When a corpse is in a state of putrefaction, the only logical and healthful thing to do is to get rid of it – bury it or burn it – and not just keep holding mourning services around it. And NATO happens to be one such corpse.
General Lord Ismay, first Secretary General of NATO, stated the mission of the organization without any ambiguity: “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Since those early fifties no individual or nation has had courage enough to state how the mission might have changed; and it really hasn’t, except that neither Russians nor Germans have been playing a great part for the past two decades. The mission has evolved to be one of serving the military needs of a seemingly benign American empire. On the latter, it does not seem so benign for the millions who have suffered or died as a consequence of America imposing its will on others.
The unspoken reality about NATO, as far as it concerns most of its European members, is that the organization is a vestigial one… a visual reminder of a relationship that once existed to safeguard a system (capitalism) and a culture (Western); both as a way of life. To the Europeans, at least the many friends and peers that I converse with, NATO should have been given its burial with full military honors a decade ago – then already a decade past the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
NATO is a decomposing cadaver that unashamedly continues to be placed in exhibition, and it’s beginning to stink. Yet, Europeans, Turks and Canadians lack the courage to give notice to America that serving as another military arm of the empire is neither popular nor honorable for most of the members; that the mission of the original alliance has long ago disappeared.
Last week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a European think tank during his swan song in that continent – before Leon Panetta assumes that misnamed post (Minister or Secretary of War would be a far more appropriate title), that future leadership in America may not consider this NATO-US relationship a worthy investment. And it was during this 11-day trek overseas that he pointed out his displeasure in what he considers weaknesses and failures within the alliance.
But Gates, and his martial staff at the Pentagon, have it all wrong. One could argue that the US is not part of NATO the way the European members, Turkey and Canada are; it is the other 27 member nations, big and small, that are de facto part of the imperial army, like it or not. America always calls the wars to be had; and, when that happens, NATO, docilely, waits for its military orders from the Pentagon, rewritten in Brussels as part of the political show. However, in the latter years, that docility has become more of a passive resistance, often blamed on cuts in defense spending, even when unpopularity of American wars of choice was the true villain. Gates’ concern about Europe’s lack of appetite for defense has it all wrong once again: it’s not lack of appetite for defense but lack of appetite for war, made-in-America unnecessary wars.
One can understand those former members of the Warsaw Pact, perhaps still feeling the pluckiness of freeing themselves from the communist yoke, or Canada, as an always friend and neighbor of the Yanks, being ready to serve… but the others?
Well, Britain as mother-country continues to hold a special relationship with the US; the French are still thankful for being unchained from the Teutonic Ogre twice; and Germany, on its third generation of shame for being the Teutonic Ogre, opts for a status quo built on silence. As for the other members… they weigh very little in the balance.
NATO non-American leaders probably didn’t expect how things are turning out in Afghanistan, although they should have after the Soviet experience there… or, all prior occupiers who ended up buried there. These days when you participate in a war with the US, it’s not likely to be in a peacekeeping or reconstruction role, but in a combat, shooting role, in a mission that is likely to end just as it did in Vietnam. Nations in the region (Pakistan, India to be sure) know how to bring peace there, with a government that will include the Taliban… but Americans continue in their obstinate, failing ways.
And now, it is Libya that NATO was forced to take on by order of a White House, no different from other administrations in the past, which suffers from foreign policy hysterical neurosis (FPHN) most particularly when it involves Muslim nations in general, and the Middle East in particular.
Both Europe and the US would be served well if NATO came to an end. Let the Europeans, if they see a need for military association, create their own defense corps. And let America stand on its unilateral warmongering and grave mistakes. The change will do both good, Europe and the US. Maybe then a way can be found, under the auspices of a more neutral Europe, for a permanent peace in Palestine and elsewhere.
It’s long overdue… bury NATO’s corpse and free America from its military self.
Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben’s website: www.tanosborn.com