As Goes The West So Goes NATO


NATO has always been more than just a traditional military alliance because it has always been about more than just traditional military security. When the Atlantic Alliance was established 60 years ago, its founding vision involved more than just the defence of Europe and America against the Soviet Union. It was much bigger and far more compelling than that. NATO’s original raison d’être was nothing less than the defence of Western civilization against Eastern tyranny.

If anything, the ensuing decades of the Cold War clarified and crystallized the political and intellectual division between the West and the East. And NATO evolved from its origins as a defensive alliance to become part of an offensive vanguard that sought to spread the ideals of Western civilization, such as political freedom and democratic capitalism, to other parts of the world. The issue of enlarging NATO, for example, came to epitomize the larger question of establishing the borders of Western civilization.

But somewhere along the way, the West stopped believing in the idea of Western civilization. In the United States, the spread of economic interests throughout Asia and Latin America, that is to say, outside of the boundaries of the West, made the concept of Western civilization seem too narrow. In Europe, the rise of deconstructionism and post-modern philosophy displaced the core intellectual and spiritual base of Western civilization, especially as it pertains to Christianity. And in both America and Europe, the steady growth of immigration from non-Western countries has led to the rise of multicultural ideology, which at base is hostile to the idea of Western civilization. As a result, the West is now essentially post-Western.

This post-Cold War, post-Western West is, however, in the throes of a profound identity crisis. It is adrift and unable (and seemingly unwilling) to define, much less defend its values and face up to the challenges that threaten its way of life. It is weak and divided. It is in crisis, both morally and intellectually.

The abandonment of Western civilization by its strongest defenders, combined with important shifts in the transatlantic balance of power, has contributed to a fundamental breakdown of the Euro-Atlantic security order. Europe and the United States are now incapable of agreeing upon even the most basic strategic priorities. They remain unable to define, much less engage, strategic threats. The end of the West has also had major negative consequences for NATO, because it has deprived the Atlantic Alliance of its main legitimating mission. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been at the mercy mainly of bureaucratic momentum, which is why it generates so little enthusiasm and political support from among European and American publics.

If NATO is to survive another 60 years, it needs more than just a new Strategic Concept. It needs to conceptualise a new legitimizing idea, a grand overarching vision that clearly and effectively confronts the grim security realities the world now faces. Still missing at this historical crossroads is the leadership that is up to the task of turning vision into reality. At transatlantic summit after transatlantic summit, European and American political leaders seem content to paper over problems instead of solving them. Historically, the West has not been given to fatalism and a good step in the right direction would be to confidently and articulately reaffirm support for the time-honoured values and principles of Western civilization. Otherwise the future of transatlantic relations in general, and NATO in particular, will remain an open question.


This article was first published in Security and Defense Discussion Paper, July 1, 2009.

Still fighting on Easter Front

Come on, guys. You are still fighting on Eastern front. Is Russia the main danger to the West? Think where your allies (Chechens et al.) can and actually did lead you.

Look at Geert Wilders and his success. Does he fight Russia, or maybe someone else? That's because he is struggling for common Western future, not for revenge.

Mr Hannan ...(3)

@ atheling


Perhaps I am being a little hard on Mr Hannan but I don't think so. We Brits are in desperate need of a man of action, not a mere theoretician. Hannan certainly talks the talk, but is he capable of  walking the walk? Only he can answer that question.  


I completely agree that for reform, one needs a "man of action", however, after reading British papers, blogs and comments for several years now, it appears that a large portion of the British people, like their liberal counterparts in America, have forgotten the tenets of liberty and those ancient rights they held since the Magna Carta.

Without a proper understanding of those rights and liberties, they will never vote for the "man of action" should he arise in your political sphere.

I believe that Dan Hannan is an excellent speaker and writer, who can articulate those principles and vision which is necessary for a people to gain back their freedom.

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have... a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers.

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives. - John Adams

Mr. Hannan has inspired many Americans to return to their roots by his speeches and exhortations. May he do the same to our friends across the pond.

NATO # 2

@ KA

1) There is a misunderstanding here.  I did not refer to treatment of "non-Russian minorities" IN RUSSIA.  It was Natalie who wanted to concede to Russia a Russian "sphere of influence", and it was you who supported her claim on the basis of concern for Russian minorities in Eastern Europe.  My point was simply that those Russian minorities have a better chance of being treated fairly within NATO countries than non-Russians have in any conceded special Russian "sphere of influence". 

2) The dissolution of Yugoslavia and the NATO intervention to stop atrocities there, had nothing to do with any "Russian minorities". 

