NATO - The World's Most Powerful Think Tank

Move over dictators, strong men, terrorists and international offenders of all sorts, here comes the new and reborn NATO.                       

by Eurohawk for The International Chronicles


Move over dictators, strong men, terrorists and international offenders of all sorts, here comes the new and reborn NATO. At sixty, we’ve heard from a stream of western dignitaries, the Western Alliance is nowhere near approaching the age, which qualifies it for a well-deserved pension.


In fact its existential death struggle is aggravating and becoming clear for all to see – except for Russia, the last power on earth that for internal use still needs the image of a strong and ever more aggressive NATO encircling it. It would be funny, if only the Russians for once could laugh about it themselves. Unfortunately, the Russians concluded a while ago that humor (along with satire) is an integral element of democracy and so they got rid of it.


For the rest of us, who are living in NATO countries, the joke is running thin as well. For what is NATO in 2009? It’s difficult to say, therefore let’s start with what it is not.


It is not the world’s most powerful military alliance since it doesn’t do wars – it merely pretends to do so. It didn’t fight the Iraq war and it isn’t fighting an Afghanistan war. What it does is to provide political and legal cover for the United States and a handful of countries (which include NATO members like the UK, Canada and the Netherlands as well as non-NATO members like Australia and Georgia) to fight an actual war against the Taliban. Most of the other NATO members have long sought refuge in parts of the country where you are most likely to encounter nobody – and have sent troops with so many caveats that indeed they can only be used as traffic police.


Nothing new here, really. Remember the alliance’s ‘glorious’ Kosovo air campaign ten years ago? As a Dutch national, I will always remember that my small country – with the handful of F-16’s it had taken the trouble to modernize in the 1990s – weighed in with the largest contribution to the air campaign of any continental European country (its contribution was equal to that of France). Let this sink in for a moment, if you please.


So the writing on the wall of NATO’s demise (or aborted launch) as a fighting machine has been there for all to see. But nobody chose to see it – since it was not politically opportune – neither for the US nor for the Europeans themselves.


NATO is also not the strong political alliance that leaders are celebrating. One’s definitions of the word alliance may differ slightly, but surely when members of an alliance erect counter-alliances to stop the ambitions of the largest alliance member, we can no longer call this a functioning alliance. Yet this is exactly what happened in the run-up to the Iraq war, when leaders from France and Germany came crawling on their knees to Putin’s Kremlin to form a ‘blocking alliance’ against the US.


To be sure, the Germans and French enjoyed the overwhelming support of their citizens, who according to opinion polls had long replaced Osama Bin Laden with George W. Bush as the world’s biggest threat. You might even say that the Bush team was so dysfunctional that it organized its own resistance. There is lots of blame to go around, but let’s for clarity’s sake recognize that NATO as a political alliance died at that time.


What we are left with is a remnant of the Cold War – a bygone era – which has become a living expression – painfully, and daily – of the demise of the West, rather than a tool for signaling its resilience. Everyone recognizes the emperor is not wearing any clothes, but for lack of any alternative we continue to cheer the new wardrobe.


Of late NATO is seeking increasingly new ways in which it will remain ‘vigilant’ and relevant well beyond the 21st Century. The departing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer talks of fighting new dangers like computer hackers, disruptions of the energy supply and, the voguest of all threats, the melting Arctic ice caps. I will sleep calmly knowing that NATO will be studying these issues.


Forget about real and impending dangers, such as modern day terrorism – for it has been proven that it only divides and paralyzes this grand old dame of transatlantic diplomacy.


Indeed, at sixty, perhaps it is only fitting that NATO is turning into the world’s most powerful (or was it quarrelsome?) think tank.

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published this page in The Attic 2012-03-27 00:03:26 -0400