO web page and found this item describing the military command structure. Beltran's number maybe based on this? Since NATO was a defensive alliance for most of its history its military forces were meant to "stay-at-home" and perhaps not very capable at integration with other forces. With the Yugoslavia crisis of the late 90s, NATO deployed outside its area and they were able to assemble 50,000 to do so. Excerpt:
In 1999, following the end of the Alliance's air campaign to end the repression and ethnic cleansing directed against the Kosovar Albanians by the Serb leadership, a Kosovo Force (KFOR) was created in accordance with the decision of the UN Security Council, with NATO at its core, to implement the Military Technical Agreement concluded on 10 June by the KFOR Commander and Yugoslav representatives. The first elements entered Kosovo on 12 June. As agreed in the Military Technical Agreement, the deployment of the security force was synchronised with the departure of Serb security forces from the province. By 20 June, the Serb withdrawal was complete and KFOR was well established in Kosovo.

At its full strength KFOR comprised some 50 000 personnel. It is a multinational force under unified command and control with substantial NATO participation, and arrangements for participation by the Russian Federation. More than 12 other non-NATO nations participated in the initial troop contributions to KFOR.
I wonder if the EU has a military component? Certainly, the economic integration is taking place with the EURO and the opportunities to cross borders to work.

I think NATO has a larger membership roster than the EU. But at some point, will NATO be absorbed into the EU? NATO was founded to defend Western Europe from the USSR/Warsaw Pact. That threat has ended so NATO needs a new mission or should dissolve.

Certainly Europe complains about the US and we need to understand where that comes from. But the US does have a legit concern about Europe's reluctance to use force when needed. Political pressure is fine and good. Economic sanctions can help. But sometimes military force is needed. What if military forces were sent during the Rawanda Crisis? Might the outcome have been different? And right now, another prime candidate for intervention is the potential genocide in Darfur in the Sudan.

Is Europe's reluctance to be a fellow "world policeman" driven by pacifism or a desire to oppose the US or by the practical reality that they can't send anybody?

Europe should consider beefing up its military because there are still places where "policemen" are needed and the USA can't and shouldn't always play that role.