03 09 2014

Revolutionary NATO

Real revolutionaries do not just seize power. They also break down the existing power structure of the state and construct a new one from scratch, substituting the old administrators with people from the revolutionary movement, expecting in this way to get rid of not only all the people from the old system, but also all the old ideas. This was the recipe for the October revolution in Russia in 1917. And this is the recipe that NATO has been using today. In Iraq. In Libya. In Syria. This seems to have been be very good for NATO – it has never looked stronger. But is it good for us?

NATO is made up of real revolutionaries, the last couple of years under the lead of the dynamic former Danish war-prime minister, Mr. Rasmussen. These are people who say no to rotten compromises and go for the real thing: total destruction of the old order and construction of a new. No to negotiated solutions with outgoing dictators or dubiously elected strongmen. “Saddam Hussein must go”. “Gadaffi must go”. “Assad must go”. NATO does not deal in transitions with dictators and murderers. NATO deals in real and profound regime change.

There have been a lot of successes for NATO. The US led alliance of a majority of NATO countries conquered Iraq, occupied the country and captured and got Saddam Hussein hanged. They purged the whole old elite from the power structures and created a new state. The NATO bombing campaign in Libya obtained the same result, without putting many boots on the ground – Gadaffi was overturned and murdered, and the whole administration was wiped out. The same is now ongoing for more than three years in Syria. No negotiations with the murderer Assad, no compromise, he must go and the whole system with him. Negotiations in Geneva? Point one: Assad must go. Everything else is out of question. Those are words from real revolutionaries.

That all three countries now are in chaos with hundreds of thousand deaths, mostly civilians, has really not turned out to be a problem for the US and NATO. NATO has never been so strong and united, the hard line is paying off. There is a general willingness now in the member countries to spend more on the military, to extend NATO's area of intervention, to stand up to the enemies and to go to war when needed. So, it is a resounding success.

But apart from NATO's success as an organisation, they have left everything burning behind them. Of course, fires are not a problem for an arsonist, they are the whole purpose of it (“we don't count death people”). But for more reasonable people, it is a problem, and it is time to question the US and NATO strategy. What is wrong with compromises, negotiated solutions, international guarantees, elections and plebiscites under international surveillance – all the old instruments for peaceful solutions? Of course, sometimes they will not work at all, say in the case of organisations as the Islamic State, or in the case of dictators who reject any negotiations with their opponents, even when they are about to lose. And sometimes a revolution is actually the best. Sometimes the rebels have the unity and capacity to create a new state themselves (say the Cuban revolution, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua or the new Eastern European states created after the fall of the Berlin wall). But in many cases this does not hold true. The lack of any credible opposition in Iraq, Libya and Syria, means that outside intervention to completely destruct the old order has resulted in chaos and extreme suffering for the population. With no end in sight.

Mr. Saddam was negotiating, but it did not prevent the invasion and the Iraqi tragedy (“He was cheating”, they say. “We don't deal with cheaters”). When Mr. Gadaffi was in dire straits, he wanted to negotiate. New constitution, elections..... Mr. Assad in Syria has said he would negotiate, but not with the precondition that he should go. This willingness was never tried out, because it was considered not to be necessary. NATO's friends, who by the way in both cases turned out to be Islamic extremists, were winning anyway, so why bother?

These successes for NATO have no doubt also played a role in the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. No rotten compromises, Yanukovich must go. The EU had negotiated a transitional unity government? Doesn't matter, that is history, he fled, didn't he? Then the deal is off. Ukraine as a non-aligned country? No way, now we have the upper hand, now is the moment to get Ukraine into NATO and roll back Russia. Ukraine is too big a prize to let it slip out of our hands.

The results are disastrous. But NATO has never been stronger.

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Thorbjorn Waagstein

Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

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