Five former military headmen from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Holland have issued a “radical manifesto” calling for “root-and-branch reform” of NATO and a new “grand strategy” yoking the United States, NATO and the European Union more tightly together in a military behemoth under Washington's dominion, the Guardian reports.
The Mighty Five-who wrote their report “following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views”-were adamant in their insistence that a “nuke first, ask questions later policy” was “indispensible” in fending off any of the lesser breeds who want a piece of the action. “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation,” say the big brass.
(Who show a delightful talent for turning a phrase, by the way. “Quiver of escalation!” Fine stuff indeed, capturing both the minatory image of weapons at the ready-and the psychosexual thrill that all militarists feel at the thought of a good surge.)
In order to “prevail” over the dusky hordes, the brass also call for: “an overhaul of NATO decision-making methods;” eliminating consensus votes and national vetoes; doing away with the right of member nations to restrict how their troops will be used in an operation; “the use of force without UN Security Council authorization,” and setting up a “new directorate” of leaders who can bypass “EU obstructions” (i.e., objections to America's will) and “respond rapidly” when Washington whistles.
Our poetic chieftains don't phrase the latter point quite so crudely, of course, but it is obviously one of the main objects of the exercise. A “streamlined” NATO, operating without the need for broad consensus among members-and free of even the pretense of seeking UN approval-will inevitably be an even more pliable instrument for its most overwhelmingly dominant member, the United States. And with “imperial overreach” badly straining U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world, a “reformed” NATO would be a very handy tool for extending the Pentagon's scope.
The great and good behind the manifesto are Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Bill Clinton; Lord Inge (Peter Inge, as was), former chief of the UK's general staff; Gen. Klaus Naumann, former chief of staff of the German military; Admiral Jacques Lanxade, former French chief of staff; and Gen. Henk van den Breemen, former Dutch chief of staff (whom the Guardian rather irrelevantly informs us is “an accomplished organist”). They have already handed in their homework to the honchos in the Pentagon; the 150-page “blueprint for urgent reform of Western military strategy and structures” will likely be taken up at the NATO summit in April, the newspaper reports.
And what are the dangers to “the West's values and way of life” that the war chiefs want to aim nuclear missiles at? Well, “political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism,” for a start. (Reckon NATO will nuke the next GOP presidential debate?) The “dark side of globalization” is another; this apparently covers organized crime, terrorism and proliferation of WMD. Then there's “climate change and energy security,” which will entail “a contest for resources and potential 'environmental' migration on a mass scale,” as the Guardian puts it. Another danger worth nuking over is “the weakening of the nation-state, as well as of organizations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.”
But how do the manifesto's “reforms” actually address these problems? For example, as we have seen over the years, unilateral, unsanctioned military action by the West only exacerbates “political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.” What's more, the mass slaughter of innocent civilians in these interventions-not to mention the repression, chaos and corruption they inevitably leave in their wake-only discredit the “values of the West” in the eyes of the world, which sees the assaults, quite rightly, as brutal grabs for loot and domination behind a smokescreen of pious, hypocritical blather.
And if NATO unlimbers its nukes and tanks on the “dark side of globalization”-mafias, terrorists, weapons-peddlers, etc.-it will certainly hit many of the prized assets of the West's own security and military forces, who have long created, coopted, penetrated and manipulated these darkmaterials. (A tale we have oft told here: see this and this for examples). So this is not a serious objective either.
As for the weakening of the nation-state, it is hard to see how creating a super-NATO that can override a member nation's wishes on how their troops should be used-and even override a nation's rejection of a given foreign adventure decided upon in Washington-will somehow strengthen the role of the nation-state. (Well, it might strengthen one nation-state.) And the idea that openly championing the right to launch military actions without UN Security Council approval bolsters the effectiveness of the United Nations is also a pretty good joke.
But when the Manifesters come to “energy security,” and the “contest for resources” on an overwarmed, overpopulated globe, they are getting down to the heart of the matter. They know that the “values” that NATO has actually promoted over the years-not democracy, law or freedom, but keeping the Lords of the West in clover-are indeed under threat by the vast, crushing and ever-increasing economic and social disparities (at home and abroad) engendered by rapacious elites. And they aim to defend those values to the last drop of someone else's blood.
What is envisioned here is a gated community writ large; or perhaps more accurately a feudal castle bristling with modern technology: a Fortress West, where a priviliged few (supported by loyal courtiers and a cowed and distracted local peasantry) enjoy the bounty of the earth and leave the rest squabbling for scraps outside. If the others come too close or try to grab too much from the master's table-well then, it's the “quiver of escalation” for them.
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This story was published on January 23, 2008.