Tuesday, June 12, 2012

if europe is a culture of peace, why nato?

aljazeera | It is undoubtedly true that the greatest unacknowledged achievement of the European Union is to establish "a culture of peace" within its regional enclosure for the 68 years since 1944. This has meant not only the absence of war in Europe, but also the absence of "war talk", threats, crises, and sanctions - with the single important exception of the NATO Kosovo War of 1999 that was part of the fallout from the breakup of former Yugoslavia. This legally controversial intervention was undertaken by the US-led alliance to achieve several goals: to rescue Albanian Kosovars from a feared imminent humanitarian catastrophe at the hands of their oppressive Serb occupiers; to facilitate the de facto independence of Kosovo from Serbian rule; to demonstrate the post-Cold War viability of NATO; and to reinforce the victory claims of the 1991 Gulf War, thereby showing that the West could win wars with minimal casualties on its side due to a recently acquired technological ability to shift the human burdens of war almost entirely to the adversary.

The contrast with the first half of the 20th century is stark when Europe seemed definitely the global cockpit of the war system in the East-West struggle for global supremacy. Tens of millions of Western soldiers and civilians died in response to the two German attempts by force of arms to gain a bigger role within this European nexus of geopolitics, as organised in the West. Germany challenged the established order, not only by recourse to massive aggressive wars in the form of World Wars I and II, but also by establishing a political infrastructure that gave rise in the 1930s to the violently genocidal ideology of Nazism, the most diabolical rendering of fascism.

'Culture of peace'

Even during the Cold War decades, Europe was not really at peace, but always at the brink of an unimaginably devastating third world war.

For the more than four decades of the Cold War there existed a constant threat of a war fought with nuclear weapons, a conflict that could have produced the scourge of apocalyptic warfare resulting from provocative US-led deployments of nuclear weapons or inflammatory Soviet interventions in Eastern Europe, or even from the periodically tense relations in the divided city of Berlin, or due to such mundane causes as human error and technological accident as with the misidentification of innocent behaviour as hostile.

Russia warns US over missile-defence shield

Also, to some extent the Soviet Union, with its totalitarian variant of state socialism, was as much European as it was Asian, and thus to a degree the Cold War was being fought within Europe, although its violent dimensions were prudently "outsourced" to the global periphery.

Despite the current plans to surround Russia with "defensive" missile systems, purportedly to construct a shield to stop Iranian missiles, there seems little threat of any war being fought within European space, and even a war-threatening diplomatic confrontation seems improbable at this point.

In many respects, the EU has incubated a culture of peace in its homeland, which although partial and precarious, has been transformative for Europeans - even if this most daring post-Westphalia experiment in regional integration and sovereignty has been wrongly assessed. It is almost always evaluated from an economistic perspective best appreciated by examining trade and investment statistics, monetary union, and regional economic management.


John Kurman said...

My suspicion is that, not only will NATO not go away, it will grow in scope, possibly even fulfilling the role of UN 'peacekeeping', but, you  know, for real, as in not joke Smurf observers, but 900,000 lb robot/drone Mechagodzillas that get right in the middle of a fistfight. It could be that, in 200 years, the *only* military organization is called NATO. The purpose of business is to become the only provider...

Tom said...

Well and one key aim that NATO and the Warsaw Pact had in common was to keep the Europeans (God bless 'em) peaceful.  It's the only 65-year period in Europe w/o a major war that I can think of.   If NATO gets out, it's back to the Warring States period.  Which, I dunno, but apparently "we" don't want that.

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