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March 17, 2011 |  3 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Re-legitimizing NATO

Julia Ulrike Schramm: NATO needs renewed legitimacy in order to face emerging global threats and problems. This will require a complete restructuring, and new treaty, but also the cooperation of BRIC and other states will be necessary to create a more effective organization.

During the events of the revolutionary situation in Libya, the role of NATO has yet to be decided. While the present political leadership desperately tries to take a stand against the events, Western society faces prismatic problems concerning the matter of support, intervention and the fear of an unpredictable course of events in the radical currents.

"We have to try and help those who are offering an alternative future to Libya,” says US Senator Joe Lieberman. “We cannot allow them to be stifled or stopped by brutal actions of the Libyan government.” But what is this help supposed to look like? A no-fly-zone to prevent Qaddafi from bombing citizens might be efficient but nevertheless an act of war, which needs a UN-resolution. Just like the dilemma of the 1990s in Rwanda and Bosnia it seems that the US-lead NATO is still the most effective military power worldwide. And just like in the 1990s, when the EU was neither cohesive, nor powerful, the US will evaluate "a range of options, including potential military options" according to President Obama at a March 7 meeting

The central question is and has been whether it is legitimate to intervene in a civil war. Which principle is more important, protecting human rights or respecting state sovereignty? Considering the brutal crimes committed already in different civil wars, the call for an intervention seems rather understandable, just like the principle to develop some mechanism to emulate global police. Regarding the transformation of NATO, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it appears that the alliance of Western countries under US leadership is indeed stuck with the role of world police without the backing of the important leading states, like China and Russia.

NATO Origins

The constitution of NATO was the reaction to a specific threat scenario deriving from the rise of the two super powers after World War II. The question of whether capitalism or communism was the "right" system, led Western society to define itself as a community of values that was to be protected from the Soviet Union's claim to power and influence. The deeper meaning of the bond that was closed on April 4 in 1949 with the NATO treaty becomes more obvious when considering its timeless character.

After 1989 and the alleged win over the Warsaw Pact, the treaty had to be renewed because its central enemy was lost and its right to exist and act was undermined in the general diffusion of power. In the aftermath of the civil wars in former Yugoslavia and especially in Kosovo, NATO gave itself permission to intervene in civil wars and violate state sovereignty. As the war on Milošević was not mainly of economic interest, but geostrategic and legitimate, NATO was able to win the face-off against Russia and to re-establish its main task from the cold war: protecting western society. The task remained the same until today, but the territory and the objects have changed. 40,000 Russian tanks in the area of the Helsinki accords are not the main concern anymore, but the protection of vital economic interests like the supply of resources or security of investments, especially regarding the competition by China and other emerging powers, are a concern.

Lack of Legitimacy

20 years after President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the "New world order" it seems that the alleged hegemony of a US-dominated NATO is neither conclusively legitimate, nor disposable as it still guarantees stability in Eurasia. Due to the American lack of authority following the highly problematic operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the question of how long the Western societies will be able to maintain their economic and political hegemony over the world, while preserving their liberal and democratic values remains unanswered. Apart from the rise of China and the general shift of power towards the developing world, it is rather important for NATO to regain legitimacy in order to preserve the current stability, while at the same time being able to engage in international operations to secure the vital interests of the member states and the Charter of the United Nations. The 2010 Lisbon strategy states that NATO aims to use its military infrastructure in order to "prevent, manage and stabilize" looming or ongoing international conflicts concerning the security interests of the treaty. The political, social and ecological stability within NATO's security environment, which today clearly exceeds the geographical borders, is a prime concern of the treaty, since only this stability opens the perspective of achieving NATO's mentioned goal superiority in economics and intelligences. Economic superiority is in turn the foundation of military might, while intelligence superiority, a term which also includes net-centric warfare, ensures that diplomatic and military means are applied in an appropriate and efficient manner.

