Monday, August 22, 2016

Kamm, