Monday, June 20, 2011

NATO Nonsense

--Free Ride, Paresh Nath (UAE)

Make yourself a mule,

and someone will ride you

--Carl Sandberg


U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused NATO of "collective military irrelevance" in a recent speech in Brussels, a long-time stance of RangerAgainstWar.

NATO has been superannuated since the fall of the Soviet Union, and was irrelevant in the 1970's and 80's -- it has always been a legerdemain foisted upon the American taxpayer.

From The Week's "Putting NATO in its Place"

"(fr. Madrid's El Mundo): The European countries (who else would be in Nato?) have slashed their defense budgets, with the result that, while the U.S. used to count for half of Nato's funding, it now makes up 75%. ... Only 4 of Nato's other 27 members spend 2% of their GDP on defense, as required by the treaty." [Pablo Pardo's report can be read @ "The UN, NATO and Nuclear Weapons".]

George Will recently wrote that the Libya imbroglio
"is igniting a reassessment of NATO, a Potemkin alliance whose primary use these days is perverse: It provides a patina of multilateralism to U.S. military interventions on which Europe is essentially a free rider" (Libya and the Potemkin Alliance). Will suggests that some legislators are awakening to their job, in the face of Obama's disingenuous assertion that the U.S.'s involvement in Libya does not constitute a war. Fellow WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson asked poignantly in "Obama's Novel Definition of "Hostilities":

"The advent of robotic drone aircraft makes it easier to wage war without suffering casualties. But without risk, can military action even be called war? Or is it really just slaughter?"

This is a question that demands an answer.

There is no discernable military threat to the European conglomerate, so WHY is there still a NATO structure sans a threat? From Saudi Arabia's Arab News ("End of NATO?"):

"What will it take for the West to face the reality that the Cold War is over and the NATO is long past its sell-by date? It might have had its uses and played its role in checking communism. But it’s time to give it a decent burial. If the world needs an international peace keeping force to deal with trouble spots like Libya, it should exist under the UN command. "

In addition, NATO's activities should be clearly defined. For instance, it is spurious to label NATO's actions in Libya Peacekeeping (PKO) since PKO's are supposed to be neutral and humanitarian in nature. The Libyan venture is an undeclared war of aggression, plain and simple.

Now, after a NATO airstrike killed 9 civilians this weekend, Moammer Gaddafi now calls for Global Jihad against the U.S. and the West.
Twenty years of grooming "the madman", down the drain. Faint traces of another fouled up "intervention" termed success waft by . . .

"Heckuva job, Brownie."

[cross-posted @RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Most authors on the topic of NATO seem to be able to only look at surfaces, at the most obvious.

    NATO's purpose isn't to deter the WP any more, this doesn't meant hat it's not useful without being a successful military adventure club.

    Its utility is in keeping Continental Europe and the U.S. from becoming open rivals. Both would have a net damage from such a wasteful rivalry, and NATO is the bond that prevents it.

    I'm fine with destroying all NATO institutions. Reduce it to a treaty - fine.

    I'm also fine with keeping NATO away from all military adventures. In fact, its anti-war of choice obligations in its founding document should be emphasised. The U.S. has violated its NATO obligations several times, and grossly so.

    Abolishment of NATO? Being allied with overly aggressive nations with all the risks that entail seems to be the price that countries such as Germany have to pay in order to prevent a wasteful transatlantic rivalry.

    This may be moot if the U.S. and even many European politicians do not grasp what NATO really is and can do and if the U.S. continues to stare at East Asia.

  2. SO,
    In America we have a saying,
    ---Ass/Hash/Cash-no one rides for free.
    That's my bottom line on nato.
    The US just spends too much defending the rest of the world. Simply put.

  3. SO,
    What you are describing is a transnational CONCERT OF EUROPE thought.
    Personally , i think that the American Experience is actually about divorcing ourselves from the historic squabbles of Europe. We cut the cord with our revolution, or so we should have.Nato be damned.
    I don't care about Europe or anyplace else- i only care about America- US that is. We lost nothing at Sarajevo , either in 1914 or the 90's.
    If dissolving Nato caused competition then so be it. Possibly this would make all concerned more realistically to examine the phony logic of military thinking. If they decide they need defense then let them do it. By this i mean -PAY FOR IT.
    i think that Nato is more of a visceral reaction to ww2 than it was a reaction to the Warsaw Pact. The only difference was the US was the key player rather than Germany. How does the Nato concept differ from what Hitler envisioned for Europe.?

  4. RAW, seriously, I didn't expect that. You believe the US is "defending the rest of the world"?

    It rather spends too much threatening much of the rest of the world.

    Besides, I don't see a contribution to for example Germany's national security. I think we'd rather be more safe if the U.S. military disappeared today, for this would keep us from getting accomplices to whatever stupidity the U.S. does in the world.

    You know, Germany had nothing at stake in Sarajevo 1914, too. Its overly aggressive ally dragged us into WWI nevertheless.
    Guess what? We had no quarrels with Arab fanatics either ... until, well, U.S. foreign policy.

    (Yes, I am lazy and happy that having a blog means I can often simply link to it instead of repeating my points.)

  5. In all honesty, if the magical Geopolitics Fairy disappeared NATO tomorrow I doubt we'd see a significant U.S./Euro conflict for...well, no idea. Generations, perhaps. The diplomatic ties seem deeply knotted, and there's just not that much for the Western democracies to fight over. The notion of NATO needing to be there to bind the Americans to the defense of Europe seems more a product of lazy and entrenched thinking than any real immediate need. If, say, a resurgent Russia threatened eastern Europe I have a hard time believing that the U.S. would do nothing. Mind you, I have a hard time picturing Russia having the power projection to even think about this anytime soon...

    I think that at least some of the European attraction to NATO is that it allows Britain and to a lesser extent France - the former colonial Great Powers - to continue to act globally far in excess of their actual economic and military power. Just my opinion, BTW; I don't pretend to understand the internal politics of either nation well. But look at the current mess in Libya. From what it appears, neither nation could have done more than stage a brief intervention without assistance from the full NATO, meaning especially U.S. logistical, assistance.

    I should add that from where I sit, this doesn't really do anything for the average Joe and Mary European. I disagreed with the initial French panic about the possible destabilizing fallout from Libya and still do; if anything, I think the Western intervention has at least as much chance to produce as big a refugee/instability problem as the original civil war did. Same-same with NATOs participation in Afghanistan. The Europeans didn't have an axe to grind there. Jumping into our bar fight is costing them lives and money and getting them nothing.

    So - I agree that the old alliance has outlived it's usefulness. But I tend to agree with Sven that it's not a one-sided issue. I think that the way NATO has been abused by ambitious pols on both sides of the Atlantic has been a net loss for both the average European and the average American...

  6. "The diplomatic ties seem deeply knotted, and there's just not that much for the Western democracies to fight over."

    This is not about war only. Think trade wars, UNSC cooperation etc

  7. SO,
    We the great unwashed see it as defending the world. But from what?
    Your cmts are acknowledged and i'm in general agreement, but you can't deny the figures that i used in my article.The US is doing all the heavy lifting in Nato.
    If i were German i'd have a real hard time swallowing US presence in my country.
    Back to Sarajevo- this is why allies can be more of a detriment than a good thing.Maybe less alliances would equate out to less wars.
    Yes we are defending Taiwan and Japan,Korea, and maybe coming soon we'll defend VN from China.This is likely since OIL may be involved.
    We're such a sucker.

  8. Sven: Like I said, the diplomatic ties are there, and they're pretty tight. Does that mean that the Euro group and the US won't fight over, say, farm subsidies? No. Does it mean they'll fight it out in the courts or in international forums rather than on the high seas? Yes.