3) I fully understand - but do not approve - that most Western European countries do not want to extend to recently-freed East Europeans the same kind of protective umbrella that America for so long had/has  extended to Western Europe.  In that 'understanding' one can see the real difference of character between the two cultures on either side of the Atlantic.   While this surely has been noted by the current generation of 'adults' in Eastern Europe, I have no illusions that future generations of Eastern Europeans will follow the same path to servitude and submission that the West-Europeans are curently following. 

4) Indeed, the US Senate permitted the inclusion of the Baltic states into NATO.  Perhaps it had a conscience, and was not solely guided by cynical short-term self-interest?   

@marcfrans RE: NATO

The treatment of non-Russian minorities in Russia is irrelevant, as is the status of Russian democracy.  NATO expanded into countries complicated by unresolved irredentist tensions related to their ethnic Russian enclaves.  Although the Soviet Union dissolved relatively peacefully, the irredentist wars ignited by the dissolution of Yugoslavia prompted NATO intervention, and should have given NATO pause before admitting the Baltic republics and initiating the entry process with Georgia and Ukraina.  Indeed, the South Ossetia War proved that Russia is very interested in the fate of its enclaves.


Basically, NATO has over-extended itself, and "assurances" have been given that have the potential to cause war between Russia and NATO should any of its newest members act as rashly as Georgia did. 


Perhaps American guarantees that NATO would not expand closer to Russia's borders were beyond the purview of the guarantors to give.  Nevertheless, the Senate permitted NATO expansion to Russia's borders. 

don't worry

Give me some credit, I said “it does not happen often ...”

Mr Hannan ... (2)

@ atheling


Defection to UKIP is arguably  a part of the solution but not THE solution. THE solution to Britain's long-term political ills is nothing less than the total realignment of British politics.

Q: Does Mr Hannan recognise this simple truth? Time alone will tell.


Interesting... you're more skeptical of Daniel Hannan than I am. I think he is all for a re-alignment of British politics, and his book, The Plan, delineates said re-alignment.

I've listened to his speeches and read his blog. I think he has his finger on the problem, and his proposed solutions are excellent: more laws from local rather than a centralized government, open primaries, elected sheriffs and school officials, lower taxes, national referendums, etc...

But if you folks don't want him, we Yanks will gladly take him! :)

traveller # 3

@ traveller


Relax. Kappert does NOT agree with you 100% on this issue and I believe I can prove it. Let Kappert tell us who or what she believes should replace those  "idiots"  and I  guarantee 100%  you will not agree with her choice. 

traveller # 2

@ traveller

I would not like to be in your shoes.  Having Kappert agree with you "100%" is not an enviable position to be in. 

As I said, I am not going to re-argue the pros and cons of the balkan wars of the 1990's, and I am quite aware of (then) German sympathies for Croats and Russian ones for Serbs.   I share your low opinion of contemporary Western leaders and have no illusions about the shared guilt among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims (and some others as well) for the atrocities associated with the Yugoslav break-up.  Furthermore, my perception of so-called "international law" is probably even more negative than yours.  But, none of this can justify unbalanced and unreasonable judgments and, even less, falsifying historical revisionism. 

Natalie was a young child when these wars occurred. Her opinions are based on those of (selected) others and have not benefited from empirical observation during the relevant time period.  By contrast, you and I were then 'mature' adults, and graduate observers of many other earlier wars in various parts of the world. We have no excuse for re-writing history in order to suit ideological 'needs'. 

The NATO intervention in question was essentially an American intervention (but urged by many European leaders at the time).  The decision to intervene was taken by Bill Clinton, but it was broadly supported by the US public and by the Congress at the time.  It was a 'late' decision, in the sense that it only came after a long period of daily media coverage of balkan atrocities, including ethnic cleansing on a large scale (largely undertaken by Serbs and Croats), clear evidence of organised Serbian 'rape camps' and civilian massacres, the long siege and bombardment of Sarajevo, etc... While one can agree or disagree with the decision to intervene and stop all this, it is unreasonable to call it a "criminal decision", and it is also unreasonable to call the Serbian people "innocent". 

People in democracies have to maintain the ability to make balanced judgments and should refrain from hurling UNREASONABLE insults and conspiratorial motivations at their own governments simply because they disagree with difficult decisons taken.   This applies even more to decisions taken in the past than those of the present, because  the 'deranged' self-haters usually were not there in that particular past. There are numerous examples of this pattern of  absurd historical revisionism in the service of some contemporary ideological 'need'.  World War 2 and 'Hiroshima' are the most common examples, but balkan war revisionism is an increasing phenomenon too.   I can clearly remember the context within which Clinton took his decision and, given that context, Natalie's charges are unreasonable and unbalanced.   It is not because we just had to experience many years of Bush-Derangement-Syndrome by a large part of the political/cultural left, that the rest of us should all turn into kappertian zombies simply because we disagree with certain decisons taken in  the past or the present.


