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NATO Gives US-led "Coalitions of the Willing" Multilateral Legitimacy

"NATO offers the United States the useful stamp of multilateral legitimacy without really imposing too many limits on America's foreign  policy," says Dutch political scientist Peter van Ham. In consequence, recent NATO missions have been "devoid of the unity and coherence that the old NATO had" and US, German and Dutch units pursue different strategies in Afghanistan, adds Paul Hockenos, who quotes van Ham in A new Transatlantic Partnership: Rethinking US-Europe Relations.

Hockenos is a US analyst and editor of the German Council on Foreign Relations' journal Internationale Politik Global Edition. He concludes on NATO:

It is questionable whether this new NATO is still a transatlantic institution worthy of the label. Despite its multilateral structure, NATO has become a clearing house for US-led "coalitions of the willing," which alliance members-and non-members-can join on a case-by-case basis. For all intents and purposes, it is a group of like-minded democracies that Washington can call upon á la carte. The Europeans bear none of the roles and responsibilities of even junior partners as they did in the past, but rather serve as occasional helpers, as was the case in the invasion and pacification of Afghanistan. The more nations there are in the alliance, the larger the possible constellation for these pick-up coalitions. This is one reason the Americans above all push for NATO's expansion.

Well, the United States has global interests and ambitions and would like NATO to pursue those interests. The Europeans have much more limited interests and ambitions and are therefore unwilling to give the necessary resources to NATO. The situation that Hockenos and van Ham describe is the result from this mismatch of interests and ambitions. It is not due to some sinister US plan. And Hockenos "partnership of equals" is not the solution, since it won't materialize due to the different capabilities, interests and ambitions.

Since the United States does not get much military support from most European countries, the "useful stamp of multilateral legitimacy" is the biggest benefit for Washington. Although this "stamp" does not have the kind of legal legitimacy that only UN Security Council resolution can provide, it is big enough for each and every US administration to continue to invest plenty of resources into NATO. Never mind how many conservative US bloggers and pundits complain about NATO. These criticism are as old as NATO is.


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Joe Noory on :

Kockenhos is a writer for The Nation, and true to form his desription of the transatlantic relationship is meant to derationalaize and emotionalize it on teh master-slave angle, yet de-emotionalizing specific points he's trying to sell, such as the idea that teh EU is a viable international player. Hogwash: the member states individual [i]pulling and stretching[/i] makes it look more like a cartel than a union. His piece is a sales pitch and a rear-guard action not against reality, but perception: [i]There is the common misperception among Americans that Europe is somehow pacifistóat best a check-writer and post-conflict rebuilder for US-led interventions. Though not pacifist at all, Europe does indeed think about military force differently than the United States. The point of intervening in crises is to restore security and then reconstruct conflict-ravaged societies, providing them with sustainable economies and adequate governance. This approach is aimed at preventing crisis-prone countries from failing and, among other unwanted byproducts of instability and poverty, from becoming breeding grounds for terrorism.[/i] Something it has consistently failed to do - in the first decade of the turmoil in the Balkans, in the EU-3 negotiations with Iran, screwing around for 4 years with an effective policy on Sudan and Chad, etc. The reason that this article is here, and it's a partially-couched opinion piece as much as it is a "policy-paper for the layman" is that it tries to turn the EU's shortcomings into a theory that can sound flattering. You can see it in this [url=]specious claim[/url] that tehre was no humanitariam mission in Afghanistan before the Europeans came along: [i]Not Up to the Task Is nato is up to the job of keeping the peace in the North Atlantic area, its original raison díetre? Today, the threats to European security are strikingly different from those of the Cold War years. They include ethnic conflict on Europeís frontiers, mass migration and refugee flows, nuclear proliferation, and transnational terrorism. Particularly in Europe, many experts see security challenges in global warming, international trafficking, resource scarcity, and failing states. A recent EU study concluded that increased tensions over falling water supplies in the Middle East will affect the continentís energy security and economic interests. Likewise, global warming will exacerbate poverty and spur mass migration from Africa.[/i] Job number two is to simultaneously bring into doubt the humanitarian mission, especially in the north - all to generate both passive-aggression and an exit strategy for German government. Job number three is to denegrate the useful capacity of any military to start humanitarian missions and to let them mature by protecting civilian humanitarian missions. It seems that force can't be used, and even if it could, it isn't effective therefore it souldn't exist. Especially if as the rambling paragraph suggests, that any mission, including ISAF, is undercut by its' inability to address an environmental apocalypse (which they all promise is right around the corner) in Africa. [i]Thus, what to do with NATO in the 21st century? One option is to do away with the Atlantic Alliance all together. But itís naÔve to think this could be done without having something ready to take its place. The Balkan wars of the 1990s showed that there are times when military force is necessary, even in Europe. Were the European Unionís security and defense policies more advanced and effective, they could carry much of the weight that NATO now does. The Europeans think in a much more constructive way about security, but they admit that they lack the hardware to carry out sophisticated military missions. Even if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified this year ó a prerequisite for serious EU security policies ó the European Union will still need to prove that it can act effectively in the face of crisis.[/i] So there you have it, the EU that is an indespensible power is innefective in THIS part of the pitch, and NATO's only raison d'etre is to service EUROPE's security needs. In other words, any transnational entity's only purpose is to provide the Europeans the most effective power and guarunteed assurance of certainty in teh fute at the least cost to them - forever redefined for the moment's needs, they're willing to fight to that last Canadian or Pole. Evidence of that came this week - the 'harmony' in NATO's Europepan commitment gap in Afghanistan came courtesy of a committment by Poland, and a new program setting up a Blackwater-style battalion of 500 police trainers sourced from the general civilian populaltion from Europe and beyond, not any sort of program that would place undue responsibility on any government. If these are the only solutions to the 'tugging and pulling' between EU member states, then their engagement remain more of a distracting and politically wretched burden to the rest of civilization than a benefit.

Pat Patterson on :

It is only a warning that the pie-in-the-sky plans for a independent European military arm, in all its various acronyms, will probably turn out to be less reliable than NATO. Who is going to do the heavy lifting without relying on the US for not only numbers but heavy lift, finances and the confidence or rather moral authority to act?

Pat Patterson on :

There maybe some newer criticisms of NATO but the creation of that organization was almost strictly a conservative led effort in support of the Truman Doctrine which had approved by a Republican controlled House and Senate in the 80th Congress in May of 1947. The strongest backer and the author of the authorization for US involvement, who had done a volte face the previous year, was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, Sen Arthur Vandenberg. He had previously had spent most of his years in the Senate voting against New Deal programs and rearming the military in the years prior to World War II. Oddly enough he was a friend of Gen James Doolittle and convinced the Democratic majority at that time to authorize the money to subsidize the oil companies in developing aviation gas which had a much higher octane rating and flashpoint then anything available to the other allies or most importantly to the Germans. Almost half the Democrats voted against the Truman Doctrine and the creation of the UN because they wanted the US to return to isolationism and mainly to divert the Federal budget away from international policies and finish what they saw as the delayed promise of the New Deal. I know that in the US and in Europe it's easy to simply blame everything bad or any criticism of the "right" things on conservatives but in this particular case the canard should be attached to liberals and Democrats for trying to sabotage Truman and the creation of NATO.

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