NATO: A lost soul in a new century
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) should have been disbanded at the end of the Cold War. It had served its purpose as a defense alliance with a mandate to defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. With the 1991 collapse of the USSR the Cold War ended and there was no reason for the continued existence of NATO. It should have been disbanded.
But the US, was then and even more so now, the dominant partner of the alliance and it had other plans. NATO members were most obliging in America’s plan to use NATO as an instrument of its imperialist agenda. NATO members more than happy to oblige allowed what was a legitimate defense alliance transformed into an instrument of American foreign policy. In other words, NATO becomes a toady to America’s self-destructive pursuit of global hegemony.
There are many observers who fear a catastrophic war with global implications where nuclear weapons are used. An attack on Iran might well be the trigger event that starts this war. The US, and especially Israel, seem oblivious to the consequences of such a conflict. Israel’s Natanyaho, like the Bush administration in its 2003 invasion of Iraq, lusts for war with little regard for the consequences of such an attack. While the US publically deters Israel it would like nothing more than to see Iran neutralized as a regional power.
As Israel tries to enlist US support America no doubt calculates its role in such a conflict and part of that calculation is the support it would receive from its sycophantic NATO partners. In its present posture as an obedient servant to America’s every wish NATO would become complicit in yet another carnage that could dwarf both Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike, Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has the ability to retaliate.
If, NATO, on the other hand, said that it is no longer unconditionally available for doing America’s dirty work it might actually deter unwarranted future conflicts and precipitate a much needed counterbalance to America’s violent addictions.
If, for example, former British Prime Tony Blair, leader of a NATO country, had set about to discourage the American invasion of Iraq rather than be a more than willing partner he would have saved that country from wreck and ruin and been a global hero in response to the largest universal peace demonstrations ever held. Instead, he goes down in history indelibly as “Bush’s poodle.”
In a world armed to the teeth and where the mere availability of arms ensures ongoing wars, hopefully, we can avoid larger more devastating conflicts. NATO though, in its supine position is part of the problem. Its naïve compliance to America’s every wish merely serves to facilitate serial warfare.
NATO’s naïve compliance also makes it look foolhardy when it comes to weapons procurement. The F35 Lightning JSF is supposed to be the low cost versatile jet fighter of the future but has turned out to be a technically flawed, sinkhole for tens of billions. NATO members obediently invested in the project and are now on the hook for an over-priced lemon that is still years away from active service and where the final cost is still unknown.
Insanity, as they say, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Our collective amnesia is pathetic as we seem to have erased the 20th Century where tens of millions died in wars, yet a decade later the world is armed to the teeth, we have serial warfare, covert warfare and out of control militarism as a cancer that eats away at our economies.
Every year, on Remembrance Day, we hypocritically honour those who have laid down their lives for our freedoms and then repudiate their sacrifice as we mindlessly lust for war.
In his ground-breaking book Ill Fares the Land, historian Tony Judt laments the absence of great statesmen in our era: “Politically speaking, ours is an age of pygmies.” He is quite right that in this era of denialism our political elites effortlessly slide over conspicuous truths, pander to corporatism, endless warfare and various corruptions. There are no statesmen who stand tall speaking out against endless self-destructive political expediencies. We are in the era of “junk politics” where rhetoric triumphs over action and language is stripped of its meaning.
Judt also states the obvious that is somehow beyond our grasp: “If we do not talk differently, we shall not think differently.” For him we are at a critical turning point in history where we must, “reconceive the role of government.”
“We have freed ourselves of the 20th century assumption-never universal but certainly widespread- the state is likely to be the best solution to any given problem. We now need to liberate ourselves from the opposite notion that the state is-by definition and always- the worst available option.”
Still further he states:
“After decades of relative eclipse, nation-states are poised to reassert their dominant role in international affairs.”
NATO is a collective of nation-states that has been too acquiescent to the wishes of the US as a dominant partner. These nations must learn to”talk differently” and “think differently.” By their naïve toadying they cater to a dangerous imbalance of power. Nation-states must –if for no other reason-“reassert their dominant role in international affairs,” to restore a balance of power among nations. As history has shown, where a singular super power dominates, where there is an imbalance of power, war becomes inevitable-imperial Japan, imperial Germany and now imperial America. Where there is naive acquiescence probability drifts toward certainty.
Where naked unilateralism free wheels a genuine multilateralism must be constituted. Essential to this constitution is a return to setting viable international treaties and a regard for international law.
Since the end of the Cold War, and especially since 9/11, global populations have been treated to endless exaggerated threats and the manufacture of phantom enemies to justify the wars of the 21st century and out of control military spending. Russia and China as the purported enemies are miscast as neither shows any sign of having imperial ambitions and their comparatively meagre defense spending is no doubt largely in response to NATO’s out of control spending.
We are now in a similar situation to that of the Cold War era where the concept of MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction- prevails. The USSR and the US tacitly came to realize war between them was unthinkable as the retaliation could be so swift that there would be no winner- just mutual annihilation. Today the dynamics are somewhat different and more complicated but the world is armed to the teeth with a whole new generation of devastating weaponry, capable of wreaking havoc, but the concept of MAD still applies. Military spending goes on and on knowing full well that the presence of so much weaponry makes war inevitable.
NATO has suffered an unacceptable role reversal from defense alliance to perpetrator of serial warfare. Member nations serve as a multiplier of America’s self-destructive imperial overreach while helping it defray the appalling cost of maintaining empire-“sharing the burden” and sharing the tyranny.
In May of this year NATO will be holding a summit conference in Chicago USA. This is a golden opportunity for it to answer Judt’s clarion call to speak and think differently, to shift from being part of the problem to being a progressive part of the solution.
It might address the fact that we have been all too willing to abandon diplomacy, genuine multilateralism and international law in favor of naked militarism. It might want to discuss a renewed role for itself independent of US dominance. This summit might want to address the issue of why we have to live in a world that is constantly preparing for and fighting wars, where trillions are pissed away on military spending for wars that we cannot afford to fight fiscally, morally or at the risk of our own annihilation. Why are we so willing to squander vast resources on a ruinous militarism when there are other critical issues urgently needing our attention?