By Hans Vogel
At the beginning of April, NATO will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary and it plans to do so in a big way. Admittedly not without a sense of historical drama, the ceremony is to be held in two venues, one in Strasbourg (France), the other in the German town of Kehl, just across the Rhine. The location is symbolic, for this border region has long been a bone of contention between France and Germany.
For more than one thousand years-from the Treaty of Verdun in 843 to 1945-the rivalry between these two nations has marked the very history of Europe. After the end of World War II, however, the peace and the ensuing special relationship between France and Germany have been crucial for the process of what is called European Unification. Since the establishment in 1949 of the German Federal Republic, the Franco German entente has been symbolized by numerous joint public appearances of French and German leaders.
Apparently short on ideas, NATO has decided to stage its birthday party on the franco-german border, at a time when the ancient Franco German rivalry has been replaced by something much more serious: the resuscitation of the Cold War by the US. The Strasbourg/Kehl event thus also serves as a smokescreen in order to hide what is really going on.
Well then, apart from being an instrument of the New Cold War, what are NATO's accomplishments, what can it be proud of at its upcoming birthday party?
NATO was founded in 1949 to defend the recent US conquests in Western Europe (the nations that were "liberated" by the US in 1945) against an attack by the Soviet Union. Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has indeed been no international war in Europe. To attribute this solely to NATO would be a fallacy. The Soviet Union is at least as responsible for this stability by virtue of its strict adherence to the principle of peaceful coexistence. All along, however, critics were accusing NATO of in fact being an aggressive alliance. They were right: no sooner had the Soviet Union been dismantled then NATO showed its true colors and became the aggressive monster it was claimed to be.
Not long after its creation, it became clear NATO was an excellent instrument for the consolidation of US hegemony in Europe. Invoking the interests of collective security, the US first set up a network of clandestine cells to carry out resistance and sabotage in the event of a Soviet conquest of Western Europe. This secret organization is known under the name of Gladio. When the feared Soviet conquest did not materialize, Gladio was used instead to create "false-flag" incidents, such as terror bombings, kidnappings and shootings. The blame was invariably put on leftwing or communist subversion. Examples are the 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station and the 1978 assassination of the Italian politician Aldo Moro.
A Christian Democrat, Aldo Moro was actively trying to create a government with the Italian Communist Party, the biggest in the country. Under the NATO umbrella, no method was shunned when it came to stopping the Communists. Therefore, Aldo Moro was killed but the assassination was made to look like it was the work of leftist extremists. Whenever communist parties in Western Europe seemed likely to gain at elections, the box of tricks was opened to compromise communist leaders, to isolate them and to ensure that they would not form part of any new government.
NATO is also a conduit for the sale of expensive US-made weaponry, especially aircraft. By the mid-1950s, competing European arms producers such as France and Great Britain were practically shut out from the major deals for military aircraft. Increasingly, NATO countries were turned into a captive market for the US military-industrial complex, turning out its products behind high protective barriers.
No method was shunned to peddle mediocre and often shoddily made, but overpriced US fighter aircraft: cajoling, pressure, intimidation, blackmail, bribery. Hundreds of European pilots have perished in accidents with such US-made "flying coffins". Nevertheless, one by one, European competitors were eliminated. The British aerospace industry, important in the 1950s and still producing first-rate aircraft well into the 1970s, saw its European markets vanish.
Today, only France still produces fine fighters, but it is prevented from selling them to NATO-partners. The US has finally been able to turn almost all of its NATO clients into lucrative markets for its own military industry. Indeed, weapons are about the only products US industry is still able to make. The JSF is the latest in a long series of expensive junk the Europeans are forced to buy.
Over the years, the US has established hundreds of military bases all over Europe. Experience shows that once the US has acquired bases, it will not voluntarily abandon them. Nations that expel the US are severely punished, just ask Cuba, Iran and Libya: The US needs its foreign bases to support its global military adventures. That is why it has been expanding its network of foreign bases into Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
All things considered, you bet the US sorely needs NATO! But the question is, does NATO need the US? I would suggest the US needs NATO more than the NATO clients need the US. Without NATO, they would do just fine. The only real danger at the moment comes in the form of Washington's belligerent, adventurous policies and the ensuing wars in which the NATO clients are being dragged along.
Originally founded in order to counter a Soviet military threat, in 1991 all of a sudden NATO found itself without a reason for its existence. Indeed, many in Europe believed that once the Cold War had ended, NATO would soon be dismantled. How wrong they were! Of course, the US wanted to keep NATO, since they needed it as a tool for their dominance over Europe. Thus, a new formula was found and a new justification for NATO's existence. Virtually unopposed, NATO could now be used in a more aggressive fashion to reshape Europe according to the wishes US imperialists.