  9. "The US is doing all the heavy lifting in Nato."

    It's doing most of the useless and excessive lifting in NATO. Its actual contribution to the alliance security is overshadowed by its aggressiveness and all the troubles it creates by bullying and disrespecting other nations, including Russia and multiple neighbours of allied Turkey which attempts to secure itself and promote its prosperity through good relations with neighbours.
    The U.S. approach to the alliance led to bullying the Baltic allies into turning towards specialised auxiliary troops forces instead of a national defence army.

    Besides; the U.S. military spending is so large in great part for two reasons
    (1) inefficiency
    (2) global power aspirations that lead to requirements that are unnecessary for alliance defence

    I couldn't care less about the U.S. providing these or that troops or resources to the few military adventures of NATO, for I consider all those military adventures to be stupid ideas of marginal if any value.

  10. SO,
    We're in complete agreement, but who gets custody of the children?

  11. jim: There's some history to remember here, too.

    NATO was put together in the late Forties, and it had a hell of a lot to do with reassuring the French and British that we weren't going to re-arm a German invasion. The first NATO Secretary General said NATO was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

    All three of those goals are ridiculously redundant right now...but here we are, still standing around together. It's like the children have left home and we don't really have anything in common, but we're still in the marriage...

  12. i don't think you can trust the brits.... i think they have colonies on their mind again... they can't help it you know...

  13. I think there comes a point where even Germany might decide that the EU is a big drain on their economy and say, "Ach du arschs! fick das...raus mits du!"
    Right now Germany is the only nation over in Europe who, for all their socialism, is in the best economic shape overall...even with the debts it's owed and the potential fallout of defaults Germany is still in better shape than France.
    And the reason why I'm using France as a comparison is because of all the EU nations, France is the only one who can match Germany's military size.

    I'm not sure I want Germany going independent...I think the interrelationship it has with the other nations keeps it's ambitions in check.

  14. Germany can't go independent. Look at a map of Europe. It is smack in the middle. The tyranny of geography is relentless.

    I crossed the German-Polish border late one Sunday evening. The highway was backed up for kilometers with trucks waiting for midnight (i.e.Monday morning) so they could start trucking stuff into (and across) Germany.

    On the autobahn, the right lane is typically packed solid with trucks going one place or another (and all of them going through Germany).

  15. "Germany can't go independent. Look at a map of Europe. It is smack in the middle."

    Switzerland proved it's possible.

  16. Different breed of cat. Switzerland is bunkered up in the Alps, and the logistics make it less onerous to go from Denmark to Italy via France rather than over the mountains. There's no real natural barriers from the Channel across the north.central German plain all the way to the Urals. Militarily Germany had to be either a doormat for invaders from east and west, the big dog of Western Europe, or part of a larger whole. Until about 1700 it was door @1, from then until 1945 it was door #2 (or trying to be...) and since then door #3.

  17. It could also tip the balance.
    There was a neutrality proposal for a unified Germany by Stalin; rather interesting for a theoretician.
    A neutral Germany would have been able to sit in the middle, pledging to fight against any invader and thus by default add its weight to the defending bloc (and calling the same for help after a certain line was passed by the invaders).
    That would have been a very interesting, de-escalating position - and a 4th possibility.

    Nowadays, we could simply declare neutrality and be content with being surrounded by friendly powers. our membership in NATO does less protect us than it protects the Eastern European NATO members.

  18. SO,
    Your protection idea is only relevant if we accept Russia as a threat.
    If i can interpret what i'm hearing here -we/US should have GB&GER as allies with Fr as a wild card. Send the rest of the family off to boarding school somewhere.
    Why is the security of eastern euro nations a US national concern?

  19. Well, strangely, US foreign policy is concerned about Eastern Europe (for containment of Russia).

    And my "protection idea" was basically that NATO is not logistically sound for the protection of its Eastern European members without free passage through Germany (which would not happen if we were neutral).

