Monday, June 20, 2011

Potemkin Alliance Continued

Richard Haass writes:
If NATO didn’t exist today, would anyone feel compelled to create it? The honest, if awkward, answer is no.

He lists a plethora of reasons why NATO is no longer relevant, but then arbitrarily stops before reaching the logical conclusion that follows from his argument:
None of this justifies a call for NATO’s abolition. The alliance still includes members whose forces help police parts of Europe and who could contribute to stability in the Middle East.

Uh, okay, look, FLG isn't a Rhodes Scholar with a a PhD from Oxford, but he did take a logic course and has, you know, umm, like, I dunno, thoughts. If somebody can tell be how this makes sense...wait, let FLG reorder the sentences first:
Some members of NATO have forces that help police parts of Europe and who could contribute to stability in the Middle East. Therefore, we shouldn't abolish NATO.

Something doesn't follow. There's a ??? in between those two sentences.

Some members of NATO have forces that help police parts of Europe and who could contribute to stability in the Middle East. ??? Therefore, we shouldn't abolish NATO.

What exactly is that ??? Haass doesn't say. Do you know why? Because all the ones FLG can think of sound preposterous.

Here's the strongest potential argument:
Some members of NATO have forces that help police parts of Europe and who could contribute to stability in the Middle East. No NATO and they wouldn't. Therefore, we shouldn't abolish NATO.

But this is idiotic. For this to work, you'd have to argue that these activities are not in these member nation's national interests and they are just doing them because of their duty to the alliance. Since FLG has been arguing that NATO was merely the vessel through which strategic interests in the Cold War manifested, he obviously thinks that argument is bullshit. But he doubts anybody really believes that argument. And indeed Richard Haass explicitly argues against it in the piece:
With the Cold War and the Soviet threat a distant memory, there is little political willingness, on a country-by-country basis, to provide adequate public funds to the military. (Britain and France, which each spend more than 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense, are two of the exceptions here.) Even where a willingness to intervene with military force exists, such as in Afghanistan, where upward of 35,000 European troops are deployed, there are severe constraints. Some governments, such as Germany, have historically limited their participation in combat operations, while the cultural acceptance of casualties is fading in many European nations.

Where FLG thinks Haass goes wrong is to focus on the macro-level. Sure, Europe is spending less and less willing to tolerate casualties on a macro-level. FLG will concede that. However, that's not the issue. The issue is that the alliance members have diverging strategic interests. Or perhaps more accurately they have differing perceptions of their strategic interests.

But what else could conceivably fill that ??? Something more credible maybe:
Some members of NATO have forces that help police parts of Europe and who could contribute to stability in the Middle East. NATO makes them more effective at doing these things. Therefore, we shouldn't abolish NATO.

This may be true. These members may be more effective in the alliance. For example, the current Libya operation shows just how much the Europeans need US help to mount a campaign about as close as you can get and still technically be projecting force intercontinentally. This is a good deal for the United States why exactly? Right, it's not.

US policymakers have a huge blind spot when it comes to NATO. FLG sees four common mistakes. First, the policymakers involved winning the Cold War have a deep emotional, nostalgic attachment to NATO. Second, many people incorrectly attributing the winning the Cold War to NATO. Third, some US policymakers have a deep desire to share the costs of being the world's cop with Europe. Lastly, there are a bunch of people with a huge multinational institutions fetish.

FLG has written this before and will write this again. NATO didn't win the Cold War. Its members did, not the institution. The institution was a vessel.

Cold Warriors who remember working closely and effectively with allies need to understand that the presence of an existential threat focuses the mind. All could agree that the USSR was a problem. That focus died when the USSR did. No amount of 5-year plans, studies, or whining is going to bring it back. NATO didn't win the Cold War; its members did.

The "I want to share costs" policymakers need to realize that this only makes sense if everybody in the alliance wants to be global cop, and it's quite obvious nobody else is. Therefore, these policymakers need to realize that the alliance, in this type of case, actually makes it more difficult for the US. Europeans, realizing they can free ride on US power projection capabilities, invest less in military capabilities than they would without the alliance. To be honest, FLG doesn't think it would make a major difference. Europe isn't going to develop a global power projection capability, but FLG does think that if NATO had ended in 1992, like it should have, then France and the UK could have run the Libya operation by themselves without American help.

FLG thinks the biggest obstacle to doing the smart thing and getting rid of NATO are the multinational institutional fetish people. They need NATO. Almost every other multinational institution has huge problems. But then there's NATO. The military alliance that won the Cold War without firing a shot. Again, the members' strategic interests were aligned and NATO was merely a vessel, but don't tell these fetishists this. NATO is their one perceived success. FLG would argue the history of NATO shows just the opposite, the complete ineffectiveness of institutions in the presence of non-aligned interests, but what does FLG know?

3 comments:

George Pal said...

Multinational institutional fetish people are to nonprofit nonpartisan think tank contemplatives as ‘useless idiots’ are to ‘useful idiots’.

Withywindle said...

"Since FLG has been arguing that NATO was merely the vessel through which strategic interests in the Cold War manifested."

It occurs to me that this is a Platonic analysis.

Withywindle said...

Another way to put it is that the existence of NATO itself affects both the perception of interests (and I doubt there is a "true" interest independent of perception) and, if you must, the "true interests" of the countries involved. The medium is the message.

 
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