Monday, June 13, 2011

NATO: Still relevant? Still needed?

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) has been much in the news lately. A military alliance, formed in the aftermath of World War II, (see a brief history of NATO here) today NATO is in the headlines because of the ongoing mission in Libya:

NATO and Libya - Operation Unified Protector

Norwegian F-16 flying over Suda Bay as part of the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone and the protection of the Libyan civilian population under Operation Unified Protector.

On March 27, NATO Allies decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The purpose of Operation Unified Protector is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. NATO is implementing all military aspects of the UN Resolution.

All NATO Allies are committed to fulfilling their obligations under the UN resolution. Since the resolution was passed on March 17, Allies have moved swiftly and decisively to enforce the arms embargo and No-Fly Zone called for in the resolution, and to take further measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas from attack.

NATO is taking action as part of the broad international effort and looks forward to working with its partners in the region....

Read much more here. The Libya mission in support of UN Resolution 1973 was not unanimously supported by the Security Council. Ostensibly undertaken in response to the very public attacks on civilians within Libya, NATO's stated mandate was to use "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya from pro-Gaddafi forces. (Read the full text, and BBC analysis here.)

As this initial mission - which President Obama anticipated would be completed within weeks (see more analysis on his views here) - is extended, and Ghaddafi refuses to relinquish his iron grip on power, politics as usual is ongoing in the back rooms of the global allies.

Robert Gates, outgoing Defense Secretary of the US, has made some very public speeches about the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era:

Gates: NATO Has Become Two-tiered Alliance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, June 10, 2011 – NATO has turned into a two-tiered alliance of members who consume security and those who produce it, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Gates spoke to NATO’s Security and Defense Agenda assembly the day after a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers concluded.

“In the past, I’ve worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance between members who specialize in ‘soft’ humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks and those conducting the ‘hard’ combat missions -- between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership, be they security guarantees or headquarters billets, but don’t want to share the risks and the costs,” the secretary said.

“This is no longer a hypothetical worry,” he added. “We are there today. And it is unacceptable.”..More here.

More recently, Gates talked of the contributions, or lack of, by various NATO partners in Libya:

Canada is among a handful of NATO members that has "managed to punch well above their weight" in a transatlantic alliance that faces a "dim" future due to American belt-tightening and European indifference, outgoing U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday. (More here)

As the Libya mission was in it's infancy, Canadian Lt. General Charles Bouchard was named as the mission commander (here.)

In perhaps a military reflection of the political realities - five member states of NATO abstained in the initial vote to authorise the undefined end goal of international military intervention in Libya - not all members states have military assets deployed over (in??) Libya. According to Gates:

...all members of the alliance voted for the Libya mission, but less than half have participated. Just 11 weeks into the mission, the "mightiest military alliance in history" is beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S. once more to make up the difference. The U.S. is "in the midst of a deep economic crisis of our own," he said. "If you told American taxpayers, as I just did, that they're bearing 75 percent of the financial burden of the alliance, this going to raise eyebrows." (NPR here)

Given the confusing, and often sparse, political commentary in the msm on world events generally, and the current situation in Libya specifically, it might be difficult for regular folks to understand the whys and wherefores of Libya, the middle east, and NATO's relevance within the shifting sands of history.

War on Terror News weighs in:


Is NATO Being Misused? Or is it being transformed into something different?


The NATO operation in Libya has been causing questions from the very beginning, but in reviewing the most recent NATO Briefing on the operation and recent comments by SecDef Gates, SecState Clinton, and high level officials of NATO itself, one must ask what is the future of NATO and is its present form within the constraints of its mandate, or is it being transformed into something new. This is not the first time NATO has been used in a manner different than its mandate, but it is far different to use an existing infrastructure on a voluntary basis and to infer a requirement that individual members act in a non-defensive operation.

Before one can answer the question of Libyan Operations being within the mandate of NATO, one must first realize what NATO was created for and how that mission can continue. NATO was created as a defense to the Soviet Empire, following the Cold War. In a nutshell, signatories agree that "an attack on one member is an attack on all members," and hence all members must participate in the military response to the aggressor. The NATO Charter did not specifically say if the Soviet Union attacked, all would respond, nor did it state that if one member decided war was necessary, that all must join.

So, when Serbia violently attempted to prevent secession by Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Slovenia, and Kosovo, there was no requirement that Germany or the United States participate in NATO operations against Serbia. And when the United States determined that Iraq was a threat to US interests and citizens, there was no mandate for NATO to be involved, though there is a small NATO operation in Iraq. But, when Osama bin Laden, with support of his Taliban regime in Afghanistan, decided to attack the United States on 9/11/2001, that did invoke the NATO charter, and members were required to respond militarily.

Qaddaffi is a tyrant and has a record of supporting terrorism, but when it comes to petty dictators in the world, he had in many ways reformed his ways, when he took note of W's resolve to root out tyrants of his ilk. He should be deposed, but what concerns me is the language used in the whole affair. What concerns me is the means being used to justify the operations. Qaddaffi did not attack any member state of NATO, not in this century anyway. Hence there is no NATO mandate to force member states to go to war in Libya. That doesn't mean there can't be a use of NATO infrastructure for the operation, but that it isn't required by the treaty...

As usual, WOTN cuts through the verbiage of the politicians, as he analyses NATO relevance then and now, here.

Yes, it is a must read!

As the global politicians decide behind closed doors which countries they will, and will not, support; which civilian fights for freedom and democracy they will, or will not, support, it is increasingly important that we, the people, are informed about the squalls of change blowing around the world.

Pay attention.

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