February 15, 2003


What now for NATO? (Brendan O'Neill, 14 February 2003, Spiked Online)
Commentators on both sides of the Atlantic have their own views about who is to blame for the parlous state of NATO. For the pro-war lobby, it is France and Germany's dithering over military action against Iraq that is ripping apart the Western alliance. The French and Germans have caused 'the deepest crisis [in NATO] since the 1960s', claims one report.

According to liberal commentators, the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq no matter what - unilaterally if necessary - is bringing NATO to its knees. For one writer, President Bush's bellicose war talk has 'split international bodies, and could end up disabling them', causing future conflict between America and Europe.

In truth, NATO's current crisis is part of much bigger divisions between Western powers. The spat between America and France and Germany over what to do about Iraq may be pushing NATO over the edge - but this international body has been dying on its feet since the end of the Cold War 15 years ago. [...]

Today, still, new roles are being sought for NATO, as America and the Franco/German alliance remain at loggerheads over Iraq. But it is the changes and shifts since the end of the Cold War that exposed the fault lines between American and European interests, and which brought to the fore the differences between the former North Atlantic allies. And the increasingly makeshift attempts to forge (yet another) new role for NATO are highly unlikely to overcome such profound tensions.

In the noughties, European and American officials have called for NATO to be transformed into a peacekeeping force, and are now even proposing that it should be expanded to include more of the old Eastern European states that were once its sworn enemies. According to one US writer: 'An American looking for a little transatlantic support and sympathy would be well advised to book a ticket to "new Europe": the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe that have emerged as some of Washington's strongest diplomatic allies.'

Yet these attempts to magic up a peacekeeping role for a former military alliance, or to balance out the disagreements between NATO's member states by bringing on some of the more US-compliant states in Eastern Europe, will do little to resolve the deeper crisis and uncertainty in international affairs. You cannot have a geographical or organisational solution to what is fundamentally a political problem.

And such desperate lashing around for a new role - any role - can only further expose the hole at NATO's heart, and the divisions within the West.

Without excusing Europe at all, we'd do well to recognize that American aid (like the Marshall Plan) and military protection, has enabled (in the AA sense) Europeans to build up a soul draining social welfare system that has rendered it nearly worthless as an ally in the defense of Western Civilization. The best thing we could do right now might well be to borrow a page from French Connection II and make them go cold turkey. Breaking the cycle of dependence and making them face the need to either move money from social spending to national security spending or acknowledge that they're such insular and selfish societies that they no longer care about anything except where their next government benefit is coming from could not help but have a salutary shock effect on them. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2003 12:39 PM

I don't particularly hold it against France and Germany that they don't want to go to war against Iraq, or even that they don't want us to. (Although I suspect that they're counting on us to take care of it while they keep their hands clean.) Although, I find their arguments ridiculous (isn't it perfectly clear that the only reason we've gotten even a small amount of Iraqi cooperation is the convincing threat of war), I don't even blame them for being obstructionist at the UN. If we let them obstruct us, I blame us, not them.

But whatever their feelings about Iraq, not moving to defend Turkey is cowardly betrayal, and what we're doing in an alliance now shown to be empty is beyond me.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 15, 2003 2:29 PM

"making them face the need to either move money from social spending to national security spending or acknowledge that they're such insular and selfish societies that..."

But as these countries know, there is no need to make such a choice, and there is no way America can make them do so. The US props up Europe militarily because it is in our national interest to do so.

Posted by: George Peery at February 15, 2003 3:33 PM

Interesting side note in that this article is reasoned, basically neutral, certainly not polemical anti-Americanism.... yet casually, and not once but twice... it refers to NATO being formed in response to "the perceived threat of the Soviet Union", and "the supposed Soviet threat".

Well, just to quote one little fact... Stalin killed about 22 million Russians in his monstrous purges. That statistic comes from Dimitri Volgonikov, former Chief Historian of the Red Army. Of course, how would HE be in a postion to know anything about that....

Yet, all the archives are out, the books are written, Stalin's horror is FACT, as much as the earth being round.... and we still see writings from across the Atlantic about "the perceived Soviet threat", writings that aren't even trying to be anti-American. In this case, I almost wish it was, at least then I could logically understand such statements as "supposed Soviet threat".

Sadly illuminating.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 15, 2003 4:28 PM

All this must be giving Putin & Co. tremendous satisfaction.