    Why is it that Americans always think it's about them?
    My sentence was clearly about Germany and Eastern Europe, I didn't think a bit about the U.S. in that sentence. French, Spanish and British reinforcements would need to pass through Slovenia/Croatia, Bulgaria or the Baltic Sea to help Eastern Europe if Germany wasn't their ally, for example.

    Besides; neither can the US kick members out of NATO, nor would Germany join a US/UK/GER alliance if NATO dissolved. We would simply direct public attention to the fact that the Lisbon treaty is more of an alliance treaty than the North Atlantic Treaty ever was (<- just my opinion, of course).

  20. SO,
    Why is it that Americans always think it's about them?
    Well if we did think this wouldn't we just stay home and take care of America??!!
    Which is what i espouse.
    I do understand everything that you say.

  21. To all,
    I confuse easily and often go down false trails- so here goes.
    As i alluded to in a previous comment i find words fascinating. For example-the goals of NATO are pretty much the same as the 3rd Reichs pol/mil/econ policies.Excepting genocide. Broadly speaking.
    Those of Russia are roughly the same as Peter the Greats goals.
    So here we are in 2011 funding alliances that are alive and well while addressing historic realities.How did the US get involved in this?
    Same can be said for the Far East as our policies sure do look a lot like the Japanese ww2 goals.What is Korea but a flank protection for Japan?
    We are fulfilling Jap goals of 1941 in 2011.
    Does anybody else concur?
    I think i should buy Toyota and Siemens stock today.

  22. Enlightening cartoon . . . .


  23. I think NATO would best fulfill it's European security mandate if it brought one more member into the fold: Russia.

    This would give the Russians (the perpetual outsiders) a feeling like they were being included rather than excluded from the Euro party and, if Russia honored the defending other members of NATO thing, would guarantee that Russia doesn't attack NATO, because it is part of NATO.

    NATO might also benefit from the added viewpoint and the Russians might provide a rallying point for non-US points of view so the NATO troops wouldn't find themselves stuck in the US's wars.

  24. Pluto,
    I may not agree, but then i don't disagree.
    Our actions since the fall of the wall are awfully retro, but what do you expect with Rice and HRC being in the DOS.
    The Rusns are/have been historically strategically defensive.
    I think it's a violation of the Monroe Doctrine to push Nato right up their asses.

  25. Back in the early and mid-80s, the heartland here in America was afraid that NATO was going to dissolve due to all the Euro peace movements. I recall that the right wing was whining about Ronnie having to stand up to the evil empire all by himself.

    Svenn - What is Manfred Womer's legacy in Germany? Is he looked on as a hero of reunification when he was NATO Secretary General in the late 80s/early 90s? Or looked on as an antihero for his role in bringing IRBMs into Germany when he was FRG Minister of Defense in the mid-80s?

  26. Wörner or Woerner - not Womer. My bad.

  27. Wörner isn't exactly famous. I've never heard of him in context of the reunification, but I've heard remarks about him being the last really competent minister of defence.
    We got a lot of pro politicians with little if any ties to the Bundeswehr as MoDs since then. Some were practically dumped on that seat for 100% party strategical reasons.

    The Pershing2/Tomahawk debate thing is mostly associated with former chancellor Schmidt because he called as first politician for plugging the 'gap' in missile capabilities sometime back in the late 70's.

  28. For those who didn't like ACU's in the spotlight, in the news, or in the Pentagon halls and such, here's and interesting article:

    Frightening to hear the word "corporate" describing the intended culture shift. I don't know about anyone else, but my view of "corporate" America isn't particularly favorable and is definitely not what I want in any government agency, let alone the military.

