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US Visions For Expanding NATO Include Australia

American Visions For Expanding NATO Include Australia


By Gabriel Kolko

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's vision of quickly "shocking and awing" enemies to win victories has been spectacularly unsuccessful in Iraq. Washington now realizes that its earlier hopes for creating "coalitions of the willing" nations is not a militarily or politically practical alternative. Resumption of the draft in the US is political suicide and Washington needs foreign manpower more desperately than ever. Its global ambitions-and illusions-cannot be attained without them.

These goals involve a "long war" against largely undefined, elusive terrorists and enemies in every corner of the globe for decades to come. The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, released last February, emphasized NATO and mobilizing foreign troops "to share the risks and responsibilities of today's complex challenges." The National Security Strategy, issued on March 16, makes it plain that "Šwe must be prepared to act alone if necessary," but also that an expanded NATO, especially one that adds nations to its membership, "remains a vital pillar of U.S. foreign policy."

Washington now favors a rapprochement with "old Europe" and the nations it dismissed prior to embarking on its war in Iraq in March 2002, and it wants to build a "strategic consensus" to expand NATO's role everywhere in the world notwithstanding its resolution after the 1999 war in the former Yugoslavia to never again allow NATO's consensual voting procedures to constrain American actions-as, indeed, it has not. The Bush Administration now tacitly admits that its view after 2001 that it could unilaterally pursue its global role was a colossal failure. This is the vital context that now shapes Washington's policy toward all its allies, not only NATO members but all nations, including Australia, South Korea, and Japan-plus many other smaller powers.

The US' "ambitious agenda" was outlined by the US ambassador to NATO (and former aide to Vice-president Dick Cheney) Victoria Nuland's interview in the January 24 Financial Times, and she has since detailed the American vision of NATO as not simply "a military defensive alliance" but as "first and foremost a political alliance devoted to strengthening and defending our democratic values at home and around the world." The US wants a "globally deployable military force" that will operate everywhere-from Africa to the Middle East and beyond. It will include, among many others, Japan and Australia as well as the NATO nations. "It's a totally different animal," to quote her, whose ultimate role will be subject to US desires and adventures. NATO must have a "Šcommon collective deployment at strategic distances." The over 9,000 non-American troops from 36 nations now Afghanistan are largely symbolic, a secondary issue to the much more important question of NATO's future in American calculations over coming years.

If Washington has its way, NATO, which was originally to be a European-focused alliance, would now become global in scope, "transforming itselfŠ," in the words of Kurt Volker, the State Department's senior expert on it, "from a static alliance" that will operate "well beyond transatlantic geography." Apart from the 26 nations that are formally members of NATO today, there will also be "advanced partnerships" for as many nations as possible, "partners for peace"-of which there are now about 20, including nations in the former USSR and the Persian Gulf.

The Munich conference on security policy last February-which Rumsfeld attended along with Brent Scowcroft, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, and other advocates of the traditional Atlantic alliance -- reflected the American desire to transform NATO so it and its manpower will again be a useful weapon in its sheath of military choices. Senior diplomats from NATO members have discussed American plans since then and the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sofia at the end of April was intended to give substance to what NATO Secretary-General De Hoop Scheffer describes as "NATO's outreach." The goal is to create a formal plan-not only adding more members but a special forces coordinating mechanism--which the NATO summit in Riga at the end of next November will approve.

The United States' proposals, which will include Japan, Australia, and "others," are "currently at a discussion stage," again to cite Kurt Volker on April 24, but Secretary of State Rice raised the topic in detail when she was in Sydney in mid-March to meet the Japanese and Australian foreign ministers. The NATO mission in Afghanistan is one model of cooperation that Washington will seek to extend, and it also wants all non-NATO military contingents to be "interoperable" with NATO forces, making advance preparations so that they can immediately take part in NATO-led operations. France, quite correctly, sees Washington's efforts as an attempt to retain America's strategic leadership in the world, employing foreign troops in the process.

No nation should encourage the Bush Administration's ambitions for NATO, which are based on revised neo-con fantasies. The same American leaders have ignored their own intelligence to pursue ambitions which have already traumatized Afghanistan and the Middle East, and now threaten the peace elsewhere.

All NATO members, Australia, Japan and others have to prepare for more troop requests in the future as part of Washington's ambitious unilateralist goals everywhere. That is the central issue that the Washington's traditional allies must now confront. American objectives-beyond fighting a war on "terror"--are inherently indefinable as to length and location but, above all, its enemies. Fear is the adhesive that creates alliances and keeps them together, and the fear of Communism and the USSR that led to NATO's creation has been replaced by the fear of Muslim fundamentalism, terrorism, and the like. But just as the dangers of Communism proved illusory, so too will American prognostications of universal terror and chaos also prove to be a myth. The problem is what the US will do before its allies grow tired of its paranoid politics.

Even more important, the publics of the NATO states will become increasingly antiwar and vote out of office those who have obeyed American advice. They have already done so in Spain, they may do the same in Italy, and while Washington might win in the short-run, ultimately there is a very good chance that its successes will produce a crisis in NATO--and perhaps the end of this organizational artifact of the Cold War.

In a word, we are at the beginning, not the end, of a profound transformation in the US' relations with NATO. European nations, not to mention Australia or Japan, must now articulate an independent political identity that is both in their national interests and conforms to their values-the very thing that the US hoped NATO would prevent from occurring when it created it over a half-century ago.

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Gabriel Kolko is Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto. He is author of more than a dozen widely acclaimed books, including Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society Since 1914, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience, and most recently The Age of War: The United States Confronts The World.

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