General Rick Hillier criticizes NATO in no uncertain terms in his new book A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, out next week. He goes on write that, with its ailing mission in Afghanistan, "NATO had started down a road that destroyed much of its credibility and in the end eroded support for the mission in every nation in the alliance. Sadly, years later, the situation remains unchanged." However, he does not seem to directly address the fact that NATO came into existence to defend capitalist countries against communist ones during the Cold War, and those conditions no longer exist. Instead, NATO is "dominated by jealousies and small, vicious political battles" and a "lack of cohesion, clarity and professionalism," according to General Hillier.
Ironically, NATO (for North Atlantic Treaty Organization)-- an exclusively military alliance-- has carried out more peacekeeping than military missions since the end of the Cold War. NATO's arch nemesis, the Warsaw Pact Organization (WPO), was created by the Soviet Union soon after NATO as a counterbalance and was disbanded soon after the communist bloc collapse in 1989. Again ironically, NATO and the WPO never fought a direct conflict with each other, and their member forces actually served as peacekeepers together. Yet NATO has persisted as if the Cold War was still in effect, without ever formally redefining itself or its purpose, and with as or more mixed results. The question General Hillier raises is: Should NATO be revived?
The U.N. has no permanent peacekeeping or other forces with which to enforce its conventions and treaties. NATO is often criticized by scholars and activists alike for reporting to no one except itself, meaning the military heads of its 28 member states, who are often at odds in terms of troop commitments, funding, purposes and so on. I propose that NATO be put under U.N. command, though I cannot say I am the first to do so. Noting that U.N. conventions and treaties are binding only insofar as members want them to be because of sovereignty issues, transferring NATO to the U.N. would bolster our only world government in ways that current events require and the future merits.