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"Five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists" lose it

by talos Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 10:48:20 AM EST

...today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.  
General Jack D. Ripper - Dr. Strangelove

Promoted by Migeru

The Guardian reports that five prominent military officers have submitted a "manifesto for a new NATO" which advocates that

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction...

In this document the five former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, claim that:

a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto as presented by the Guardian is like something out of an updated Dr. Strangelove movie. It purports to defend the West's values, lamenting that "the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them". The particular subset of the West's values being defended hails from the colonial era, with a healthy dose of the "shoot first and see who's dead later" ethos which has endeared billions of the unfortunate portion of humanity to the West and its values for some centuries now...

Fold originally here

The threats to "our values and way of life" as presented in this document are apparently the following:

1. Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

As I'm quite certain that this is not a call for nuking either the Huckabee headquarters or the Vatican, or indeed of turning the world's most powerful fundamentalist state, Saudi Arabia, into a radioactive desert, I assume that political fanaticism refers (as it does traditionally in these circles) to any political power that opposes a very narrowly defined set of western interests, as illustrated here; and religious fundamentalism, as a threat, refers to non-governmental Islamic fundamentalist actors - and possibly Iran. To make this last point more explicit it is repeated in the list as a second threat (international terrorism):

2. The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Now, the first two have existed for a long time, with much less radical proposals for their elimination. In fact organized crime has had frequently mutually beneficial relations with western intelligence agencies. As for the spread of weapons of mass destruction the report apparently means the spread of weapons of mass destruction to countries we don't like (such as Iran and North Korea) and where we don't actually support their efforts to acquire them. The countries not-so-subtly indicated here, however, are motivated to obtain these weapons in no small part exactly because of the actions of the leading western power and the realization that they might be next in line for the carnage euphemistically called "regime change" if they don't get them quick, and by the insane statements of the sort that these five Generals are making.

Thus the threat here again is either Iran and North Korea (which would be yet another incentive for those two countries to acquire any sort of WMDs they can get their hands on as fast as possible), or "organized crime" and non-state entities. If the latter is the case however, one wonders what kind of nuclear or conventinal deterrent effect on these organizations' actions is imagined. The only scenario I can think of is either blackmail ("we will bomb the countries in which these organization are based and everybody in them, regardless of whether the organizations are in fact a very small part of the population of said countries"), or a declaration of the intent of exterminating huge numbers of civilians in blind retaliation to a possible strike against "the West". One wonders whether this includes the bombing of Moscow in retaliation to a strike by the Russian mafia, or an invasion of Sicily and Southern Italy in retaliation against violent acts by the three branches of Organized Crime there. I doubt it.

3. Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

Now, it is interesting to note that on both of these issues these former NATO commanders assume that there is a military role for the alliance, which is rather doubtful. Unless of course they imagine that the forced migration of millions due to climatic changes can be accomplished by creating a huge military fence around the most severely afflicted areas, thus letting the people that live in them starve in an extended concentration camp. Or unless they think that the "contest for energy resources" between Arctic states should be decided by forcefully excluding the main non-NATO (and non-Western) player in this new Great Thawing Game, namely Russia. That is indeed a situation which might potentially create a nuclear confrontation, but one has difficulty to understand exactly which of the West's values will be defended - other than greed that is... The prospect of a nuclear confrontation over Arctic fossil fuels (which is what they're talking about here) and the knowledge that it is seriously considered by "senior NATO military officers and strategists", is rather frightening... I imagine that military action to keep those damn Arctic fossil fuels in the ground, is not what is meant here, and the concept of modifying our way of life (and our energy production and consumption patterns) in order to mitigate climate change is beyond the scope of this proposal...

4. The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

I fail to see how this constitutes a threat, but one should note that the UN has been weakened most recently by US unilateralism and NATO, if indeed it has been weakened, has done so because it seems irrelevant nowadays to an increasing number of citizens in NATO-member countries. As for the EU, I fail to see how it has been weakened in any real sense.