Negotiating a Global Treaty

Legitimation is of high relevance to the stability of a community and the world, and will be increasingly so due to technological integration. Using the military infrastructure of NATO to intervene in civil wars and catastrophes must be of high concern. In order to gain legitimacy, it is important to integrate semi-democratic states such as Brazil, South Africa, India and even non-democratic states such as China. Furthermore, it is necessary that the EU takes responsibility to speak with one voice and one army. Nevertheless, renaming is a relevant option - transforming the relict of the cold war into a modern, effective and democratic organization, which makes a fundamental democratization and renegotiation of the treaty necessary. In short: A new treaty, that defines and demands the inner democratic status of the members as well as the cooperation and global responsibility towards resources, human rights and environment.

Furthermore the new role of this new-negotiated NATO will have to be diligently chosen and legally backed. It must be based on a well-established and carefully balanced relationship between the NATO and the UN. The UN with its Security Council is the only organization that can grant the authority to engage in action by tapping on chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Julia Ulrike Schramm has a MA in political science from Bonn University. 

 

This article was submitted for the atlantic-community.org's competition: "Empowering Women in International Relations." It coincides with the 10th Anniversary of UN resolution 1325 calling for an increased influence of women in all aspects of peace and security. The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Mission to NATO and the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.

You can read more submissions from the competition here

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Tags: | NATO | legitimation | BRIC | theory | Reform | reforms | security policy |
 
Comments
Jeremy   Wysakowski-Walters

March 17, 2011

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Hello Julia,

You have given a thorough and developed argument for the modernisation of NATO yet there are a couple of confused points in your thesis.

Firstly, you state that "In the aftermath of the civil wars in former Yugoslavia and especially in Kosovo, NATO gave itself permission to intervene in civil wars and violate state sovereignty." This is a somewhat broad generalisation. NATO does not act autonomously. NATO is a mere system to be used by the governments of its member-states. Your comment ignores the fact that the intervention was at the behest of the member-states and to a great degree the publics of those states. People were genuinely moved by events in Kosovo. NATO merely was the best tool at hand.

Further to this, as in domestic case law, Kosovo marked a precedent and was retrospectively sanctioned by the UN. Therefore its illegality is removed as case for illegitimacy of NATO. The subsequent Responsibility to Protect framework then codified the lessons learnt from Kosovo.

I am also a little confused by your closing thoughts. You talk of "integrate (ing) semi-democratic states such as Brazil, South Africa, India and even non-democratic states such as China." I assume you are talking of integrating them into NATO, although its not clear. You then go onto state "... transforming the relict of the cold war into a modern, effective and democratic organization, which makes a fundamental democratization and renegotiation of the treaty necessary." Do not these ideas contradict themselves?

NATO is not only a military alliance, as is often supposed. It has a dual military-political identity. Its membership rests on shared ideas of democracy and human rights. These were important criteria for the post cold-war enlargement process. If they are ignored as you seem to suggest than the cohesion of NATO will be irreparably damaged. You may have created a democratic NATO, by weakening the hegemonic effect of the USA, but at what cost. Your democratic NATO will be intrinsically undemocratic at its core: the nation-states.
 
Karolina  MacLachlan

March 19, 2011

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Hi Julia,
If I understand correctly, you are calling for a re-legitimization of NATO through the negotiation of a new global treaty integrating non-Western and non-democratic countries and putting premium on issues such as resource management, environmental concerns, and human rights. I agree that the issues you’ve pinpointed—both the perceived lack of legitimacy for NATO and the substantive concerns—are likely to persist, but I am not sure that your solutions would help.

The first question to arise after reading your article regards the way legitimacy is conceptualised and what affects it. If I understand your argument correctly, NATO lacks legitimacy due to three main factors: lack of geographical balance in membership, bruised US authority after the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and NATO's decision to invade the sovereignty of other countries. This is all a bit confused, arguably because it addresses different kinds of legitimacy. Geographical and sovereignty considerations reflect concerns of NATO's actions being perceived as imperialist excursions of the holier-than-thou Western countries, i.e. legitimacy in the sense of being seen as authorised to act in specific situations. Iraq and its effect on US leadership are of similar hue: can a country which flouts international law be trusted to carry out international missions? Afghanistan though is of a different order. Unlike the Iraq War, which was of dubious legality, the US and NATO missions in Afghanistan have been authorised by the UN, which also helps out through its civilian UNAMA mission. Provided that we indeed consider the UN to be the legitimate authority over interventions and use of force (which you seem to support), then the legality of the Afghan mission should not be questioned. What can, however, be questioned is the conduct of said mission, which affects legitimacy through a different avenue: assuming that NATO has the authority to act, can it deliver? In other words, this is more about capabilities and stamina than legal authorisation; legitimacy in this case stems from efficacy.