Mr. Hitchens is completely correct. Mr. Hannan's honesty and integrity doesn't belong with the Tories; I usually refrain from criticizing politicians from across the pond, but I thought Mr. Cameron's response to Mr. Hannan's assessment was disgraceful and dishonest.

I doubt if he will come to the US, however. He has already stated that he loves England and could never leave. But that was after his fiery speech against the Prime Minister, where he was lauded by many Americans. Maybe he will change his mind after being betrayed and insulted by his own Party Leader. Frankly, the Tories don't deserve him. Maybe the UKIP will lure him away?


I'm not trying to weasel my way out of anything because I stand by what I said: NATO is a criminal organisation for bombing the Serbs in 1999.  And in a historical context, especially of the twentieth century, the Serbs are an innocent people.

Enough said.  I'm not going to argue with you anymore because I really don't have anything else to say.  I'm just a tad surprised that commenters on this website, where there have been eloquent essays supporting the Serbs, would resort to old, worn-out smears against the Serbs simply to justify the existence of an organisation that now exists solely to counter an alleged, but nonexistent, Russian threat.

@ natalie and marcfrans

A very good friend of mine went as a voluntary witness for Milosevic. The war against Serbia was a dirty war and was a gift by the US to Germany. Genscher was the man who was pushing to break up Yugoslavia, which was an old WW II heritage between the pro-German Croats and the pro-Russian Serbs.
My friend is convinced that Milosevich was murdered because the case against him became ridiculous. It is true that some witnesses who testified about Srebrenica had never been in Srebrenica.

This is all swept under the table now and we will never know the real truth, unless my friend decides to write a book about it and risk his life. I hope he won't.
I wouldn't call the Serbs innocent, but they were not more guilty than others in this massacre and the ensuing independence of Kosovo is a total f...-up of international law.
The West is now "guided" by idiots and sheep who follow any pied piper. The results will be bloody and disastrous.

Samuel Huntington

Natalie's point about Serbia shows that my concern expressed below--that NATO would eventually become an enforcer of multiculturalist socialism against the European peoples--was in error, because it has already happened. What was the result of the NATO intervention in the Balkans? According to Samuel Huntington, the establishment of a client-state of Iran on the European mainland. We can now add the creation of the Muslim gangster state of independent Kosovo to that shining accomplishment.

Self-destructive imprudence regarding the true interests of the West does not by itself amount to a war crime. But to inflict punitive injuries on a civilian population with no substantial military aim, based on a callousness towards the alien "Orthodox" civilization, to prove pro-Muslim bona fides to the Saudis and create an armed Muslim government in Europe, and possibly to knock Monica Lewinsky off the front page--well, "criminal" does not seem like too strong a word in the context of common speech and not technical legalese.

For the record

I will not repeat my various arguments that Natalie has ignored, and I will not re-argue the balkan wars of the 1990's.  But, for the record, I will re-state exactly what she wrote without violating its context.  

She stated explicitly that (a) Nato "is a criminal organisation" and (b) that the Serbs are "an innocent people".  Within the broader context of postwar (WW2) history and of the balkan wars in the 1990's, both statements are unreasonable, unbalanced, and indicative of poor judgement.


Re: For the Record

Yeah, she tried to weasel her way out of it, but it's quite clear that she unthinkingly painted a broad brush on that organization.

Can't wiggle your way out of it, Natalie. You posted a stink bomb.

Quack, quack

Welcome back, A911... was starting to wonder what happened to you.

Been reading about the NHS furor started by Daniel Hannan and even took the time to tell him that he needs to pack up his family and move to the US. I bet if he ran for Congress he'd be Speaker of the House or Senate Majority Leader in no time! (If you can spare him) ;)

Criminal # 2

@ Natalie

I do not think that you were "misunderstood".  You called NATO " a criminal organisation" and, on the basis of that absurd blanket statement you were 'understood'. Even if you had been more careful in your original statement, and if you had narrowed your charge down to a specific action (i.e. the NATO bombing of Serbia) then you would still have been correctly 'understood'. 

