IT IS hard to imagine that any American administration could mess up U.S. relations with NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was established in 1949.
But, by lagging behind the evolution of relationships in the world and insisting on pursuing failed policies to their end, President Bush seems to be doing just that.
The President prevailed upon NATO to take up the defense of Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban. Even though Afghanistan has been ground zero of the war on terrorism since 9/11, from the U.S. point of view the struggle there has been done on the cheap compared to the five-year war in Iraq. America's allies in NATO understand that, but they do not support the war in Iraq and do not feel like picking up the U.S. slack in Afghanistan.
In addition, the administration seems determined, for whatever reasons, to add as many Eastern European nations to NATO as possible.
Whether to prove something to Russian President Vladimir Putin or to bolster Mr. Bush's legacy by having expanded NATO to 29 countries, the United States is now pushing the alliance to add three more marginally qualified members - Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia.
That was one of the principal objectives of Vice President Dick Cheney's recent overseas trip, during which ABC News reported him as comparing Mr. Bush to Abraham Lincoln in wartime.
These issues will come to a crunch at the NATO summit in Romania next month. It would not be wise policy for the United States to let bad policies in the final months of the Bush Administration damage NATO, still America's most important alliance.