The NATO summit recently held in Lisbon was considered by many a landmark. It was nothing of the sort. Twenty-Two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and NATO continues to struggle to find a role. What started off as an alliance to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down, is now scratching around trying to find a reason for its very existence. In its seventh decade, NATO is growing stale, disunited and more imperialist in its old age. Rather than putting on meaningless summits, NATO needs to be retired gracefully and be put in the Imperial War Museum for the sake of posterity.
In the most recent gathering, NATO leaders came together to discuss amongst other things, the new Strategic Compact, the new Missile Defence programme, the latest challenges facing the alliance (no mean feat as there aren’t many) and to formally validate the current strategy for Afghanistan. All this in the context of falling defence spending in many NATO states, declining popularity for wars such as Afghanistan and more focus on adhoc coalitions such as those who fought in Iraq.
With respect to the Strategic Compact, this was devised to cover up the disunity in NATO’s ranks. NATO has no meaningful enemy now that the Soviet Union has fallen and it needs to justify the need for having a military alliance. NATO argues it needs to confront new asymmetric threats such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-attacks and the fallout from failed states and the global economic crisis.
In reality, who is exactly threatening NATO at present? The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians? In case NATO hasn’t noticed, it is occupying states and interfering in other nations internal affairs.
Most of the problems identified by NATO – crises prevention, conflict management and stabilizing post-conflict situations – are in fact caused directly by NATO members. State terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, environmental degradation and the economic crisis were created in the west due to a capitalist ideology that is collapsing under its own excess.
On the NATO goal of a world without nuclear weapons, NATO states, in fact, continue to possess huge numbers of nuclear weapons and are busy proliferating their own nuclear arsenals e.g. Trident in the UK and the development of mini nukes in America.
With respect to Afghanistan, the NATO entered its eleventh year in October 2010, longer than WW1 and WW2 combined. Despite hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces, NATO states it cannot leave before the end of 2014 (now cited as the end of combat operations). However, even this date is considered aspirational by some NATO members who would prefer to be there much longer. Many now realise that the war is unwinnable. Is it any wonder David Cameron wants to extricate himself as fast as he can. The war in Afghanistan is becoming like the war in Vietnam with optimistic statements about military progress camouflaging the reality on the ground that violence and killing of NATO soldiers is on a sharp upward curve.
NATO also doesn’t realise that it cannot build nations, after systematically destroying them with their missiles, drones and aircraft. It is NATO that is stopping Afghanistan and Pakistan from having a better future, by insisting that those who oppose her imperial agenda can only be met by more killing.
NATO represents the forces that over the age have constantly destroyed nations for material and strategic gain, a situation which today has led the world into further cycles of violence and insecurity. But hostility and violence will never be a match for justice; they offer no pathway to a better world; and they cannot stand between the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the wider Muslim world from a future of reconciliation and political unity.