March 28, 2000
It is not often that a politician tells the truth, and with Tony Blair, it is even more notable. So when he said on the now infamous BBC2 documentary (made by the NATO apologist Alan Little) that to not have occupied Kosovo "would have dealt a devastating blow to the credibility of NATO" he was extremely revealing. What he said, after going through the false platitudes of stopping (nonexistent) genocide or (de) stabilising Europe was that one of the Kosovo mission’s purposes was to keep NATO together. The question is, does NATO need to be saved?
NATO’s original purpose was clear. It was designed to defend European countries against an aggressive Soviet power, and it did this by a public warning that to breach the borders of one of the signatories was to breach the borders of all. That was the North Atlantic Treaty. The O, or Organisation, that completed NATO was merely a way of making sure that the armies worked well together if the dreaded invasion came. Surely that need has passed? Not if you listen to Mr. Blair, NATO had to be saved and not just NATO but its credibility. And they were willing to lose 2000 soldiers a day. Why?
There is a reason for the survival of NATO, which is that it suits the bureaucrats who work there. They are paid at the highest national rate and so in almost all cases they are paid more than they would be on regular duty, in some cases a multiple of their regular pay. It must be a waste of money, any organisation whose original purpose no longer exists is a definition of a waste of money. However, if it were merely a matter of a waste of our money I would say that perhaps there are other bigger bits of waste to attack. Nevertheless, the issue is more important than that, much more important.
The idea of a security pact is just about consistent with parliamentary sovereignty. The response to an invasion of another country may be automatic, but the legislators, and ultimately the voters, have the right to decide just which countries their sons will be fighting to defend. An offensive alliance has no such safeguards. We will not know the time nor the place. Where will NATO next decide to attack? We really do not know whether it will be Serbia, or Kosovo or even Russia. In Britain, many people are rightly getting steamed up about the inability to decide their own interest rates or taxation policies. What few are seeing is the right to make the crucial decisions of the state, the very right to make war or peace, has been taken away already. It was taken away the moment that NATO decided that it could attack a sovereign country.
We now need a quick detour to explain the European Army (EDSI). Many people have got a dreadfully bad picture of what the European Army will actually mean. It is a takeover by the (military virgins) of the European Commission of the decision making in NATO. This is not solely about a European pillar of NATO; it is even less an American disengagement from Europe itself. What it is is a decision-making mechanism, which decides which powers NATO should fight. Many British Eurosceptics worry that it will mean American troops will go home. They are wrong. American troops will stay here. The Europeans alone wish to decide who they fight. America in short will underwrite, with her money and her men, the ambitions of the European commission. The Europeans even want to cut their military spending. This is bigger than misplaced cigars or betraying Ulster, it is even bigger than allowing China access to twenty-year-old missile technology. What President Clinton has done is given the European Commission effective command over American troops. That is treachery in anyone’s book.
Many of us see the arrogant way in which NATO struts around the world, and despair at the casual way in which enemies are made. The casual creation of so many enemies may look like (indeed it probably is) carelessness, but consider just who benefits. The NATOcrats do not do too badly from new and exotic threats. It does not matter to them that hegemony does not last forever, and that many of those we alienate will wait for a more advantageous time to attack us. However, remember that the enemies we have made have not just been Iraq, Serbia and other "rogue" states. The enemies that we are making are a humiliated Russia, an infuriated China and a resentful India. I know it may be odd to bring in the history of Astronomy, but Copernicus when he proved that the Sun did not revolve around the earth. At some time in the future we may find that we are revolving around a Sino-Russian axis that we created. It may be that America and Britain are the rogue states in this very new world order.
I can understand the gratitude that many Cold Warriors such as me feel towards an institution that held the line against communist advance. However, we must recognise that once a purpose has been fulfilled we must retire the tools that were in place to deal with it. By all means have a magnificent ceremony, give generous pensions and let history record NATO going out on a high. It deserves our thanks. But for how much longer?
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