Mon Mar 2nd, 2009 at 06:04:59 AM EST
This is actually a diary that I've been wanting to do for some time, but always kinda pushed back because there were Other Things To Do. But with front page story on the issue, and Frank's review of NATO's potential irrelevance, I guess that excuse no longer applies.
So without further ado:
One of the questions that has been raised a couple of times on ET but never quite, in my opinion, adequately answered is "what is NATO good for?" For some reason, most people who write diaries on how NATO and the Union can integrate their political and military command and control structures seem to develop urgent appointments elsewhere whenever the question is raised...
The only coherent response to the question (that I've seen) is Marek's analysis, which can - I think - be briefly summarised as "Eastern Europe suffers from a severe case of rysskräck, and view NATO membership as the only way to obtain a credible (read: American) security guarantee against a hypothetical Russian violation of their sovereignty or territorial integrity.
While that's not entirely unreasonable, I don't find it completely satisfying as justifications go: If the Poles and Estonians are not convinced that Paris will nuke Moscow over an invasion of Eastern Europe... what possible justification can they have for believing that the US would? At worst, the US would stand to lose some core client states - but Western Europe - including the independent French nuclear deterrent - would be directly threatened on its very existence, if Russian troops were to suddenly stand at the German border.
And besides, when Russia was "pacifying" Chechnya, it had to pour the next best thing to a hundred thousand soldiers into the meat grinder. This was in order to "pacify" a backwater third-world country that nobody cares about (to the extent that they ever managed to do that...), and with a population of around one million people. I am, shall we say, less than convinced that Russia could win a serious land war against all of Eastern Europe.
But enough of that - the title was "In defence of NATO" - so let's get down to that. I'll advance two core arguments here:
- Military interdependency is A Good Idea, because it increases the number of people who have to sign off on a war. If the European Union is unable to operate its military independently of the US outside our own territory, it would mean that we would have to get active US support every time our Dear Leaders thought it right and proper to go bomb the stuffing out of some random brown people in a country nobody cares about. All else being equal, this leads to fewer people getting bombed. Which, in my book, is A Good Thing. (The converse - making the US dependent on European support for their colonial adventures - is a nice pipe dream, but will probably prove, ah, impractical.)
- Nothing in the NATO framework forces European countries to join the US in its colonial adventures: The NATO treaty speaks exclusively of defencive military commitments. The fact that our Dear Leaders find it opportune to join the US in its colonial wars is problem with European political culture, not with NATO per se. Bluntly put, if NATO does not force European governments to go along with American adventures, then removing NATO would do nothing to curb Euro-American adventurism.
An addendum to point 1) is that having an integrated military structure with one of the two powers on the planet that possesses the logistical capability to fight a serious shooting war with the EU probably decreases the probability of such a shooting war. Can't hurt, at any rate.
To that end, I'll examine the NATO charter in some detail below the fold [my bold everywhere].
From the diaries - afew
The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
This article really says everything that European governments would need to say, if they decided not to back an American colonial adventure: The NATO framework cannot, as stipulated right there, in the first friggin' article, be used for colonial wars. Punkt, aus, schluss.
Article 2 looks to me like standard diplomat-speak for "we're gonna be good buddies and not fuck each other over in general." I don't see anything objectionable. It is sufficiently vague that it could potentially be interpreted as a commitment to copying the American political economy. But if that's true it would equally bind the US to copy the European political economy: The only place in the treaty where the US is given specific mention is in a technical detail vis-a-vis ratification.
In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
The ability to resist armed attack is not the same thing as offencive strike capabilities, and this article speaks only of the former - there is no commitment here to maintaining or supporting any overseas strike force, "rapid response force," or any other form of imperial gendarmerie.
The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.
The security guarantee is not, in other words, a carte blanche to stage some kind of provocation or false-flag operation, and then come running to the other NATO members for support.
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.
In other words, the treaty only commits us to defencive wars. There is no commitment to carry the fight to the enemy's turf, unless that is necessary to prevent him from prosecuting war against us. Certainly, it involves no obligation to conquer or occupy foreign territory.
Article 6 defines what constitutes an aggression against the sovereignty of a NATO member, and AFAICT does not contain anything fishy.
This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Among the most important "rights and obligations" of a UN member state, which are "not affected," is to refrain from waging aggressive war and not using or collaborating with torture or any other gross violations of the UN charter of human rights. NATO membership does not obviate these obligations.
The rest (Articles 8 through 14) is boring bureaucratic arrangements. No matter how hard I squint, I can't see any land mines buried there.
So, in summary, I can't see anything in the treaty that makes NATO an instrument of the US State Department and/or Pentagun. That this may have been an unstated assumption when the treaty was drawn up (and for that matter may still be) seems entirely irrelevant to the discussion: Such collaborationist tendencies would exist even if NATO disappeared tomorrow. What Europe needs, in other words, is to (re-)assert its sovereignty over its foreign policy, and NATO is - if the letter of the law is to be taken seriously - not an obstacle to this.
Disclaimer: IANAL, so obviously I have to go by the assumption that the words used in international treaties have at least approximately the same meaning as they do in ordinary English.