The purpose of NATO was not (and is not today) to commit "crimes".  It is quite natural that, in democracies, there will be disagreements about war decisons and about specific military actions. That does not give you a legal - nor a moral - right to label those decisions you disagree with as "criminal".  Democracies have their own constitutional provisions about who is authorised to do what, and how 'checks and balances' are distributed among the major players or 'powers' within that particular democracy.  The decisions taken by Bill Clinton in the balkans in the 1990's were certainly controversial, but they were not illegal, and they were subject to the checks and balances of the American constitutional democratic system.

I do not intend to argue the Yougoslavian break-up and the NATO interventions again.  That would be too long a story. But I must say that your description of the Serbian people as "innocent" is absurd.  No people are completely "innocent", and all people have some responsibility for what their governments do in their name.  And the Serbian government was doing some very awful things in those days for which the Serbian people then certainly carried some responsibility.   I presume that you are a bit more serious and better informed than Kappert.  The latter cannot even make the distinction between (a) legal authority for taking on Treaty obligations for a nation and (b) decisions to go to war or not.  Simple minds can easily parrot silly oneliners.

Having said all this, I tend to agree with you that NATO needs to be either abolished or its functions clearly re-defined.  It has done a good job in the past, but it has outlived its original purpose.  But, let's not kid ourselves.  There is no longer a sufficient understanding of common purpose within Western Civilisation.  A large part of the political left, on both sides of the Atlantic, has become infected by cultural self-hatred, and Western Europe has become absurdly and deeply anti-American (in large measure by having lived for too long under the American security umbrella).  So, the goal of re-definition of NATO's goals and functions will prove to be an illusory one, an impossible task if you will, under current geo-political circumstances.  The latter could change, of course, perhaps even faster and more dramatically than we can imagine today.  But, unless they do, NATO will probably stumble along a bit longer, with all sides trying to use it for their own (but somewhat conflicting) purposes.  No doubt, this is a recipe for much (more) frustration.  But it is what we can expect for the near future.  


I never said that NATO's purpose was to commit crimes. Its purpose originally was to counter the very real threat of communism during the Cold War.

I do not call NATO criminal simply because I disagree with them. They bombed a country to intervene in a war they had no business intervening in. The decision to bomb was largely pushed through unilaterally by the US by people who had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. The vast majority of Americans, even today, really don't know what they're talking about with regards to the Balkans.

I still maintain that the Serbs are innocent. Yes, they killed people--but it was a war.

I agree with you about Western civilisation. We certainly have changed a lot in the past 60-70 years, and not for the better.

crime and delusion

Interesting that Søren occults the words 'Yugoslavia' and 'Afghanistan' in his NATO 'discussion paper'. I'm surprised he forgot to praise Lyman Louis Lemnitzer, as he has no doubts about the evil intention of the Sowjets and the 'morally and intellectually post-Western West'. No word about the (reasons of) French absence or the integration of Turkey and the Portuguese Salazar dictatorship. But of course he detects 'grim security realities' as he speaks - just the style of the (pre-Republican) American Liberty League, seeing enemies everywhere and preparing a doomsday plan, remember 'duck'n'cover'. Ingeniously, marcfrans reminds us that only the US Senate decides if we are at war or not. That worked oh so well in 2003.

NATO's survival

I fear that my comment has been misunderstood.  When I called NATO "criminal", I was referring to its bombing of Serbia in 1999.  That was a criminal act against an innocent people.  I'm pretty non-interventionist in general, but if we (i.e. US and other allies) were going to help out one side in the Balkans, we could have at least picked the correct side (the one fighting against Islam).  Instead, we pick the wrong side and willfully ignore, even now, all of their crimes.

In case I did not make this clear, I am not saying that NATO was always a bad idea.  During the Cold War, it served its purpose, and served it well.  With the end of the Cold War, it simply has no purpose anymore.  I'd rather see some sort of organization that allies countries against Islam--that would be more pertinent to our time.

Uncanny conception of what the West is

If I may, I would like to remind the readers of BJ that the presence of Turkey as a member of NATO is little more than a treason of Western values; as long as this country--indisputably no part of our civilization--remains a member of NATO, I reckon we should behold that organization with scepticism. It would also be quite a fortunate development not to consider systematically Russia as a foe, and rather try and establish liberal relations with that country, the Cold War is over.


If anyone needed a reminder of the sorry state of Western education, all one has to do is read contemporary young student 'Natalie'.   She obviously does not recognise a right to self-determination for peoples, at least not when it comes to peoples threatened by her 'favorite' subject of study: Russia.  It is not exactly as if NATO is threatening to take over other countries, but rather the opposite: other countries begging to be included as protection from the renewed Russian autocracy.  Instead of NATO being "criminal", it seems to me that it is Natalie's MISeducation which is (in a sense) "criminal" (from a moral, not a legal perspective).

