2003 February 12 Wednesday
Turkey Iraq Crisis to be the End of NATO?

The crisis over NATO approval to shift missiles into Turkey in the run-up to the attack on Iraq brings another multinational organization into the diplomatic fight over the fate of Iraq. The outcome promises to make both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization distinctly less important.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw is warning France and Germany over Nato.

Britain bluntly warned France and Germany yesterday that their attempt to halt preparations for war in Iraq would doom the United Nations and undermine the credibility of Nato.

Colin Powell warns the Nato alliance is breaking up.

During a Senate Budget Committee hearing, Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, asked the secretary whether it was worth breaking up Washington's alliances "just to get" Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Who is breaking up the alliance?" Mr. Powell replied. "Not the United States. The alliance is breaking itself up because it will not meet its responsibilities."

Die Zeit editor Josef Joffe says that in provoking a crisis within NATO Germany and France are not working toward an achievable goal.

Such are the insights that even the most basic course in diplomacy teaches to young foreign ministry acolytes, but then, neither Bismarck nor Talleyrand is running foreign policy in Berlin or Paris these days. These wily manipulators of men and nations would have asked a more fundamental question: "Are we willing to sacrifice Nato to our attempt to tie down the 'hyperpower'?"

On closer inspection, they would have answered "Nein" and "Non". They would have reasoned thus. First, if we want to take on Mr Big in earnest, we had better make sure that we can stay in the game after the first few moves. Since we don't have the chips, we must add to our smallish pile by recruiting reliable allies. Belgium? Scratch that, for we need heavier munitions than those pricey chocolates concocted by Neuhaus and Godiva. Let's see, is there anybody else?

Joffe assumes the NATO veto over missiles to defend Turkey is being wielded in order to hold back the United States. But is he correct? Might its exercise be for some other reason? Another possible motive would be to intentionally undermine NATO in order to remove an obstacle for further European military and foreign policy integration. In other words, the Germans and French may want a weakened or even dissolved NATO as an outcome. Yet another possibility is that they are indifferent to the fate of NATO because they do not see any threats for which they need NATO's help. Therefore in pursuit of other goals they are willing to block NATO action even though doing so defeats the purpose of NATO.

If the French and German goal is to undermine NATO in order to make room to expand the EU's diplomatic and military power then their plan might backfire. Other countries in the EU may respond to the diplomatic fight over Iraq by concluding that they do not want the EU to adopt a new constitution that transfers more foreign policy control to Brussels. This crisis may especially convince Eastern European governments that they do not want to give up too much power to Brussels on defense and foreign policy matters.

Will NATO formally break up? A more likely outcome is that it will continue to exist but that its decision-making mechanisms will be ignored. The United States will shift its forces in Europe into countries that it feels it can more consistently rely upon. Then the US will put together ad hoc alliances of European nations as the need arises.

At the least, the political rift is likely to accelerate NATO's pace of structural change. Five years from now the remaining US heavy forces in Germany may be greatly reduced, with some units scattered to new bases in Eastern and Southern Europe, and others returned to North America.

The NATO fight over missiles to defend Turkey ought to raise alarms in Washington DC about increased EU integration. Any proposed constitutional changes that would reduce the ability of individual EU members to have their own foreign policies on security and defense matters would reduce the ability of countries friendly toward the US to cooperate with the US.

Update: Steve Den Beste argues cross-cultural misunderstanding of the signals being sent between Europe and America may be to blame. He's right that one should always consider stupidity as an explanation before attributing a behavior to malice. However, I think an article he links to in the Washington Post about anti-American sentiment in Europe suggests another explanation.

While some observers here have attributed the popularity of "The Big Lie" to France's obsession with conspiracy theories, others see it as one barometer of just how far anti-Americanism has spread into the mainstream. Guillaume Dasquie, a French journalist who co-wrote a book, "The Horrifying Lie," that dismantled Meyssan's claims page by page, said he has seen a marketing study indicating that many of those who purchased Meyssan's book are newcomers to book buying.

"The idea of Americans as victims was too unsettling for many ordinary people," said Francois d'Alancon, chief foreign correspondent for La Croix, a Catholic newspaper. "It contradicted their normal view of the world. But with Meyssan's theory, the Americans are the villains again. They become the ones responsible for these terrible events. It's much more acceptable."

Western Europeans lived under American military protection for many decades. American decisions had the potential to have enormous impact on their lives. The Cold War was the occasion for debates in Europe about the deployment of such weapons as neutron bombs and intermediate range nuclear missiles and detente. It was natural under those conditions that Europeans would develop an exaggerated sense of the efficacy of American power. As a consequence one big dividing line between Americans and Europeans is ironically over the extent of America's ability to work its will on the world. Europeans attribute so much to American power that when things go wrong in the world they assume that America must be the cause. This leads many French and other Europeans to believe delusional conspiracy theories about 9/11 and other events.

