Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Guarantee a World War

I've just been re-reading a Harper's article on Georgia and Shakashvili and it got me thinking about NATO's expansion under the Bush regime.

I got to wondering how NATO functioned so well for so long and how it began to show such weakness and division since the end of the Cold War?

It became apparent (to me at least) that an alliance like NATO really only works well when it is confined both in membership and in purpose. The rationale for NATO made sense when the Soviet Union presented a genuine menace to Western Europe and North America. It made sense when its membership was delineated by the North Atlantic and the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean. It made sense when the United States was counterbalanced by the Soviet Union and NATO was vaguely offset by the Warsaw Pact. It made sense because its very organization almost completely eliminated the chance of a shooting war.

Bush really, really wanted NATO to open the roster and ink in the names of Georgia and Ukraine and what a disastrous thing that could have been.

Shakashvili turned out to be a lying hothead who couldn't wait to poke Moscow in the eye with a sharp stick. Imagine what he might have done if he believed he could invoke Article 5, the mutual-defence provision of the NATO charter?

If this nutjob (okay, both nutjobs - Bush and Shakashvili) had his way, Canada could have been duty bound to get into a shooting war with Russia and Shakashvili has made it plain he thinks that would have been a fine idea.

And just what have all these newly-minted NATO members been doing to pull their weight in Alliance hot spots like Afghanistan? They act like they've never heard of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's not like they haven't got troops, scads of troops. They do. You would think they'd be lining up for the chance to replace the Dutch contingent next year or our own forces the year after that. But they're not. NATO calls and calls and calls and they don't pick up the phone. Yet we're supposed to go running to their defence if they pick a fight with Moscow?

There was even talk under Bush of somehow stretching the North Atlantic all the way over to South Asia, perhaps even Australia. Now, wait a minute. Of course that was when Bush was just getting old NATO accustomed to serving as America's Foreign Legion. Here's hoping Obama will simply let that perverse initiative die a natural death.

There will always be wars, especially during periods that usher in changes in global power structures. The more we push, the more push back we can expect, especially from China. Quite frankly, I don't want Canadian Forces dragged into a war with Russia over Georgia any more than I want them dragged into a war with China over Taiwan.

If NATO is going to keep heading down this dangerous path, it's a formula for disaster. We either rationalize and consolidate the membership or we shed Article 5 entirely. We might as well ditch the mutual defence provision. We know that several Western European states have said they wouldn't get into a shooting war with Russia over Georgia anyway.

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