1. During the Cold War, NATO defended Western Europe from Soviet attack.
Although military spending during this era was comparably extravagant on both sides, we should remember that, because the Soviet Union controlled a substantially smaller share of the global economy, its annual military budget eventually reached almost 25% of its GDP; while 6.5% was the highest rate the U.S. ever had to spend. For this reason, it should be clear that the U.S. hardly needed NATO to “contain” Russia, but the pretense did turn out to be useful as a justification for expanding U.S. influence over Europe. The economic blueprint begun under the Marshall Plan and continued with NATO saw European member countries shift their energy dependency from coal to oil at a time when the U.S. was the world’s leading oil producer, supplying more than a third of worldwide production from within its own (today, greatly oil-depleted) borders. Over the next half-century, the Cold War would continue to be a convenient justification for exerting ever-greater control over oil production throughout the developing world.
2. NATO had to launch its bombing campaign in Kosovo in order to prevent violent repression of Kosovar Albanians by Serb forces.
NATO began its March 1999 bombing campaign over strident objections that doing so would cause atrocities against the defenseless Kosovars to vastly increase. To panic the Serbian public with aerial bombardment while pulling out all human rights monitors (described at the time as “the only remaining brake on Yugoslav troops” ) would prove to be a callous and grossly irresponsible act. It was on the night NATO had begun to bomb that Belgrade’s attack on Kosovars “kicked into high gear.” Of the 17 Kosovo-related crimes for which Slobodan Milosevic was eventually indicted, only one preceded the NATO bombing – the rest followed it.
3. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 demonstrated the necessity of NATO, showing that open and democratic societies are vulnerable to a new form of asymmetrical warfare.
One common example of “asymmetrical” warfare is the bombardment and invasion of a small nation, one which has not initiated hostilities, by a vast superpower employing devastating and overwhelming weaponry, including poisons destined to remain in the country killing infants and the poor for generations (Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in Iraq). If NATO’s goal in the Afghan invasion was to locate Osama Bin Laden, this was quite likely unnecessary: A mere six days after the attacks, Afghanistan had already sanely promised to extradite Osama Bin Laden to any agreeable neutral third country on the mere condition that the U.S. provide evidence that Bin Laden was involved in the crime. Instead of providing (or seeking) such evidence the U.S. made a decision to carry out an air and ground invasion of Afghanistan which began to exceed the death toll of 9/11, civilian life for civilian life, in only the first few months.
4. NATO’s strategy in Afghanistan is protecting the Afghan population.
It “has reduced the number of accidental civilian casualties, even if the Taliban continue to target civilians.” The 2011 report of UNAMA, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, was selectively quoted in the press. The UNAMA report did not merely announce that in 2011, 17 fewer Afghan civilians had been killed by NATO-allied forces than it the previous year; it also noted a sharp rise in the proportion of civilians killed that were women and children. The negligence of NATO and its Afghan partner was especially glaring from July-December of 2011, in which NATO aerial strikes killed triple the number of women and children that had been killed over the corresponding period of the previous year.
5. NATO is now working to eliminate threats from terrorism.
After more than a decade of war since Sept. 11, terrorism has become terrifyingly more, and not less, of a threat. NATO’s drone strikes within nuclear-armed Pakistan have gone a long way towards destabilizing its government, with potentially cataclysmic results. Leaked state department cables confirm that Pakistani military officers, who are trained under the severest nationalist ethic, uniformly and vehemently detest the idea of any foreign military conducting operations within Pakistan’s borders. Ordinary citizens are comparably incensed, with radical Islamist groups positioned as the government’s chief rival for their support. Government officials in communication with the U.S. embassy have been expressing steadily increasing fears of an approaching military takeover of the nuclear-armed nation. By destabilizing and impoverishing nations around the world, NATO spreads weapons and limits education, opening up new vistas of incomprehensibly destructive acts of terror.
6. NATO is working to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation.
Pakistan is one of the three nuclear states (along with Israel and India) which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, intended to keep our planet safe from an accidental or deliberate nuclear exchange. All three had the initial support of, or cover from, the United States in their refusal to sign. Iran, their non-nuclear neighbor which did sign the treaty, is the one now experiencing an escalation of provocations from the NATO bloc. There is as of yet zero evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, save the general understanding that, in the words of Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, “had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.” NATO encourages a global arms race when it claims, weakly, to be deterring one.
7. NATO protects civilians from government repression, i.e. in Libya.
Libya. The scene following the NATO-enabled civil war there has been a chaotic mix of factional battles with various anti-Gaddafi militias who refuse to disband. On Jan 21, 2012, Libyan veterans were attacked with tear gas while protesting outside the Benghazi headquarters of the ruling NTC party, the site of a near-attack on the country’s Vice President days earlier. They charged into the building and seized it while party officials fled. Widespread torture of alleged Gaddafi loyalists has caused a vicious humanitarian catastrophe, prompting Doctors Without Borders to pull out of Misrata because “detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.” Clearly, NATO has not helped to end government repression of Libyans.
1 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 11. Available online at http://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/pdf/whatisnatoen.pdf
2 Walter LaFeber (2002). America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2002. McGraw-Hill, p. 332.
3 Jeffrey Carliner; Alberto Alesina (1991). Politics and Economics in the Eighties. University of Chicago Press. p. 6.
4 David S. Painter. “The Marshall Plan and Oil.” Cold War History. May 2009.
5 Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Center for Transportation Analysis, Transportation Energy Data Book, Edition 30, Chapter 1, Table 1.2, released June 25, 2011. Available online at http://cta.ornl.gov/data/
6 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 13.
7 R. Jeffrey Smith; William Drozdiak. “The Anatomy of a Purge,” The Washington Post, April 11, 1999, A1.
8 John Kifner. “Crisis in the Balkans: Horror by Design,” The New York Times, May 29, 1999.
9 “The Milosevic Indictment,” The Guardian, June 29, 2001. 10 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 13.
11 “Taleban [sic] to Decide Bin Laden Fate,” BBC News, September 17, 2001.
12 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 18.
13 UNAMA Annual Report, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, February 2, 2011. Available online at bit.ly/A58pEz or http://unama.unmissions.org/Portals/UNAMA/Documents/UNAMA POC 2011 ReportFinal_Feb 2012.pdf
14 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” pp. 13-15.
15 Zeeshan Haider. “Anti-Americanism Rife in Pakistan Army Institution: Wikileaks,” Reuters, May 25, 2011.
16 John Hudson. “WikiLeaks Cache Reveal Pakistan’s Role in Drone Strikes,” The Atlantic, May 20, 2011.
17 Isaam Ahmed. “Possible Coup in Pakistan?” The Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2012.
18 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 37.
19 Martin van Creveld. “Sharon on the Warpath: Israel Planning to Attack Iran?” New York Times, August 21, 2004.
20 NATO publication, “What is NATO?” p. 5.
21 Mohammad Al Tommy. “Protesters Storm Libyan Government HQ in Benghazi,” Reuters, January 21, 2012.
22 Mike Blanchfield. “Canada Urged to Pressure Libya’s New Leaders on Detainee Torture Reports,” The Canadian Press, January 26, 2012.