(Wait. Did you say that they've been helping the process along?)

And those countries of Eastern Europe who've been itching to join NATO must be wondering just what kind of org. it's become. Should have listened to Groucho a bit harder....

And caught between Germany (or is it France?) and Russia again.

Well maybe, Easterm European poets (and novelists) will be sharpening their quills (and Laura Bush can then invite THEM for readings in the White House)....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 15, 2003 5:38 PM


Why? They don't have any resources we need and their labor costs price them out of the manufacturing business. Why do we need Europe?

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2003 5:42 PM

oj, what we need is (relative) peace in Europe. That was the lesson we learned during the first half of the previous, sorry century. Continental countries, except for a few small ones, are simply not stable.

Posted by: George Peery at February 15, 2003 6:55 PM

But, George, why do we care at this point? I'm all for a bilateral pact with Great Britain. I'm all for guaranteeing the security of eastern Europe from Russia. But why should we care what happens in the middle?

Posted by: David Cohen at February 15, 2003 7:27 PM

"But why should we care what happens in the middle?"

This is isolationist rhetoric that's being posted here. "Bring America Home," etc. Yeah, I'd like to do that too. I spent 6 years as a US Army officer in Germany, and I generally felt less than welcome.

But I say again -- this is a lesson we learned before, or I thought we had. If things get screwed up on the Continent, as they have a tendency to do, we'll just have to go in there and unscrew them. This could cost us much more (as it has in the past), in blood and treasure, than if we had kept the lid on from the get-go.

Aside from "realpolitik" considerations, there's also the matter that, for many Americans, Europe is the "Mother Land," the "Old Country." This fact has decided political implications.

Posted by: George Peery at February 15, 2003 7:37 PM

European "integration" will result in implosion. It's a big problem for the Continentals (which they don't yet recognize); it's a non-problem for the US.

Posted by: George Peery at February 15, 2003 8:02 PM

OK, once again, with a few less typos and acknowledgement to our allies, Italy, Spain, and Portugal:

One attractive counter-argument against isolationism has been that if we ignored Europe, we would face the consolidation of European economic power in the hands of those allied against economic liberty and U.S. interests.

Isn't that what we see developing there now? And what are we doing about it - making nice with those allying against us? Raising Fr*nce to the center of the world stage as we ask their permision to finish a war that started 12 years ago?

It seems that counter-isolationsists might want to come up with a strategy to counter the rising threat of European integration.

Reinforcing ties with Ireland, Britain, Spain, Portugal, and Eastern Europe sounds like just such a strategy. Ignoring the rising threat of a European Union dominated by France and Germany, and supporting those most opposed to the U.S., seems like the functional equivalent of isolationism.

How about replacing NATO (and the UN, for that matter) with an Alliance of Free Nations, consisting of those nations actually committed to freedom and willing to fight for it?

Posted by: Keith R at February 15, 2003 8:09 PM

One is reminded that the subject of the original French Connection, heroin

from Lebanon, and South East Asia, was one of the signs of gratitude for

our Marshall Plan aid

Posted by: narciso at February 15, 2003 8:56 PM


Why? Why did we go in WWI? Why in WWII? Why in the Cold War? What good did any of it do? And why would we go now when none of them are military powers and all are in decline?

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2003 8:09 AM

Despite the consensus contempt here for

these states, they are very powerful.

The defensive power of the modern industrial

state is mighty impressive. We saw that in

World War II.

We don't want to be in a position of having

to take down a powerful state; and even

France is powerful in that sense.

Is France a threat? Could be. Despite what

we did in 1918, by 1920 Great Britain was

seriously concerned about planning for a war

with the United States. Nations are funny that


I agree with George, as long as there is a

possibility that renewed instability in western

Europe will leak out, as it always has in the past.

If we're sure it wouldn't, then let the French

and the Germans and the Italians duke it out

as they please.

Posted by: Harry at February 16, 2003 4:29 PM


Are you kidding? France may be powerful in relation to a Canada, but realistically how long would it take us to reduce an industrialized nation with heavy armaments to rubble? You may not be able to beat the Taliban with cruise missiles, but you could annihilate French industrial capacity, transport, communications, etc.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2003 9:35 PM

Not with conventional weapons. Consider the effort it took to knock out Japan's industrial capacity, which was , compared to other states, both small and exceptionally vulnerable.

Posted by: Harry at February 18, 2003 1:54 PM