Can any of these issues be addressed through the measures you advocate? Rewriting the treaty so that it focuses on other issues and involves other countries would be no mean feat. It seems that you advise it for two reasons: bringing issues to the fore and reforming membership. I find that neither of these merits a new treaty.

The North Atlantic Treaty is flexible enough to allow for redefinition and tweaking. The treaty mandates NATO to look after security of its members. If environmental and resource concerns are (or will come to be) of decisive importance for security, there is nothing to stop NATO from employing Article 4 to deal with them. Strategic Concepts, summit declarations and actual institution-building and programmes are enough to change the Alliance's agenda. When it comes to interventions, the process of redefining security to include non-direct, non-military threats has been well under way within NATO and other organisations. The fact that NATO has managed to redefine itself without changing the Treaty is an argument for leaving the Treaty as it is.

The second consideration--expanding membership--is also not a strong argument. Jerzy has already noted (in the comment above) that you seem to be advocating integration (by which I assume you mean membership) of non-democratic states and reaffirming NATO's democratic purpose in the same breath. It seems to me that enthusiasm of BRIC countries for a closer association with a military organisation with a Western core (it does seem that you would like NATO to remain a military alliance) is not overflowing, and convincing them to join might be problematic. Apart from these concerns, what would the enlarged membership accomplish? Assistance and support from other countries? This can be achieved through partnerships in the field (which, by the way, already integrate non-democratic countries), operational co-operation and diplomatic support. More legitimacy? This is unlikely, as an organisation with a membership so wide and diverse risks the same paralysis which for years has rendered another organisation--the UN--hapless. This leads me to the last point: an organisation with a mandate for humanitarian and environmental concerns and a global membership already exists; it's the UN. Duplicating it will not help; rather, NATO should focus on what it does well, which is employing military force where and when needed, thus assisting the UN. NATO’s legitimacy is more likely to stem from what and how well it does, rather than from a new treaty.

A much more efficient solution seems to be what you propose in the last paragraph of your article: closer co-operation with the UN and seeking UN mandates for action. This, coupled with a wide network of partnerships, should be a good way of adding both legal and moral legitimacy and operational efficiency.
 
