The Daily Bork

February 24, 2005

The emperor has no clothes.

In Göteborgs Posten today there is an editorial of remarkable blindness. It talks about Bush's visit to Europe and meetings etc etc, but the core of it is as follows...

Up until the fall of the Soviet Union it was Europe who needed NATO most. The military protection of the USA guaranteed West Europe's freedom. The USA needed NATO as well, but not as immediately. The USA had sufficient defence of its own. But it was in the USA's interest to have a buffer to the Soviet Union and to hold the communist world behind a locked door. Today it is the USA who needs NATO most - as a larder of allies to use as needed. Bush wants to decide world politics himself, and considers himself to have a holy mission. But it appears better if American power-politics are in the form of an alliance. NATO can as well be used to divide and conquer. This became apparent when Bush and his government spoke of the old and the new Europe. Little surprised that the "new Europe" consisted of the USA's most loyal NATO allies. NATO is organised for defence against the Soviet Union, not to balance the USA. But it is a balance of the USA which is needed. Therefore NATO must be reformed. The best solution would be if the trans-Atlantic cooperation happened in NATO between the USA and the EU. A stronger and more united EU can make claims for a real partnership, can require discussions before decisions and can refuse to cooperate, both ins war and cleaning-up.

"Today it is the USA who needs NATO most." Who do we think we are kidding here? What practical use does the USA have of NATO? "as a larder of allies to use as needed"? Hardly, only the UK has any reasonable armed forces capable of deployment (and that at a stretch). The rest of NATO has been busy laying off their armies to support welfare states since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the US proposed cutting back its forces in Germany? Who really needs who here? It is after all the US that has maintained a functioning professional military capable of worldwide deployment. The impotency of the NATO countries was clearly shown in the tsunami crisis when it was a US carrier group that arrived within a couple of days to begin rescue operations, not NATO or EU or UN services.

The "new Europe" consists of the most loyal NATO allies? What, like Poland? It is rather curious (actually it isn't) that it is former Warsaw Pact nations that are most willing to take up with the US. Possibly because they know what oppression is, and it isn't Coca Cola and Big Macs. It was France and Germany who were most prepared to do whatever necessary to avoid damage to lucrative Iraqi business and upset the far left in their own countries, rather than possibly stand up to Saddam and create a hole in the middle of Islamic fascism. Again, it is no surprise that countries like Poland should be more favourable to action, having been invaded by and left out to dry by both these paragons of virtue. The world is changing, the status quo so beloved of France and Germany (among others) where brutal mass-murderers are tolerated so long as everyone else gets to live in their Kantian paradise is disappearing. Only an editorialist living in Sweden, so long protected by NATO without the necessities of membership, could possibly miss what is happening.

A balance of the USA is needed? Well, I guess it depends why and what for. But the sad fact for the hopes of this particular writer is that such a balance is not going to come from NATO or the EU. It is going to be, in a few years, places such as China and India. The balance in the end comes down to military power, pure and simple. You can have the strongest economy you like, but in the end if you don't have the ability to defend it then it is going to be taken away. The EU has no desire to build an effective military with the ability not only to defend its borders but also to be able to project force against the sort of crazies who in the future may decide to throw missiles at it. When Iran has nukes capable of reaching Paris, who do you think will be rushing to destroy them? No one. Someone is going to be caught with their pants down, as they always are.

Requiring discussions and refusing to turn up? Hmm, sounds like the current situation. How many months of discussions were there before Saddam was toppled? Lots, and then they refused to turn up and in fact block a second front that would have caught a whole lot of nasties and prevented movement of material to Syria for safe keeping. The fact is that discussions are not the be all and end all of an alliance, particularly when certain factions are in the paid service of the opposition, with fingers deep in Iraqi pies and no desire to remove them. What use is an alliance where one party comes to the table with no desire and no ability to act? Why would the USA hamstring itself in such an alliance when it has the ability to do the task alone? Answer, it won't. Why do they think Bush is being so gracious in his tour? Because he can afford to be, he holds all the aces.

NATO will cease to exist in a few years. The threat it was formed to face is gone. While Russia may yet rise as a totalitarian state again the more pressing threats are elsewhere, beyond the reach of any EU force. The important actors are closer to the action and more willing to put down the threats, India, Australia, Russia, Israel and so on. It is only in the wet dreams of sheltered journalists living safely on the edge of reality that the EU will be a force to be reckoned with. When the chips are down and people start reaching for their guns, the EU is going to find that it was never even at the table.

In a similar vein, QandO asks what if Bush is right?


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