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Independent Voices: NATO’s Post-Soviet Campaigns for Dominance
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In 1989, the Soviet-type regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed. In 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed. All of these regime changes occurred nonviolently, essentially, and put an end to the half-century long Cold War. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—created in the late 1940s to counter growing Soviet power—is bigger than ever, and often leading the charge for new military action everywhere from Libya to Afghanistan. In 1991, there were NATO 15 member states as the Soviet Union, against which NATO was said to defend, collapsed. Today there are 28 members. Of the 13 member countries that joined since 1991, nine were either Soviet bloc counties or Communist non-aligned nations (Yugoslavia and Albania).
As leaders of NATO member nations convene in Chicago this weekend for the alliance's annual summit, it's worth remembering NATO's post-Soviet expansion. Indeed, ironically, the world's most prominent military alliance did not conduct a military campaign until after the Cold War ended. It has since conducted 36, according to this NATO document (PDF), released before last year's Libya campaign. According to NATO's website: "Today, 138 000 military personnel are engaged in NATO missions around the world... These forces are currently operating in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Mediterranean, off the Horn of Africa and in Somalia."
In The Global Gamble: Washington's Faustian Bid for World Dominance (Verso Books, 1999), Peter Gowan offers excellent background for understanding the expansion of NATO after the Soviet collapse. His article "Making sense of NATO's war on Yugoslavia," published in the Socialist Register in 2000, notes the organization's secrecy:
The diplomacy leading up to the war was … shrouded in secrecy. The formal decision to launch the air war was, for example, taken by NATO's North Atlantic Council but we do not even know the decision rules which NATO now applies for taking military action outside the area of the NATO states. The same secrecy applies to much of the conduct of the war and not least to its diplomatic side. Therefore in the case of this extremely important event for the future not only of the Balkans and of Europe but of the whole world, a wise policy would be one which recognizes that our initial judgements on the NATO air campaign should be subject to revision in the light of further research and of information released now that the war is over.
Read Gowan's full analysis here. He further developed his arguments in "The American Campaign for Global Sovereignty" in Socialist Register in (2003). Here's an abstract of this incisive article:
The main feature of world politics since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc has been the American state's campaign to rebuild and expand the protectorate systems that formed the basis of American global political dominance during the Cold War. This campaign has, of course, been linked to parallel expansionist efforts by the West European states, and partly cooperative and partly conflictual attempts by the Atlantic powers to organize a new global set of political-legal regimes for reorganizing international economic relationships in ways favorable to the international dominance of American and European business.
The purpose of this essay is to explore this campaign for a new protectorate system...
The most recent expression of power by this system is, of course, the campaign to depose Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In one of two articles from the Black Agenda Report reprinted by Socialist Viewpoint in January 2012—one titled "Africa Lies Naked to Euro-American Military Offensive"—Glen Ford criticizes U.S. imperialism and co-optation of African militaries to expand its control in the region:
With centuries of Euro-American domination flashing before their eyes, Washington, London and Paris quickly configured NATO to unleash Shock and Awe on the victim of choice in North Africa: Muammar Gaddafi. The momentum of that show of force has led an expanding cast of imperial actors to the gates of Damascus. But Africa is the most vulnerable region in America’s warpath, a continent ripe for the plucking due to the multitudinous entanglements of Africa’s political and military classes with imperialism. The awful truth is, the United States and its allies, principally the French, are positioned to “take” much of the continent with the collaboration of most of its governments and, especially, its soldiers.
AFRICOM, established in 2008 by the Bush administration and now fully the creature of President Obama’s “humanitarian” interventionist doctrine, claims military responsibility for the entire continent except Egypt. The U.S. military command has assembled a dizzying array of alliances with regional organizations and blocs of countries that, together, encompass all but a few nations on the continent – leaving those holdouts with crosshairs on their backs. As the U.S. bullies its way southward in the wake of the seizure of Libya, its path has been smoothed by the Africans, themselves.
In “Libya: a Just War?”, published in the November 2011 issue of Chartist, Andrew Coates sees little reason for optimism in the aftermath of the NATO regime-change operation in Libya. He outlines the West's role in the formation of modern Libya, and recent reactions on the Left:
Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the West was directly involved in the change of regime. Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Libya, has heralded Western military help given to overthrow Gaddafi. ‘Britain, as in Kosovo, has taken the lead'. President Sarkozy is under the impression that France played that role.
How did this come about? The Tunisian people drove their autocrat, Ben Ali, out in January 2011. Egypt followed. The Libyan opposition launched their revolt in mid-February. They faced a violent counter-attack. Gaddafi's troops were soon on the point of crushing the Benghazi heart of the popular insurrection. UN Resolution 1973, to protect Libyan civilians through a no-fly zone, met calls for help on the ground. From liberal quarters there was welcome and relief.
Reaction on the left was more mixed. Many were viscerally hostile to UN-sanctioned NATO involvement. But in a widely discussed article, Gilbert Achcar argued that if there are no guarantees against ‘transgressing the mandate' nobody can “just ignore a popular movement's plea for protection.” (Z-Net 25.3.11) No convincing alternative existed. French left Presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon supported the resolution. He too warned of deeper entanglement, and backed ‘nothing but the resolution.'