These are the threats then. And what do these five military men suggest NATO does to face them? Among other things, the following:

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

  1. A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

  2. The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

  3. No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

  4. The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

Let's translate this: The "overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods" and the "new 'directorate' of US, European and Nato leaders" (detailed in proposals 1, 2, 3), really means that NATO should be shielded both from pesky "smaller" members' opinions (suffering from the illusion of being equal partners in the Alliance) on how to use their own armed forces, as well as from possible popular majorities inside NATO-member countries that may disapprove of the Alliance's goals and methods. In fact this is a call for terminating (or at least limiting) public participation through elected governments in NATO's decisions. It is a contempt for democracy not at all uncommon among military brass, and quite dangerous for the, supposedly, core values of democracy that the west alleges it is trying to protect and export. This is amply demonstrated by Klaus Naumann's attack on his own country's performance in Afghanistan:

"The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner." By insisting on "special rules" for its forces in Afghanistan, the Merkel government in Berlin was contributing to "the dissolution of Nato".

A statement that should be seen in light of the fact that:

An opinion poll carried out by Forsa reported that over 60 percent of Germans wanted the troops brought home.

So Naumann suggests that the Merkel government, already performing a balancing act between its NATO "duties" and public disapproval for any sort of continued German involvement in Afghanistan, should ignore public opinion and, in fact, act exactly opposite to its demands. The legitimacy of such a policy does not seem to be an issue with the good general.

Further, the proposals contribute to the further weakening of state sovereignty (1,2,3), the "end to EU obstruction" weakens the EU, and proposal 4, weakens tremendously the UN. All of the above institutions' weakenings, are presented as threats above... There seems to be a non-trivial contradiction here.

Proposal 4 is, indeed, a direct affront to international law. The highly selective protecting of "large numbers of human beings", as judged by NATO, using its own highly partial criteria, constitutes potentially an act of aggression. I wonder if use of force is considered in protecting Gaza's population from starvation or if NATO would consider intervening in Iraq, to protect the huge numbers of human beings suffering, escaping or dying from the US invasion and its aftermath. The idea that NATO should become judge, jury and executioner of international law, given the history of its most powerful member-states is morally laughable and practically of disastrous potential consequences.

Some idea on how well thought this proposal is, is given by Naumann:

Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this."

However no mechanism by which the threat of a NATO nuclear first strike might prevent proliferation spreading is presented. Not knowing how to "deal with this", apparently leads the modern Dr. Strangeloves, to propose a policy that is likely to lead, among other more terrible things, to the acceleration of proliferation. That is, leaving aside the issue of whether nuclear proliferation is actually spreading, or whether there exist silver billets to counter it... I note in passing that Mohamad ElBaradei proposed in 2003, a sensible plan to end nuclear proliferation:

My plan is to begin by setting up a reserve fuel bank, under IAEA control, so that every country will be assured that it will get the fuel needed for its bona fide peaceful nuclear activities. This assurance of supply will remove the incentive - and the justification - for each country to develop its own fuel cycle. We should then be able to agree on a moratorium on new national facilities, and to begin work on multinational arrangements for enrichment, fuel production, waste disposal and reprocessing.

This plan, as Noam Chomsky noted, was rejected by the usual parties:

ElBaradei's proposal has to date been accepted by only one state, to my knowledge: Iran, in February, in an interview with Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. The Bush administration rejects a verifiable Fissban -- and stands nearly alone. In November 2004 the UN committee on disarmament voted in favour of a verifiable Fissban. The vote was 147 to one (United States), with two abstentions: Israel and Britain. Last year a vote in the full General Assembly was 179 to two, Israel and Britain again abstaining. The United States was joined by Palau.

All in all this proposal provides an excellent example of why generals should be restrained from participating in any kind of policy planning. Jack D. Ripper would be smiling.

[crossposted at histologion]

Bernhard at MoonofAlabama takes a hard look at who backs the generals:

M of A - 'Certainty' On the Neocon NATO Report

Yesterday's post speculated about neocon influence on the report that urges an imperial NATO strategy. There now is "an increase in certainty" that pure neocon thinking is at the base of the proposal.