  29. wourm,
    The tension in the Army has always been between the managers and the leaders.
    Combat is leadership and corporate mergers are bloodless management events.
    Look at all the top dogs in the Army since 9-11 and with some exceptions the managers are running the show. There is a absence of valor awards and cib's amongst the top dogs.
    The gov't should be an amalgum of the two. For example the POTUS is clearly a manager, but he should be a leader also. Alittle example is his wife running around the world on vacations galore whilst military wives are sucking hard just to get by. Contrast her behavior with E. Roosevelt in ww2- that was leadership.

  30. wourm – I definitely agree on your take of the bad connotation of a corporate culture shift in the military. Let’s hope this nonsense dies soon. But I fear we are stuck with it.

    jim - The Corps also had the same feelings that you mention re: management. They needed it due to the high tech world of the late 20th Century. But they hated it.

    But I have felt for years that a combination of both attributes, leadership and management, are required for a good commander. This is true in both the mil world and the corporate. Certainly it is at different levels in each. But a corporate CEO without leadership skills is a miserable manager. And a combat commander without any management skills is in IMHO a lousy leader and careless in combat.

    This is obviously apparent in armor, arty, air, and naval combat commands. But I believe it is just as important in light infantry and special ops commands.

    You are right about the current lack of combat in the Pentagon’s top dogs lately. The last USMC Commandant to be awarded for personal valor as a younger officer was General Jones and he was I thought an outstanding leader in later life although he did take a lot of political grief from both the left and the right when he was NATO Commander.

    If I look back on history I think Marshall, Ike, and Nimitz were three of the best yet all three also had a distinct absence of actual combat and valor awards. Valor does not necessarily make a good leader. Yes sometimes it does. Look at MacArthur who won all kinds of awards for bravery in Mexico and France, and then he engineered the retaking of the Philippines. Of course he lost it first which led to the disaster of Bataan. He wasn’t too swift at the Yalu either. I guess I need to find a better example.

    I ‘wikied’ Petraeus to apply the test to him. He does have a BZ with combat V but no clue as to when that was awarded so I am assuming it was when he was a two star general possibly at Karbala or Najaf or later at Mosul. Any ideas on that???

    Off topic I note in his wiki page that as battalion commander of the 3rd/187th he was accidentally shot in the chest with an M-16 during a live-firex when a soldier tripped and his rifle discharged. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was operated on. The hospital released him just a few days after the accident after he did fifty push-ups without resting. So my question is this: Why did we ever adopt that piece of scheiss excuse for a rifle in the first place. Yah, I reckon it has something to do with the range being too short for the projectile to start tumbling. But WTF, shot in the chest with an assault rifle and doing half a hundred pushups two days later – either the man is a superman or the M-16 is a poor facsimile of a real infantry weapon? I suspect the latter.

    BTW, enjoy the 4th. I will be shuffling along with the rest of the old vfw farts in our local Independence Day parade. Unfortunately the pols will be there too trying to suck up and make points. On the brighter side there will be participation by high school kids bands from all over the state and maybe a few from Chief's fair state also.


  31. Mike,
    Pet had to get his BS/V in Bosnia or as Div Cdr in IRQ.
    Marshall had a SS, did he not?WW1.

  32. I just spent a few hours reviewing Marshall's bio by Ed Cray. He does not mention it. Marshall spent all his time in France in WW-1 as a staff officer starting as 1st Inf Div Ops Officer and working his way up to Chief of Staff at Army level. No mention of any combat seen although he did all the planning for the offensives at Cantigny, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne and later planned the return home of the AEF. He did win a DSM. indicate he was awarded the SS, a 2nd DSM, and the orders of Orange and Suvorov during WW2.

  33. mike,
    the point is that GM had combat experience.
    in todays army as a infy type he'd qual for a cib by stint of staff duty in a line div.
    he was in line and within the range of german guns.
    opn types commonly go down to the assault level to insure compliance with plans etc..
    i wouldn't short sell him.
    petraeus has the coveted CAB.

  34. Jim - no short sell here. I believe that George Marshal, the ultimate staff officer, was one of, if not our greatest general.