NATO's Destined Failure
Paris, April 4, 2008 – The NATO summit in Bucharest contributed nothing to an explanation of why there should still be a NATO. Once upon a time, as we know, it was created to keep the Russians out and the Germans down. To hear Washington, Ottawa and the Secretary General of NATO in Brussels, the problem now is to get the Germans up, rearmed, and ready to fight the Russians, should that come, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Is this such a good idea? Nearly everyone in Europe, and certainly the Germans themselves, are content with a Germany without a general staff, whose army does peacekeeping, and builds bridges in developing countries.
They are also content with a Germany that does not consider that it has a national enemy, or any threat to its well-being other than inflation, global warming, genetically modified vegetables, and EU-imposed speed limits on the autobahn.
The commentator Robert Kagan famously described Western Europe as a postmodern paradise selflessly defended by the United States. But defended from what? He said at the time he wrote that America was defending Europe from Saddam Hussein and "the ayatollahs, Kim Jong Ils and Jiang Zemins [now departed]" with a Hobbesian realism (compared to Europe's Kantian lack of realism). Very few in Europe, then or now, really believe themselves threatened by these people. It's the United States that feels threatened.
This is the problem in NATO today. When George Bush addressed the alliance delegates on Wednesday, he added Darfur to the list of problems that his version of NATO must confront. He gave a fresh definition of the alliance and its mission: "It is no longer a static alliance focused on defending Europe from a Soviet tank invasion. It is now an expeditionary alliance that is sending its forces across the world to help secure a future of freedom and peace for millions."
This is the ever-expanding NATO the United States wants. It is likely to continue pressing for this global NATO whatever the result of the presidential election in November. Global expansion is in the national DNA.
As that expansion happens, Australia, Japan, possibly India, and others will be pressed to join, and soon there will be the long-sought universal alliance of democracies, including some newcomers who are not quite so democratic, such as Ukraine and Georgia. The United States will head it all, leading the world towards an ever-more radiant future.
As long ago as 2003, Condoleezza Rice told the International Institute for Strategic Studies that an international system of balance of power among several major states produced competition and potential conflict, leading to war. "We tried this before," she warned. The answer, she said, is a global alliance of democracies, a global NATO.
Others tried global alliance before, when it was called Communism or imperialism, and it came to a bad end. This American effort will come to a bad end too, although one can hope for a less than disastrous one, just for the reason that sets it apart from the previous efforts: that it is voluntary.
There will have to be American pushing and shoving to get and keep the members of the League fighting in Afghanistan, Iran, Darfur, Somalia, Palestine, and whatever the other countries that come to be identified as terrorist-harboring, terrorist training-grounds, failing nations, rogue nations, or recruits to the Axis of Evil. But in the long run it won't work, simply because the democracies are democracies. They won't go along.
They won't do so, first of all, because few of them believe in such a world or want such a crusade. To reverse the application of what Condoleezza Rice said, nations have "tried this before," and it ended in war.
They also won't agree because the effort simply is not serious. It is constructed on political fantasies and counter-verities, and half-baked ideas. It's like George Bush's announcement before leaving Washington that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Malaki's sending his national army to Basra was "a defining moment in the history of free Iraq," restoring central government authority in Basra and ridding it of "criminal elements."
It was in fact a political power-play concerning oil and sectarian and electoral power in Basra. The army (even with hasty U.S. support) was quickly blocked by Moqtada al-Sadr's militia resistance. There was an uprising in Sadr City in Baghdad and bombardment of the Green Zone. Malaki's demands and threats that the militia hand over its arms were ignored. And everyone, including the Iraqi president's representatives, went to Qom, in Iran (for heaven's sake!) for the Iranians to establish a cease-fire in Basra.
Neither President Bush nor, it seems, anyone in the American command or embassy in Baghdad, knew what was going on, before, during, or after. But everyone knows now who controls Basra, and it's not Malaki's elected government, nor the American (or British!) army.
That's why there is not going to be a global Pax Americana imposed by NATO. Failure is built into the imperial project. Ask the Europeans, who have seen it all before.
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