March 28, 2006
Beyond NATO: a New Alliance for a New ThreatBy Jonathan D. Strong
Since the end of World War Two, a collection of western nations have relied upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for collective defense. This organization was originally created to counter the nuclear and conventional threat posed by the Soviet Union and to help bring political stability to Europe which had been destroyed by war.
A commonly—voiced raison d'etre for NATO was to 'keep the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Russians out.' NATO performed superbly throughout the Cold War. The alliance held together to effectively deter the USSR from launching a first strike against Western Europe. NATO has always been commanded by an American Supreme Commander, since the US was undeniably the leader of the free world and the largest contributor to the alliance militarily, materially, and economically.
In 1967, France withdrew from NATO by order of Charles De Gaulle, who also expelled all foreign NATO troops from French soil. De Gaulle's decision was, in part, motivated by France's desire to pursue its own independent nuclear strategy to deter the Soviets. France did not withdraw from NATO entirely, however. The central purpose of France's move was to back out of the integrated command structure of NATO.
Following the end of the Cold War in 1991 after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO seemed to lack a reason to exist. A new rationale soon surfaced, as violence flared in Yugoslavia and threatened to spread to other parts of Europe. The failure of the Western European Union (WEU) to end the civil war, and the inability of the UN to act because of Russia's veto power, resulted in an opportunity for NATO to enter the scene to engage in peacekeeping and peace—making. In February 1994, NATO took its first military action, shooting down two Bosnian Serb aircraft violating a UN no—fly zone over central Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO air strikes the following year helped bring the war in Bosnia to an end.
NATO would later engage in the Partnership for Peace effort for further normalizing relations with Russia and the former Soviet bloc states. The re—unification of Germany and East Germany's entrance into NATO caused resentment in Russia, already having been humiliated by the USSR's sudden collapse. In 1999, Hungry, the Czech Republic and Poland entered NATO. This was the first expansion of the alliance since Spain's entry in 1984.
On March 24, 1999, NATO engaged in its first broad—scale military action after Slobodan Milosevic's invasion of Kosovo and the alleged massacre of civilians. Western leaders feared another civil war as had happened in the early 1990's. After diplomacy failed, NATO launched massive air attack which lasted 11 weeks. Milosevic then acceded to NATO demands and withdrew from Kosovo. NATO entered Kosovo and established a peacekeeping operation called KFOR consisting of troops from NATO countries and Russia.
Following 9—11, NATO invoked Article 5 of the treaty for the first time which essentially considered 9—11 as an attack against all NATO countries. While initially showing strong support for the US, France and Belgium would later veto a measure to protect Turkey from possible war with Iraq.
NATO is now leading a force in Afghanistan called ISAF (International Security and Assistance Force). Canada was leading ISAF along with Italy, Turkey, France, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. France has also participated in military operations in Afghanistan along with Norway, Italy, Poland, and other NATO forces.
While this collective defense alliance has served the United States and Canada (and indeed the Western world) very well for the past 50+ years, I believe the time is upon us in which a new security arrangement has become necessary to ensure collective defense in the face of the new great threat: terrorism. Many nations have not shown themselves worthwhile or reliable allies since 9—11. Most notably France and Germany, but also Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Greece have proven unstable, unreliable, or just plain hostile to US objectives in Iraq and against al Qaeda.
What I am not advocating is that NATO be replaced. NATO still can remain an effective mechanism for diplomacy, defense, and engagement with Eastern Europe for America and its longstanding allies. As well, NATO would be a valuable structure to deal with the rising threat from China and possibly against Russia, should it re—establish itself as a threat to the rest of Europe. NATO also can prove to be a valuable tool for promoting democracy and development in former Soviet bloc and Warsaw Pact countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The United States and its closest allies who are likeminded in the fight against terror should form a closer alliance of defense against the new threat of radical Islam and terrorism. This alliance must be broader in scope but smaller in membership. It should be a collection of nations with shared values, goals, and interests who are willing to act overtly and covertly to annihilate al Qaeda and undermine states which sponsor terror in every part of the world. Special forces, unmanned aerial vehicles, counter—insurgency operations, and covert support for rebel groups operating in enemy countries would all be vitally important in this effort in conjunction with more traditional c conventional military power.
Such nations which would be part of this proposed, new alliance might include: the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Poland, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and perhaps Italy. All of these states have shown themselves to be consistent allies of the United States in most if not all major conflicts in the last 50 years with a few exceptions. They also all share common interests in opposing tyranny, radicalism, and the promotion of liberal democracy. Most of these nations have a common Anglo—Saxon political tradition, while all others have embraced similar structures of political organization which protect individual rights and promote the free market.
Other possible members might include India, Brazil, South Korea, Chile, Singapore, Finland, or other Eastern European nations. The United Nations is increasingly ineffective for diplomacy, collective security, and peacekeeping. It has become a platform for anti—Semitism, anti—Americanism, and obstruction. The UN is bogged down in bureaucratic mud and has been discredited by corruption that was exposed in the Oil—for—Food Scandal. Rogue states like North Korea and Iran count on the slow moving processes of the UN to buy time to further WMD programs, support for terror, suppression of human rights, and the subjugation of the individual to the state.
A new alliance may not need a formal command structure, but it would not hurt to have one to proclaim a body of collective defense for freedom and democracy to the world. It would also put other "fair weather" allies, who are less than cooperative, on notice that their voice will not be heard, or can at least be ignored, if obstruction is chosen over cooperation. Think Germany and France at the moment. Beyond this, Europe seems to be dying demographically and culturally as Islamic immigration and falling birth rates continue to change the face of Europe.
The time to act is now. It is always better to act sooner than later in the face of terrorism because of its invisible nature which does not heed national boundaries, treaties, or conventions. A new threat has resulted in the need for a new security structure. The threat of terrorists with WMDs forces us to ignore fair—weather friends and allies of convenience. We require allies who are willing to act preemptively and swiftly to confront this threat. While NATO had its place in the past and can continue to be a useful structure in Europe, it is not an adequate organization for dealing with the threat of terrorism and the states which sponsor them.
Jonathan D. Strong is the proprietor of The Strong Conservative.