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Preparing for NATO in Chicago: This s a Critical Moment

This is the fifth diary about the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago. The other diaries are:

Why I Am Protesting at the NATO Summit

Preparing for NATO in Chicago: The World as NATO Sees It

Preparing for NATO in Chicago: NATO’s 2012 Agenda

Preparing for NATO in Chicago: 65 Years of War is More Than Enough

The End of the Post-World War II Occupation of Europe

Outside NATO Meeting

(photo: Rob__ , flickr)

Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee in New England, has an analysis of the current crisis in NATO and NATO’s Chicago agenda–and argues that this a critical moment for the changing of priorities in the North Atlantic Treaty area (North America and Europe).

Joseph Gerson, NATO in Crisis and Agendas for Chicago

Thus, sixty-seven years after the last of World War II’s bombs and bullets in Europe claimed their human tolls, a sophisticated form of military occupation continues across nearly all of Europe.Russiais contained. German militarism is capped. And Washington has a rear base to reinforce its now contested dominance of Eurasia’s southern flank: the oil-rich Middle East and occupied Afghanistan.

The economic crisis in Europe has reduced European nations’ participation in funding NATO. That indicates that European nations do not have a heightened sense of national security threats. It also indicates that NATO is still an instrument of a 65-year-old US strategy.

NATO and the European Union have created intra-European stability. The role of North American nations in NATO is consequently less important to European security even as the US drives European nations into conflicts unrelated to European security but related to US ambitions and global reach. It is time for US (and any Canadian) troops to withdraw from Europe completely.

The US can no longer sustain economically the level of military spending for its total-capability, global forward-deployment strategy. In short, the American empire has reached its sustainable limits.

To deal with this overreach, the US will be deploying 6000-7000 troops away from Europe and consolidating Western European bases within the next few years. It’s time to end the forward-deployment strategy altogether because $1.8 trillion a year is expensive insurance of national security.

Because of the lack of a mission after withdrawal from Afghanistan and the coming European austerity budgets, NATO’s future is now the NATO Summit’s agenda.

A Hammer in Search of a Nail

The Pentagon also hopes to use the summit to seize opportunities, especially by expanding partnerships to include Middle Eastern and North African nations in the wake of the Arab Spring and deepening U.S.-European space- and cyberwarfare collaborations.

All pretenses aside, the “global war on terror” is effectively over as far as NATO (in contrast to the US) is concerned. So what will European militaries do to justify their funding during the G8-created austerity? Where is the threat to the North Atlantic nations? In addition, the use of massive military power to deal with non-state loosely-knit political organizations that seek power over decision through asymmetric warfare and terror tactics has been once again proven a disastrous failure.

NATO now lacks a mission. That is a sure clue that NATO has outlived its usefulness and that any mission cobbled together to justify continued military capabilities will be commercially driven and likely to create new enemies and threats to national security to justify itself. Indeed the ham-fisted way that the US and NATO have dealt with their missions over the past quarter century have and continue to generate enemies. Maybe a political and diplomatic solution is is order.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Emergency measures designed as temporary have created a permanent state of emergency. The Pentagon, a temporary headquarters during World War II has spawned a $1 trillion industry dependent on permanent war for profits. An effort to centralize intelligence activities in order to deal with an enemy in the Cold War has proliferated into 16 known intelligence agencies and the capabilities to monitor domestic dissent in a way that is reminiscent of Orwell’s nightmares. Temporary measures to strengthen economies of Europe and Japan taken after World War II have become a global economy that has created a race to the bottom in labor standards and environmental standards. The temporary alliance formed to prevent nuclear proliferation in Europe beyond the permanent UN Security Council members, to counterbalance a perceived Soviet nuclear threat, and to most of all consolidate the control of non-Soviet nuclear weapons in the hands of US generals has fulfilled its mission and now is obsolete.

Imagined enemies have become real by virtue of their having been imagined. The most pertinent example is the creation of an al Qaeda presence in Iraq as a result of imagining that al Qaeda was operating with Saddam Hussein’s blessing in Iraq. Or the forward deployment war in Vietnam in which the North Vietnamese government (fundamentally a nationalist rebellion) was imagined to be part of a global communist strategy of world domination.  Where is the next imagined enemy that will become real?

Arms control efforts themselves have fueled the upward ratcheting of weapons research, development, and acquisition. The presence of arms control treaties has created scientific, engineering, and legal jobs who purpose is to pursue those very weapons through various loopholes in the arms control treaties. This has created more sophistication in the weapons meant to be regulated and hosts of military laboratories engaged in “defensive research” and “countermeasures”.

Opposition to conscription has perversely created a permanent professional military and a global system of contracted mercenaries.

The diplomats have become more belligerent than their militaries. Diplomatic rhetoric has more and more edged toward what formerly were considered acts of war (an embargo, for instance) and threats.

Increased “vigilance” does not increase vigilance so much as it reduces civil liberties. From the US Palmer Raids to the US intelligence community’s continued development under various names of “total information awareness” of the globe’s citizens, more and more civil liberties have been sacrificed in the name of security, and NATO has been the vehicle of propagating those techniques to Europeans nations and others.

Maintaining a defense capability is asking for technologies that one is compelled to use at the first opportunity in order to justify the costs and industries that must be kept busy making them in order to avoid a loss of jobs and incomes to millions of people. As soon as the atomic bomb was operational, it was used on Japan. As soon as cruise missiles were operational, they were used in the First Gulf War. As soon as drones were operational, they were used in Pakistan. It is a never-ending economic cycle.

And the military fantasies of science fiction and youth soon become the realities of modern war, creating a techno-military culture and a garrison society.

A New World is Possible Now

NATO is leaving Afghanistan, voluntarily or involuntarily in the next couple of years. Other potential havens for terrorism are slowly putting their political houses in order. NATO’s worry about it’s identity and purpose signal a possible inter-war period during which the next major enemy will be created. Or a period in which popular pressure can prevent the next cycle of war.

Millitaries around the world have sacrificed the development and maintenance of their commercial infrastructures to fund acquisition of new and more sophisticated weapons. Those infrastructures, where they existed, are now crumbling. And austerity in the civilian sector is reducing the number of workers experienced with creating, operating, and maintaining that infrastructure. Reorientation of economies to rebuild, modernize, and develop infrastructure is relatively easy to do compared to some other changes. Most countries have been there before.

People are becoming more aware that their privacy is not longer considered a human right. And that governments do not need suspicion that you have done anything wrong in order to monitor you. And they are ready to object.

The Occupy movement, an intra-global network of local movements has relegitimized protest in the US and other countries.

The NATO Summit is in Chicago, a location accessible to half the population of the US. It occurs during the run-up to a US Presidential election. This is a unique opportunity for Americans (and Canadians) who seek an alternative to endless war to exert public pressure.

There was a moment critical to the success of the civil rights movement in the US. There was a moment critical to collapse of the Soviet Eastern European empire. There was a moment critical to the end of South African apartheid.

We are at another critical moment, if we just seize it.

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