For his part, the kapitein made sensible comments about NATO's past - and Natalie could learn from them -  but he becomes more 'shaky' about the present.  The chances of Russian minorities being treated fairly in (new)  NATO countries are significantly better than the chances that NON-Russian majorities (forget about non-Russian minorities!) would be treated fairly in any Russian "sphere of influence".  And the fundamental reason for that is the nondemocratic/autocratic nature of the current Russian regime.  

The Kapitein's point about "American assurances" given in the past is not correct.  No individual, including no President of the US (and certainly not a lower-ranking official) can give assurances about NATO-membership to anyone. Such assurances, which have the potential of dragging the US into a military (even nuclear) conflict with nondemocratic great powers, can only be given by the US Senate (which has the constitutional prerogative of deciding on formal international Treaty obligations of this sort).  In short, in actual fact, no such valid "assurances" were given, and the Russian establishment knows that very well (unlike numerous Western journalists who dont want to know).

If Western European political leaders want to abolish NATO, after having been protected for so long by the umbrella of 'Pax Americana', then they should take the initiative. At least, Russia's threatened neighbors would then know clearly 'what's what' and a lot of naive-lefties in the US would get a highly-needed 'reality check' as well.  

@Natalie RE: NATO

I concur that NATO has completed its mission: it integrated the militaries of Western Europe, ensured the presence of American forces and the protection of the American nuclear deterrent, and prevented Soviet/Warsaw Pact westward aggression and expansion.


Unfortunately, bureaucracies are difficult to wind up; they want to survive, grow and will find new missions if threatened by obsolescence.


NATO is hardly a "criminal" organization.  Whereas NATO was defensive, the Warsaw Pact aggressively sought to expand revolutionary socialism in the Third World, with the DDR and other members supporting communist insurgencies and movements in Africa, etc., in support of Soviet foreign policy.  From transporting arms and funds to insurgents, to deploying paramilitary forces on the ground, the Warsaw Pact regularly violated international law.


Certainly, the inclusion of the Baltic republics in NATO was a mistake, as are the proposals for including Georgia and Ukraina.  Nevertheless, these countries have legitimate concerns about the irridentism of their Russian minorities, and Russia's historical occupation of their territories.  However, unless the minorities are repatriated to Russia, they need to be assured of protection from the majorities, and NATO cannot appear to block Russian interests whilst permitting these new members to marginalize their Russian minorities.


What is particularly bothersome about the notions of "spheres of influence", is that the United States gave the collapsing Soviet Union assurances that it would not expand NATO eastward.

If NATO is to survive another 60 years...

Do we really want it to survive another 60 years?  Seriously, the thing should have been dissolved 20 years ago.  It's an outdated and criminal organisation.  It served its purpose during the Cold War, but now it has long overstayed its welcome.  No wonder our relations with Russia are so bad--we encourage NATO's encroachment in the Russian sphere of influence 20 years after the Cold War has ended. It's ridiculous.

RE: As Goes The West So Goes NATO

I had always assumed that NATO's raison d’être was to keep the "the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." NATO was a tool of European integration; the security counterpart to the ECSC.  The reference to the "defence of Western civilization" is fanciful, as the purpose of integration was to make another European (i.e. Franco-German) conflict impossible, and the inclusion of the United States was intended to deter Soviet aggression.  Moreover, Important Western countries both in and outside of Europe were beyond NATO's scope, despite being threatened by "Eastern tyranny".


NATO is not offensive.  NATO's operations in the Balkans were humanitarian interventions to end human rights abuses committed in a failed state within its purview, and its counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan were against paramilitaries responsible for attacking a NATO member, and only commenced after Afghanistan had been invaded and occupied by a US-led coalition.  While clearly exceeding NATO's reaction to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, these post-Cold War missions are neither offensive nor a spearhead for proliferating Western economic or political systems. 


Western civilization is subject to the centrifugal forces of change and the interests of its constituent sub-civilizations and nations.  It was never more united than any other contemporary civilization, Cold War rhetoric notwithstanding.

Democracies respond to emergencies

A reasonable opinion based on an accurate assessment of history. However, if NATO is to be renewed, it will be in response to a threat that finds multiple key NATO powers on one side. The governments of those powers will not commit themselves to renewing the alliance unless they need it to survive. Possibly that will happen after enemies have successfully split off part of the alliance, leaving a rump. What worries me as much as the failure of NATO is its perversion into the enforcer of multicultural, socialist, bureaucratic tyranny, e.g., putting down popular anti-government riots.