I lost interest in the alliance the every day Nato decided to transgress the UN Security Council in 1999 and invade Kosovo. I was far from chuffed: here was an alliance that was seeking to re-establish its raison d'etre against the face of what was an explicit illegality. It was just not on.
Suffice-to-say, ten years on, my attitude about Nato has far from changed: Nato, in my view, remains a relic of the Cold War--caught between a rock and a hard place of providing humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan (and even the African Union!!) and needing to expand to perpetuate the fallacy that it still has a reason to exist.
Let me be clear: the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will celebrate a far from happy sixtieth birthday this month. Three articles have conspired to remind me that I am not far from the mark of wishing it as dead as a dodo.
The first is that of Mitchell A. Belfer, of The Prague Post, who writes:
It is interesting to note that since the Afghanistan episode NATO's priorities have shifted. At a time of growing geopolitical threats, it is remarkable to watch NATO squabble about maintaining troop levels capable of delivering humanitarian aid to the far reaches of Afghanistan, and deploy state-of-the-art equipment as part of a "hearts and minds" strategy, but not do what NATO is meant to do: namely, win wars and provide security for its members.
In the writer's view, Nato should have been focussing on ensuring security for its alliance members instead of seeking to reward what he calls Russian "belligerence". That Nato has adopted a rather lukewarm attitude towards Russia, in his view, only provides a fertile view that Nato has lost the plot.
The two other articles are more explicit about what they feel about Nato.
The second is by Andrew J. Bacevich of the LA Times which title of the article is sufficiently explicit: The US must simply quit the alliance.
Ofcourse, coming from where it's coming, it was always going to be normal that the United States would consider it a kind of albatross, what with the global recession and all.
His article is an insightful one, providing one with a survey of Nato from 1949 to 2009. He mentions implosion, which really is about Nato needing to resist from going further Eastward. That this is already happening--as the BBC has reported today--with Albania and Croatia joining to becoome the 27th and 28th member respectively, you cannot help but wonder whether any putative implosion will not come any time soon!
The La Times avers that the EU is more than capable of managing its own defence matters:
The difference between 1949 and 2009 is that present-day Europe is more than capable of addressing today's threat, without American assistance or supervision. Collectively, the Europeans don't need U.S. troops or dollars, both of which are in short supply anyway and needed elsewhere. Yet as long as the United States sustains the pretense that Europe cannot manage its own affairs, the Europeans will endorse that proposition, letting Americans foot most of the bill. Only if Washington makes it clear that the era of free-riding has ended will Europe grow up.
I believe that's a fair point, but I believe that the mess that Nato is transcends the paternalistic role of the US in EU defence matters; it has a lot more to do with failing to re-evaluate and re-formualte a vision of where Nato needs to go in 2009 and beyond!
Finally, there is Mark Medish's article in the New York Times, which actually mentions regional integration in the following context:
"Since the Soviet collapse, NATO has been a useful tool of regional integration, although it has done little in this regard that the European Union could not do better."
Regional integration? Come on, now. I would never go so far as saying that Nato has been a tool of regional integration in the sense that we have expressed it here on t his blog; I don't even know whether an alliance can foster or facilitate regional integration by simply expanding, without deepening, which if we are frank with ourselves, the EU does not do. It has always expanded very well, and deepened its regional inegration process rather well.
In the specific context of Nato, though, the writer uses the words "iconoclast"; " institutional fetishism"; and "radical re-branding". What he means in using these words is to explain that the iconoclasts "view [Nato] as a hollow alliance that has plainly outlived its usefulness and represents a misallocation of scarce reosurces."
As regards "institutional fetishism", the writer suggests that there will always be proponents of Nato; he believes that these proponents practice "institutional fetishism", which he thinks they should go beyond, adding "Nato should not be considered too big to fail."
Finally, on "radical re-branding", Medish offers a humorous rendering:
Instead of disbanding or expanding, a better option would be radical re-branding. It is not necessarily too late for this. Re-branding could start with a new name, such as POTATO, which would be far less neuralgic, at least in Moscow.
In short, Nato needs not just a re-think, but a very sober one if it choses to go forward. If it were for me, I think Brussels could do with a nice park at its headquarters in Evere!