Gates' comments only reinforce what has been know for sometime. NATO is nothing without the US military. The sham of "NATO" commanding Odyssey Dawn is only as good as the US carriers and drones supporting the operation.
NATO is a self-protection pact formed after WWII to protect Europe from a Soviet invasion. At that time, NATO consisted of 16 countries and relied heavily on US military bases for defense. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO's role was in question but despite an ambiguous future its membership climed to 28 including former Warsaw Pact nations.
NATO assumed a more expeditionary war during the global war on terror. Most of the Eurpean nations were against sending forces outside the continent. However, pressure from Washington and London resulted in NATO troops being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also shows how the US has come to depend on NATO to provide the illusion of broad support when in reality it is just another US military operation.
With the demise of the Soviet Union and advent of the European Union, does there still need to be a NATO instead of a European defense force?