While the media reported only yesterday about the report, it had been launched on January 10 at the US Center of Strategic Studies. The 150-page paper is titled Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World - Renewing Transatlantic Partnership (pdf).

The report by the five former NATO generals was financed through "generous sponsorship" of the Dutch Noaber Foundation. The foundation is the private fiefdom of the Christian fundamentalist Paul Baan, a failed 1990s "new market" entrepreneur.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 11:09:01 AM EST
took place in that frontpage post a couple days ago: Doctors Strangelove everywhere

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 02:06:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In particular, this translation of an Izvestia analysis by Anthony Williamson is worth reading.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 02:09:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah damn... I wasn't paying attention (been moving around a lot these past days running to meet deadlines), just saw it today. Sorry for the double post. My bad.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 04:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
talos, your diary is excellent!  Thank you very much for writing it and thanks to Migeru for frontpaging it!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 07:09:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is amazing how the same topic can be discussed in two different places and produce such disparate--and equally interesting-- results.
I'm glad we did this second visit to an important  (but nasty) neighborhood.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 09:03:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
really really 5 strangeloves in the war room.

"you can not fight here. This is the war room".

Geee. it's so depressing...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 12:55:09 PM EST
"Five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists"

The gurdian is renowned for its poor spelling, and it appears to be incapable of spelling senile.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 01:57:40 PM EST
Strikes too close to home?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 09:04:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes."
Majority voting on war and peace? Don't even vassals have the right to decide if they want to kill and die?

"The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner."
Really? Can we finally say No?

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 02:03:50 PM EST
And will this majority voting be binding on the US?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 02:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, sure. Obviously. I mean, why not?

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 03:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Read the article on this subject from DeDefensa.
Reading from DeDefensa is always a pleasure.
A Free pleasure!
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 03:02:34 PM EST
my previous post was against Eurotrib good practises.
Some synthesis is required. we cannot simply point references. I apologise.

the bottom-line is that these retired chiefs of staff represent the view point of their generation of (military) leaders, and the extreme tone of their declarations demonstrated their sensed difficulty to be heard, and agreed, by today armed forces commanders.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 03:13:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.
Damn these lousy poker players...
by das monde on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 11:18:47 PM EST
The nuclear option has never been off the table, but apparently senior military officers think the current procedure is too slow.

What they suggest is "one-click" nuclear war.

Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.

by FPS Doug on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 04:23:25 AM EST
Years ago, in the cold war era, most high ranking military were wary of chief of states, as of the next generation of generals, that didn't "survive" through a full scaled war...

Whether they be russians at Stalingrad or french at Dien Bien Phu or british in bombed London, those old guys "knew" in their guts what a war was about... And they thought (at least in France) that with the army getting more and more technical, some weird guy would one day think of it just as a "game" of power and economics...

They might have been right !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 07:15:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many of key points in the article are taken form the document and are correct.  

But the latter part is a series of comments not in the report and which distort the perspective totally.  The most obvious is "The EU is confused by Robert Cooper".  He has nothing to do with writing the article.  What is he confused about?  The article or something else?  He is a highly respected source so this gives this comment some sort of importance.  

Overall, bad reporting on the whole as it distorts the picture in an extremely blatant way.

by The3rdColumn on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 07:12:48 AM EST

I posted  a different summary/analysis in my onw page of the Guardian article after reading your post and hope it complements the points you highlighted here.

Would be happy to have your take... Thanks.

by The3rdColumn on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 11:58:23 AM EST
Thank you for taking the time to present an analysis of the "manifesto" based on something other than a news article.  While I would not endorse or reject any of the specific conclusions or recommendations of the document without reading it in its entirety, your analysis reveals why the document may be taken seriously by NATO leaders and possibly by the European and US governments.  I have always believed it is a mistake not to look carefully and without prejudice at those things that can either be of benefit or do us harm.    

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 11:28:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you too!
by The3rdColumn on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 08:33:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A terrific analysis, talos - thanks!

