Despite the high-profile sniping, officials and policy experts in Washington and Brussels say the NATO alliance is fundamentally strong. They point to four key developments and trends:
First, they say, it's far more important that France and Germany assist in the war against terrorist cells than in the war against terrorist regimes. Of the 60 million people in France, for example, nearly one in 10 is Muslim. The CIA and FBI want to work closely with French intelligence to identify, track, and bust up al-Qaeda, Iraqi, and other terrorist networks. Politicians in both countries publicly carping at one another won't make their work any easier.
Second, as Bob Low, a senior European editor for Reader's Digest, asks: Is it really so bad that most Germans are anti-war? Do we really want to see Germans eager to send Panzer divisions into the Middle East? "I'd much rather see Germans wearing sandals than jackboots," says Mr. Low.
Third, a growing number of NATO countries-Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary-are publicly backing the United States.
Fourth, with Jordan and Saudi Arabia cautiously coming on board-and Russia subtly signaling it may soon be on board as well-watch for a rush of other "on the fence" countries to join as the countdown to "regime change" ends.