In 1993, NATO gave itself its first assignment taking the lead in the break-up of Yugoslavia. Under US leadership, NATO sided with assorted Muslim terrorist and criminal gangs in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. By 1995 NATO deployed thousands of troops in the Balkans and carried out intensive bombing raids on a wide range of targets in Yugoslavia. In the spring of 1999, NATO began a bombing campaign to bring Serbia to its knees. Within a few weeks, the entire Serb infrastructure, its communications, energy supplies, power installations, telecommunications, TV-channels, industrial plants, were reduced to rubble. Almost 6.000 innocent Serb civilians were killed.
Contravening all rules of civilized conduct, NATO aircraft dropped cluster bombs and fired depleted uranium munitions all over Serbia. In the end, however, the stated objectives was realized: the permanent break-up of Yugoslavia into a number of postage stamp-sized states firmly under US tutelage. Bosnia-Herzegovina had turned into an outright US protectorate, Kosovo followed in 2008. Since 2001, the Yugoslav scenario has been applied to Afghanistan and since 2003 (by the US and the "coalition of the willing", including some NATO clients) to Iraq.
Today, NATO's mission in Afghanistan is regarded as the most important in its history, one on which the very future of the alliance hinges. However, based on NATO's performance so far, this future does not look bright at all.
Indeed, NATO, under its US masters, is committing the most elementary mistakes, that is to say, those against which the greatest military thinkers in the world have been warning. If one takes the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu (4th century BC) as a guide, the NATO Afghanistan campaign is a dismal failure already. In chapter three of the Art of War, the Chinese sage wrote: "to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence." But in chapter two he stated:
"When doing battle, seek a quick victory." After eight years in Afghanistan, victory is still nowhere in sight. On the contrary, NATO's enemy, the Taliban, are getting stronger by the day, supported by increasing numbers of Afghans who are sick and tired of being shot at in their homes by nervous, trigger-happy US and NATO soldiers. Sun Tzu extensively warned against protracted wars and he is supported by thousands of years of history: "I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted." Yet NATO's planners and their US bosses in the Pentagon apparently thought here was nothing to learn from history or the teachings of wise men. This is now proving to be extremely costly but they cannot claim they did not know this beforehand. After all, Sun Tzu wrote:
"If the army is exposed to a prolonged campaign, the nation's resources will not suffice." Indeed, we can all tell the War in Afghanistan is a prolonged campaign and its cost is already appalling. Yet all lessons from the past are ignored. Of course, the US, as NATO's boss, is chiefly to blame. US military planners are even ignoring the teachings of their own favorite strategic military author, French Baron Henri de Jomini. All West-Point graduates have supposedly read Jomini's Art of War, in which he stated "the celebrated maxim of the Romans, not to undertake two great wars at the same time, is so well known and so well appreciated as to spare the necessity of demonstrating its wisdom." Yet here they are, fighting two major wars, one in Afghanistan. The other in Iraq.
Likewise, the advice of the famous Clausewitz, though admittedly more difficult to grasp than that of Jomini or Sun-Tzu, is being ignored at all counts. Among the many points of advice offered by Clausewitz, let us cite only one in order to demonstrate the foolishness of NATO's strategy in Afghanistan: "there is no higher and simpler law of strategy than that of keeping one's forces concentrated." One quick look at the map of NATO deployment in Afghanistan (some 50.000 of which 20.000 are US) shows that its forces are spread all over the country. More than 1.100 US and NATO troops have been killed and their numbers are rising.
All pointless deaths, really, since the Taliban are back in control of most of the country. The Taliban have adopted fighting methods from their colleagues in Iraq and are now using IED's with lethal effect. US bungling in Afghanistan is irritating its NATO clients. US and NATO air strikes have sofar cost the lives of perhaps 50.000 innocent Afghan civilians. The ensuing anger among the Afghans is taken out on all NATO troops. No wonder all but the most servile and obsequious NATO clients are reluctant to heed US demands for more cannon fodder. After all, no nation wants its soldiers to be sitting ducks in a colonial war whose dubious benefits they will never share. As a result of the Afghanistan adventure, NATO is beginning to show some serious rifts.
So why is NATO so keen on celebrating its sixtieth birthday? Usually, it is an anniversary that is skipped. One celebrates twenty-five years or fifty, or seventy-five, but sixty? It is an unusual number, like celebrating a fortieth anniversary. In 1989, both the German Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic celebrated their fortieth anniversary. Within two years, the GDR had ceased to exist while the Federal Republic had drastically changed by absorbing the GDR. Therefore, the upcoming party does not augur well for NATO, I am afraid. Even traditional anniversary terms may carry a curse.
During the entire decade just prior to the First World War, most European countries organized big celebrations to commemorate anything from national unification to the birthdays of major national heroes. Never before had there been a period with such an abundance of official festivities. But in hindsight, it was only the introduction to the biggest disaster ever to befall European Civilization, the war that effectively ended it. Well, I may be reading too much into it. Perhaps NATO celebrates its sixtieth year just because of a general feeling that it is finally up for retirement at sixty-five!
Let us hope, therefore, that NATO's sixtieth anniversary celebration will be the beginning of its end. Europe, Afghanistan, indeed the whole world would be such a better place without NATO!