NATO 1949, NATO 2012

The North Atlantic Treaty organization is sorely in need of a new paint job in the way of a change of name and brief.

NATO’s raison d’etre originally was stated as “an organization that constituted a system of collective defence, whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party” Then, the first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay stated in 1949 that the organization’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Well, that has succeeded with regard to the Russians and Americans.

Since then, NATO seems to have played fast and loose with “in response to an attack by any external party”. Were NATO countries attacked by Serbia? More recently, did Libya attack a NATO member state? Was it even a threat to a NATO member state?

The September 2001 attack on New York signalled the only occasion in NATO’s history that Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty has been invoked as an attack on all NATO members. There was an attack on a NATO member but not by a national entity. The attack was by an extremist movement that had taken refuge in Afghanistan, and apparently that movement qualified as an “external party”. Presumably then, if a terrorist cell in India were to launch an attack on the US that could justify a NATO action against that country. The possibilities are infinite.

In addition to stretching the original brief, NATO has extended its definition of “North Atlantic” to consider new member states such as Georgia on the Black Sea, sure to antagonise Russia. Considering how unpredictable Georgia’s President, Saakashvili is, that could leave NATO in the position of responding to a conflict between Georgia and Russia by involving NATO in a direct military confrontation with Russia.

All considered NATO is a relic of the cold war past, and since the US is inclined to act unilaterally when they want anyway, there seems little need for it. At the very least, a redefinition of its purpose and new name are needed.



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