I read the Guardian article on the "New Grand Strategy for Nato" thingy when it first came out, then read it in pdf and hit the roof! I also got into a long indignant discussion on it with Cheryl Rofer of WhirledView over on the StrategyTalk forum: my screechings and growlings were way too messy and frothing-at-the-mouth to dare post over here but here's the gist of my conclusions:

Whole thing's the worst kind of "west-must-control-the-rest" doc., a "western" interventionist delirium containing every dubious cliché in the global hegemonist book (...)

Much of the form - at least in the pre-Grand Strategy chapters - is bland with pages and pages of what today passes as "western" thinktank standard-issue "world analysis" doublespeak, but behind the blandness the meaning that surfaces is straight from ATol's delirious Spengler: creeping islamisation of Europe along with low birthrates will reduce Europeans to helpless ageing wimps condemned to dhimmitude unless they attack-n'-invade-first all over the world... White-guys (...other than evil-Russians...) must unite under US leadership to imperial-police all those pesky beige-to-brown-to-black-guys in every corner of the globe, Europeans must provide the US with trusty Rapid Response foreign legions for mutual ethno-hegemonic profit-sharing benefit - which is bad/disgusting enough already ...but these guys are into pre-emptive nuking!

In other words, it's a scam: a slavering 2000-lb imperialist gorilla with blood-flecked eyes prancing around in a blandly professorial tweed jacket and flannel trousers... with nukes in its pockets and global larceny in its soul.


P.S. Cheryl Rofer's a nuclear nonproliferation expert, she's currently making a heroic attempt to promote public and/or blogosphere debate on what a "sane US nuclear policy" ought to consist of, then stick the results to the US presidential candidates - Eurotrib contributions would be much appreciated.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 12:06:33 AM EST
couldn't-a put it better.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:19:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have been so missed!  Post more often.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 12:17:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A slavering 2000-lb imperialist gorilla with blood-flecked eyes prancing around in a blandly professorial tweed jacket and flannel trousers, with nukes in its pockets and global larceny in its soul.


Before I read this (this article, not your response), I really thought that there was general agreement that a nuclear first strike was unthinkable, and all the talk about "all options being on the table" was just political yahoos shooting their mouths off. Even if a few demagogues preferred sounding tough to talking sense, I certainly didn't think generals would be on the wrong side of starting a nuclear war.

I guess I can at least take solace that they are retired.

Il faut se dépêcher d'agir, on a le monde à reconstruire

by dconrad (drconrad {arobase} gmail {point} com) on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 03:48:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is anyone following the strange case of the German Strangeloves?

Unless this is a hoax (I don't have free time for serious snopesing these days), it sounds eerily familiar:

Germany's most influential political think tank is demanding the comprehensive disempowerment of smaller EU member states in questions of foreign and security policy, as shown by the newly published strategy report of the Bertelsmann Foundation. The report promotes "Europe's" development of global power and contains numerous suggestions for the EU's formation, including the demand to establish an "EU Security Council" to supervise all of the EU's security policies. Only those seven countries with the largest military budgets will be permanent members. All other states, according to the Bertelsmann document, have to content themselves with a temporary and rotating membership. It is proposing comprehensive arms programs and is calling on the EU to compete with US power policy. Because the population of the EU is more concerned about the fight against poverty than the development of global power, the document's authors are calling for concerted propaganda measures and determined leadership.

Now, if the EU thinkers were proposing to contain US power, or to challenge US policy, that might be heartening.  But the word "compete" here is rather frightening:  what are they thinking, that the EU should be invading Iraq and stealing its oil?  That the EU should be nuking Iran?  Are they really trying to compete with -- outdo? -- the Yanks?  Heaven help us.

Perhaps our German correspondents can interpret this oddball position paper...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:16:42 AM EST
This is just what the Irish 'no' campaign needs.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 03:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No hoax. The Bertelsmann Foundation was the foundation of the owner of a big media conglomerate, and long promoted conservative insanities and free-market capitalism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 26th, 2008 at 07:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fron DeAnander's above-referenced article:
"too many of Europe's leaders seem only willing to follow public opinion, rather than lead it."

Holy cow, does this (and the rest of th3e article) have a familiar, "Reichean" ring.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 09:12:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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