The case for NATO

The case for NATO

Since former Secretary Gates’ now-legendary fusillade against NATO, there have been many nods of agreement, and some criticisms of Gates, but very few affirmative defenses of the alliance itself. Even columnist Kathleen Agena, writing in the Albany Times-Union, has to concede that NATO has many flaws. But, she argues, even though the NATO of tomorrow will no doubt be different from the alliance that helped deter the Soviet Union, it’ll still be an important force in the world.

Wrote Agena:

A historical foundation for respecting human rights and the dignity of the individual exists among NATO member states that, while we do not always uphold those values, does not exist in most other nations of the world. Those principles, not military strength, are the foundation of the alliance. All NATO members face threats from terrorists, rogue states and undemocratic regimes that are unprecedented in its history. NATO’s future will be different than in the past, but it need not be dismissed. We do not need new allies. We need to strengthen the bonds that brought the alliance together and re-examine our priorities.


She continues:

We need to recognize that NATO no longer needs to intervene militarily to support protests against all of the world’s dictators, to be the world’s policeman. The recent revolution in Tunisia succeeded without NATO’s military presence. Protesters in that country used the technological “militia” of iPods and the world’s media. “Thank you, Facebook,” was one of the graffiti messages scrawled on a wall during the revolt …

Our individual lives are now so interconnected through technology and economic ties, as well as through the dynamics of the environment that instability or natural or man-made disasters that occur in one area affect us all. NATO can and must remain strong in order to uphold the values of human decency and dignity that it was established to protect.

But it need not rely on military force as strongly as it once did. Instead, NATO can employ the power of its moral force, including freedom of the press and technology, using its military capabilities only when that becomes absolutely necessary. With the majority of the world’s population living under dictators as oppressive as those who fueled the hegemony of the Soviet Union, NATO needs to survive. It must be a beacon of encouragement to those who risk their well-being to oppose tyrants, but its military force need not be emphasized or used as strongly as it once was.

Different, but not dim — that is the real future of the NATO alliance.

So NATO’s utility as a military alliance may be behind it, Agena says — a realistic point, given the difficulties it has encountered in dealing with what Gates called “a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country,” i.e. Libya. But it deserves to survive as a forum for freedom, she argues, and maybe its future “interventions” would involve helping dissidents get around government restrictions on the Internet, etc.

And Agena doesn’t make this argument, but if NATO were to dial back its charter to become a less martial force for global do-goodery, it might mean lower requirements for military spending. That, in turn, could be an answer to Gates’ warning that future American policymakers might want to back out of NATO because they’re sick of U.S. taxpayers subsidizing European security.

What’s your take?

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NATO is a military alliance… without the military aspect, its just a watered down UN… do we need another one of those?

That article is complete load of baloney void of any understanding of history what so ever. The simple fact is what she is talking about is some forum outside the UNSC that wouldn’t have the same issues of vetos from Russia and China. Which means very little since the UNSC’s resolutions are essentially worthless pieces of paper anyway that countries pay no attention to. It seems to me her definition of what NATO should be doing is more supportive of getting the member nations to invest in military capabilities, make the organization more lethal, and then when it makes a statement of support for oppressed people tyrants know at the end of the day there is a force not handcuffed by vetos that can and will act. There is no way to separate military force from diplomacy in geo politics, the two don’t work without each other.

Does Ms. Agena really mean this crap, or was she on a deadline and had to submit something really fast?

“NATO can employ the power of its moral force…”

What a crock. Albany Times-Union needs to buy its editors larger trash cans.

So instead of dropping bombs nato should be dropping pre paid phones into countries in turmoil so they can post on facebook for the world to see and overthrow thier govts????????? I dont know but I think she is not totaly in control of her thinking process. NATO is useless and always has been to us in reality — it helped our allies money and responsibility wise but is only a burden on the US and its tax payers.

One UN is enough.

And I bet that if they all came together and sang Kumbya, Mommar Ghadafi would roll over and quit!

I hear all of you — but what do you propose? Withdraw from NATO or insist that Europe step up their defense spends? Surely the current situation in which the US miltary provides most of the troops, technology, money, and support is absolutely untenable.

Wow, anything multinational immediately draws anti-UN rhetoric. Please think before typing.

Her point is that NATO member states share general common culture, values, and interests (in a very broad sense; the US and Germany have more in common than the U.S. and Paraguay), and some common threats, whether that’s the Eastern Bloc or terrorists. The warrant for its continued existence is that the best responses to those threats might not be military a lot of the time, e.g. helping rebels organize rather than bombing their enemies. Other NATO states offer a ton of benefit for that (say, when rebels don’t want to appear to be American puppets but wouldn’t mind expert advice from the West, or when we’re looking at a country with unique ties to a certain old colonial power).

As a follow-up I wrote on the future of NATO in a Commentary that appeared in the Albany Times Union, I would like to clarify the fact that I think NATO’s military strength is still necessary, but must be used more thought-fully and precisely. Libya’s revolution is coming from within, and the rebels are specifically requesting for more assistance from NATO forces. NATO could use military force there and assist a genuine revolution, but we are bogged down in Afghanistan, where an internal revolution has not and is not occurring.

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