The key difference between Americans and Europeans at this point is that Europeans think that American power is so great that the United States doesn't need to make special exertions to defend itself. The European view is that America's margin of safety for its security is so large and its ability to defend itself so great that when the United States takes action abroad it must be doing so for reasons other than a real concern for its own security. By contrast, Americans do not see themselves as anywhere near as secure as the Europeans imagine us to be. During the Cold War we worried about the threat of an unstoppable massive nuclear strike. Now we worry about terrorist attacks and the threat that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists pose to the American people. We think we are much more likely to be the targets of a large scale terrorist strike than any European country. We look at the world and see shadowy groups hiding out in chaotic countries and plotting attacks against us.

There is a tendency for the human mind to seek out single simple causes of events. Also, at the same time humans see themselves as existing in hierarchies and humans naturally form hierarchies. These tendencies are so strong that they must be genetically coded into our nature. As the most militarily and economically powerful country America has come to be seen as the prime mover of the world. People think its at the top of the hierarchy sending orders out to cause events to unfold according to its will. European support for the UN should therefore be viewed as an attempt to move America off the top of this imaginary hierarchy.

It is not clear what the US can do about European attitudes (aside: not all Europeans hold the majority European view and not all Americans hold the majority American view). There is an internal logic to both the European and American views. If another terrorist attack happens in the US then the European view will be that will be in reaction to things that the US did and that the US could have avoided the attack by not doing the things that provoked the terrorists (America being prime mover after all). But the US reaction will be that this just proves we are vulnerable and need to intervene more to protect ourselves.

I think the "prime mover" view is fundamentally flawed because it ignores the extent to which we are each autonomous beings. No one is in control. It is not possible for any one country to have so much power that it can orchestrate all political developments of the world and, by wise actions, to prevent all unfavorable threatening trends. Before technological developments increased the interactions between the parts of the world there were plenty of sufficiently developed existing cultures and belief systems that were destined to react with hostility to the US and the West no matter how we treated the rest of the world. As technology has advanced the ability of previously remote groups to do damage to each other has risen apace. Technology is enabling the development of distributed networks that can't be controlled by some central hierarchy. Technology is also bringing more people into contact with each other in more ways. This inevitably creates unpredictable and mostly uncontrollable cross-cultural reactions. The world is a chaotic place and its becoming a more dangerous place.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 February 12 02:16 AM  Europe and America

Paul Cella said at February 12, 2003 3:27 AM:

Fine work, Mr. Parker: there is a lot of shrewd analysis here.

Invisible Scientist said at February 12, 2003 8:14 AM:

This sounds more like the breakdown of the Roman Empire.

After the Cold War was won by the US,it initially the
refulgent US appeared to be at the height of its power, but the Europeans now see it as an inflection point. But
there is a perception that the US simply does not have
the might to control such a vast surface area of the
sphere. The behavior of the financial markets seems
to confirm this perception that the US may not win this
phase of the war in the long run.

But the rats who are jumping off the ship cannot tell
the captain how to steer the ship.

Michael said at February 12, 2003 12:51 PM:

Perhaps Den Beste is correct,but rather than mistaking words and actions,France and Germany mistakenly believe the US values NATO and the UN enough as tools for our policies we won't allow them to disolve?

MxPolik said at February 12, 2003 2:27 PM:

I agree with RP in his article. Since the end of the Cold War, increasing anxieties have risen over American "hyperpower". It has gotten to the point where people are becoming frightened (if not paranoid) over American military strength and technology. Ask any European on the street what they would say if the US found chemical weapons in Iraq, and your likely response would be that the US planted the evidence.

The current NATO dispute is only the beginning of the end, for the tradional alliances of the 20th century. Governments are quickly changing positions in today's world, trying to find a spot where they can fit, in the balance of World Power. Ironically, it almost seems as though we have even swapped partners in the process. The friendship between Eastern Europe and America is growing stronger, while Western Europe is finding a greater ally within Russia and China. As the saying goes, "your friend today is your enemy tomorrow". We would all like to think that our current disputes are soley regarding war with Iraq but in reality that is below the surface. Fundimentally, the common interest of every nation is what lies below the surface. Growing anti-Americanism is damaging and only feeding greater dangers.


Richard R. Fernandez said at February 13, 2003 8:20 AM:

Invisible Scientist,

It is the end of the Empire -- the Holy Roman Empire. NATO is an insurance policy, especially for smaller countries. Articles 4 and 5 are the payout clauses. Smaller or more exposed nations have staked their national existences on Articles 4 and 5. The Franco Germans have just told Turkey their policy is no good. Now that Blix has confirmed a proscribed Iraqi long range missile program, the Franco-German position has collapsed. Not only Turkey, but Spain and Italy are within the range of Saddam's weapons. No one is any mood for clever Franco-German cancellations of insurance policies.

The news just in is that NATO emergency meeting is cancelled. The Franco-Germans will withdraw their opposition right after Blix gives his report. A pathetic fig leaf for naked cowardice.

Tom Roberts said at February 13, 2003 4:08 PM:

One reservation Paul. If you look at the economic indices post WW II or post WW I, the indices didn't exactly shoot skyward for some years after those wars. So to tie the current international situation to long term economic trends via the stock markets is historically questionable. Conversely, the end of the Korean War showed a distinct limitation in US power, but ushered in a decade of dramatic economic and financial gains.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright