Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rethinking NATO and A Nuclear Pre-emptive Strike

There is an exceptional article in the Guardian today. The article concerns several very august former military commanders who recognize that NATO is faltering and have issued proposals to strengthen the alliance. Both the criticisms of NATO's performance in Afghanistan, the considerations of the threats to NATO members, and the proposed reforms seem are spot on. With the fall of Soviet Union, NATO lost its moorings - and understandably so. European regimes that had always relied on the US and UK for protection looked at the fall of the Soviets as a reason to ignore their militaries and slash defense spending. But the Soviet Union's demise did not end the threats to Europe and America. The 9-11 attacks and Afghanistan have exposed the weaknesses of NATO. And now we see a real attempt to reform the alliance with thoughts of the new threats Europe faces. The article plays up the nuclear angle which will no-doubt have the pacifists all a'twitter, but that seems reasonable in light of the Iranian problem and the spectre of nuclear proliferation throught the Middle East.

This today from the Guardian:

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The authors - General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK - paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

The five commanders argue that the west's values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

· Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

· The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

· Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

· The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

· A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

· The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

· No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

· The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

In the wake of the latest row over military performance in Afghanistan, touched off when the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said some allies could not conduct counter-insurgency, the five senior figures at the heart of the western military establishment also declare that Nato's future is on the line in Helmand province.

"Nato's credibility is at stake in Afghanistan," said Van den Breemen.

"Nato is at a juncture and runs the risk of failure," according to the blueprint.
Naumann delivered a blistering attack on his own country's performance in Afghanistan. "The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner." By insisting on "special rules" for its forces in Afghanistan, the Merkel government in Berlin was contributing to "the dissolution of Nato".

Ron Asmus, head of the German Marshall Fund thinktank in Brussels and a former senior US state department official, described the manifesto as "a wake-up call". "This report means that the core of the Nato establishment is saying we're in trouble, that the west is adrift and not facing up to the challenges."

Naumann conceded that the plan's retention of the nuclear first strike option was "controversial" even among the five authors. Inge argued that "to tie our hands on first use or no first use removes a huge plank of deterrence".

Reserving the right to initiate nuclear attack was a central element of the west's cold war strategy in defeating the Soviet Union. Critics argue that what was a productive instrument to face down a nuclear superpower is no longer appropriate.
Robert Cooper, an influential shaper of European foreign and security policy in Brussels, said he was "puzzled".

"Maybe we are going to use nuclear weapons before anyone else, but I'd be wary of saying it out loud."

Another senior EU official said Nato needed to "rethink its nuclear posture because the nuclear non-proliferation regime is under enormous pressure".

Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this."

Nato needed to show "there is a big stick that we might have to use if there is no other option", he said. . . .

Read the entire article. Hats off to the Guardian for this exceptional bit of reporting that I have not seen elsewhere. The Guardian may be a far left version of the NYT - it recently ran an opion piece decrying the fall of communism and has, on its staff of opinion columnists, some of the most committed marxists, socialists, and all around multicultural leftists one could possibly assemble - but it also has some of the finest reporting out there.

(H/T Crusader Rabbit)

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