Unregistered User

May 4, 2012

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As an Irishman of the diaspora (all four of my grnnepardats were of Irish descent) I am vitally interested in the present and, especially, the future of my home land. This issue of the Lisbon Treaty frightens me to death! I'm afraid that too many of my brothers and sisters do not realize that the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is in effect a decision equal to new elections in Ireland. The decision on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty is - upon transferring the current powers of the nation state of Ireland to the federal state in Brussels it is a decision on accepting or rejecting the permanent construction of A NEW FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT OVER IRELAND. To do so will be to utterly discard on the rubbish heap of history all the sacrifices of our ancestors, both the suffering against British oppression and the fighting for freedom in which so many lives were lost.This is a crucial time in Irish history - a time when you/we will decide whether to march on under your/our own strength and character and leadership or to surrender your/our rights, lives, and fate to others who have, upon every past opportunity, either turned their backs on Ireland in her need or swooped in to take advantage of her riches. Which is exactly what is happening now. Ireland (God bless her forever!) has risen, by her own strength of character and moral fortitude and by God's kind grace, far above her past of subjection and base poverty to a point where she is a jewel in the crown of Europe and the world. Ireland has earned all her scars and medals of valour and has come into her own - at last. (One might quote of Ireland as well, "Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty, we're free at last!")And now, in the time of finally enjoying the fruits of our hard-won, blood-bought freedoms and successes, Ireland considers handing over her self-mastery to yet another foreign dictator! God forbid it! Let Ireland be Ireland, not some small dot on the EU map. Let Ireland be Ireland, not another chattel within another kingdom - for such is the becoming EU/EC. Never forget the sacrifices made by our (OUR) grnnepardats for the possibility of self-rule for Ireland. We are Ireland! We are not Europeans - we never have been. We were at best pets, at worst slaves of Europeans. Ireland has suffered too long to throw away her freedom and self-sufficiency on yet another European master race. We are Ireland!Look long and hard at America and learn from her mistakes. Under her own power, the United States stood together by choice. Today, we have given up the idea of mutually beneficial partnership among the member states and have become subjects to a dictatorial Federal Government who seeks to rip our choice from us - from freedom of religion to freedom of choice to freedom of speech. American is becoming what the EU would march straight into, from the beginning.Ireland, my Ireland, whom I learned to pray for and to love from my mother's knee and my father's stories, remember the source of your strength in your tortured past - return to your faith and your moral sense of self. God lead you through 700 years of tribulation and abject slavery. Your/our sense of Irish identity apart from that of the rest of the world kept us unified and alive during years of deprivation and attempted genocide. Please, please, please don't give all that up now for a new, stronger master.We, the children of your diaspora, are counting on you to safeguard our heritage and our home. Guard and keep them from another outsider who seeks to steal and destroy our culture. We are counting on you. Please don't let us down. Remain independent and free and self-governing. Please.We are Ireland!
Tags: | are counting on you to safeguard our heritage and our home. Guard and keep them from another outsider who seeks to steal and destroy our culture. We are counting on you. Please don't let us down. Remain independent and free and self-governing. Please.We are Ireland! | the children of your diaspora | stronger master.We | please don't give all that up now for a new | "Free at last | far above her past of subjection and base poverty to a point where she is a jewel in the crown of Europe and the world. Ireland has earned all her scars and medals of valour and has come into her own - at last. (One might quote of Ireland as well | by her own strength of character and moral fortitude and by God's kind grace | either turned their backs on Ireland in her need or swooped in to take advantage of her riches. Which is exactly what is happening now. Ireland (God bless her forever!) has risen | upon every past opportunity | and fate to others who have | lives | blood-bought freedoms and successes | in the time of finally enjoying the fruits of our hard-won | we're free at last!")And now | free at last! Thank God almighty | the United States stood together by choice. Today | at worst slaves of Europeans. Ireland has suffered too long to throw away her freedom and self-sufficiency on yet another European master race. We are Ireland!Look long and hard at America and learn from her mistakes. Under her own power | not another chattel within another kingdom - for such is the becoming EU/EC. Never forget the sacrifices made by our (OUR) grnnepardats for the possibility of self-rule for Ireland. We are Ireland! We are not Europeans - we never have been. We were at best pets | not some small dot on the EU map. Let Ireland be Ireland | Ireland considers handing over her self-mastery to yet another foreign dictator! God forbid it! Let Ireland be Ireland | from the beginning.Ireland | we have given up the idea of mutually beneficial partnership among the member states and have become subjects to a dictatorial Federal Government who seeks to rip our choice from us - from freedom of religion to freedom of choice to freedom of speech. American is becoming what the EU would march straight into | whom I learned to pray for and to love from my mother's knee and my father's stories | my Ireland | remember the source of your strength in your tortured past - return to your faith and your moral sense of self. God lead you through 700 years of tribulation and abject slavery. Your/our sense of Irish identity apart from that of the rest of the world kept us unified and alive during years of deprivation and attempted genocide. Please | please | both the suffering against British oppression and the fighting for freedom in which so many lives were lost.This is a crucial time in Irish history - a time when you/we will decide whether to march on under your/our own strength and character and leadership or to surrender your/our rights | the future of my home land. This issue of the Lisbon Treaty frightens me to death! I'm afraid that too many of my brothers and sisters do not realize that the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is in effect a decision equal to new elections in Ireland. The decision on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty is - upon transferring the current powers of the nation state of Ireland to the federal state in Brussels it is a decision on accepting or rejecting the permanent construction of A NEW FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT OVER IRELAND. To do so will be to utterly discard on the rubbish heap of history all the sacrifices of our ancestors | especially | As an Irishman of the diaspora (all four of my grnnepardats were of Irish descent) I am vitally interested in the present and |
 

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