The Shotgun Blog
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
No Mo' Nato?
As the Afghanistan vote in the House of Commons, which could topple the government and trigger an election, slowly approaches, it might be worth considering whether the vote will have implications beyond the Afghanistan mission itself: whether it may affect the very nature and role of NATO going forward. Could a defeat of the Conservative proposal or an approval of today's Liberal proposal, which would notify NATO that a 2011 total withdrawal is forthcoming, sound the death knell for NATO? Perhaps.
Andrew Bacevich makes the case that NATO has already ceased to be an effective military alliance.
"In Afghanistan, NATO is failing. Nominally, all 26 alliance members are contributing to the war effort, with some 43,000 total troops deployed. In reality, stripping away the forces provided by the United States, Britain and Canada, the alliance has fielded barely 20,000 soldiers -- this to pacify a country that is 50% larger than Iraq."
The questions about NATO keep on coming. Adrian Hamilton, in the pages of the UK's The Independant, wonders "What the hell is a North Atlantic alliance doing in a north Asian country at all?" He's probably premature in stating that "[t]he row over troop commitments in Germany, as in Canada, has shown there isn't the democratic support for a foreign venture such as this among the public of the alliance," but if the Conservatives don't get their way in March or the 40th Canadian Federal Election, that proposition will have to be taken more seriously.
With the Cold War long over, the European states united under the EU, and the allied states no longer putting forward sufficient troops to support interventions like the one in Afghanistan, we would need to have a serious debate about whether NATO serves a purpose in the 21st century, and if so, what exactly that is.
H/T: Andrew Sullivan
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It's certainly true that NATO partners need to wake up and contribute more to the alliance's efforts. It's not as though they didn't benefit from the alliance for five decades. It saved the bacon of the very countries that are still being so slack -- Germany, France, Spain and Italy. What makes NATO a hard sell for today's navel gazing short sighted generations is that its successes are often things that didn't happen. The greatest NATO successes are the things that never happened. Authoritarian Soviets never crossed the West German border; The Cold War ended; We continue to enjoy democracy and individual liberty. But for NATO, this probably would not be the case. But for NATO, the people of Afghanistan will be denied those same simple freedoms. For some, this is just fine and dandy. The new "it's not our fight" mentality is popular even if it leaves country-sized thug and murder ghettos in its wake . . . During a discussion about the Sudan, I recently asked a fellow Newfoundlander what he would think if every man, woman, boy and girl in our province was brutally slaughtered while the people with the power to make a difference smugly said from the other side of the street "it's not our fight." If the shrill and ignorant cries of “It’s not our fight,” and “we’re peacekeepers,” continue, we may want to have them inscribed on our country’s coat of arms. Just remember the truth: when freedom and democracy were at stake in South Korea, Kuwait, and in the former Yugoslavia, Canada did take sides. This country sided with freedom. I'd prefer to see NATO's values re-explained and better communicated and interest renewed than to argue that it cease to exist or that the western world should become the eternal apathetic willfully distant bystander. . .
Posted by: Liam O'Brien | 2008-02-12 8:15:15 AM
It is incorrect to say that the Cold War is over. It was never over.
Glasnost and Perestroika were introduced and led by members of the Russian Secret Service. They remain in control and are just as frightening and just as great a threat.
Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-02-12 8:55:18 AM
Canada should leave NATO ASAP. Not because some of the other nations won't operate in southern Afghanistan but because we should not be tied by treaty to defend eastern European countries. We should have the flexibility to stay out of conflicts.
The expansion of NATO in itself is a very bad idea unless you want Russia to feel threatened and to enter into an arms race. From the point of view of weapons makers, generals and NATO officials a new cold war would be great. After all fleets of F-22s and new carriers are getting harder to justify if the only enemy are peasants hiding in caves. You can see this craving for a new conventional enemy in the nonsense decrying increases in the Chines defense budget.
Posted by: Fred T. Ward | 2008-02-12 9:04:42 AM
Follow Fred T Ward's logic and you will see eastern Europe and perhaps all of Europe fall again to totalitarian rule.
Fred knows nothing about defending freedom. He insults everyone who fought against totalitarianism in WWII.
But every soldier I know presently fighting in Afghanistan will tell you that he is fighting in part so that jerks like Fred can spout off as ignorantly as he is right now.
Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-02-12 9:48:39 AM
Wake up. WW 2 is over. The Cold War was over but pushing NATO eastwards will reignite it. It was foolish alliances that led to WW 1 which led directly to Hitler and Stalin. Military alliances didn't stop totalitarianism they enabled it.
With regards to the motivation of the troops: Give it a rest. The troops are motivated by the desire to see real action, punch tickets, get medals and make extra money to buy a new truck. If anyone (and I doubt it) told you he's in Afghanistan to preserve freedom of speech in Canada he's lying or delusional.
Posted by: Fred T. Ward | 2008-02-12 10:22:35 AM
NATO became redundant decades ago and never really functioned as an "alliance" once senior NATO Generals determined that the Soviet Red Army intended to deploy and use Tactical Nuclear weapons on the battlefields which included most of Eastern Europe.Canadian Airman flying F-104's were tasked with dropping Nuclear munitions on such charming
Countries as Czechoslovakia,Austria and Poland
(The Low Altitude Bombing System) "LABS" which
was rehearsed over the cow pastures and hick towns of Alberta from RCAF Cold Lake. Macleod tut,tut
Posted by: Jack Macleod | 2008-02-12 10:22:45 AM
I recently read an item pointing out that if the US leaves Irag, and NATO leaves Afghanistan, it would leave Israel to defend itself by making a premptive strike against Iran's nuclear ambitions.
There is a lot more than just a NATO decision involved here.
But hey if a nuclear war is what Europe wants, then that is what they will get.
Posted by: rockyt | 2008-02-12 10:30:56 AM
Fred T. Ward. Your first comments, while disagreeable on some level, actually had some fairly good points. Your second comments, however, are just plain mean spirited and ignorant. You can argue all you want that WW1 was caused by alliances, but what about the counter argument that WW3 was prevented by alliances?
Your comments about what motivate troops is rife with ignorance, prejudice and ill will; in short, they are pathetic - telling us that soldiers train, fight and die in Afghanistan so they can "make extra money to buy a new truck."
I have a suggestion for you - don't ever go an army mess and tell soldiers they are fighting Taliban so they can make extra money to buy a new truck, unless you want to get your transmission retuned while being parallel parked.
Your comments are very disappointing and even discouraging - a person with obvious ignorance spouting off about people fighting and dying. If you have ever served in the CF, in any capacity, you should be ashamed of yourself. Think a bit more before posting comments that marginalize and trivialize the incredibly difficult job our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan. They are proving themselves to be the best combat arms soldiers in the world, IMO.
Posted by: Shamrock | 2008-02-12 10:40:48 AM
Fred T Ward. You are obviously trolling making such ridiculous and outlandish comments.
I look forward to hearing what all the veterans think of your comments who post here.
Anyone who wants a new truck can drive a truck in Fort Mac. To drive an APC in Afghanistan is something else entirely you idiot. You are an ungrateful and spoiled little brat.
Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-02-12 10:41:34 AM
A journalist named Chris Lambie has just published a book in which he interviews the troops in Kandahar about their motives for being in Afghanistan. Guess what. The two reasons I gave were by far were the majority reasons for going. There's nothing wrong with a soldier wanting to prove himself and nothing wrong with wanting to make money. What is wrong is to pretend to have some noble reason for serving.
I have spoken at length with veterans of both world wars and even the Boer War and I have yet to meet one who joined to "save democracy". All joined for quite understandable reasons: out of work, were already in the militia, brothers and friends went, everyone else was doing it, adventure, see the world etc.
By the way I served for a long time in the CF, including Afghanistan, and I have never met anyone in any army there for idealism.
Posted by: Fred T. Ward | 2008-02-12 11:24:43 AM
Chris Lambie is the son of a Royal Canadian Navy Officer and grew up in a Canadian Military Family
-he is an outstanding Journalist and a very talented and dedicated reporter.His and Blatchford's writings
on Afghanistan are the best generated by our Country's committment to the NATO and UN Alliance in
Posted by: Jack Macleod | 2008-02-12 11:58:15 AM
Fred T. Ward, fair enough. I know our soldiers are not idealists, that would be hazardous to their health. People go to this or that career for all of the reasons you mention. But, going to a war zone because they can earn tax free income is backwards thinking. We are recognizing their commitment, and risk to life and limb, by giving them tax breaks, because we wish to mitigate their contribution and sacrifice.
Heck, I joined in 1978 because I couldn't find a decent job, so I understand what you're saying. I'm retired now, but if I were in and was considering volunteering for Afghanistan (which I would likely do), making more money would not be a consideration. What would be? It would be operating at the highest level of our profession, where it counts most, far from the safety and serenity of garrison. I would want to be there to make a difference, to find the place better than I found it, idealistic as that sounds.
It would be to work with the finest leaders in the world, to support (in my case) the best and toughest soldiers in the world. It would be to say (maybe selfishly) that I did my part. As you know, in the testosterone charged macho world of the soldier, talk of honour is not something shared with civilians, as a rule. That articulation happens at the briefings, the tranining, the DAG, and on deployment. Honour is an issue, not the "Three Feathers" type, but the belief that this mission is necessary and therefore honourable.
I appreciate that you have served in the military, that you have made the tremendous sacrifice of going to Afghanistan. I simply ask you to choose your words more carefully. Others are watching and listening, looking to pick off comments that support their view that our soldiers are war mongering criminals.
OTOH, you are free to say what you want, and others are free to criticize. I thank God every day that we live in a society where we can have stimulating, even rankerous debate, and nobody gets hauled off to prison or worse. I wish nothing less for the Afghan people, who, under threat of death, had an election turnhout higher than in Canada, for which we as a nation should be embarassed.
Posted by: Shamrock | 2008-02-12 12:02:35 PM
I'm with Fred T Ward on this. He nailed a lot of the reasons right on the head. When I think of my friends going on some stupid overseas carnage, I think of the "Support The Troops" idiots. They are the real enemies of the soldiers. I notice none of those cowards sign up for "important" duty. They just sit at home and cheer on one team over the other. It's kind of like a CBC hockey game to them. Clueless twits.
Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-12 4:58:46 PM
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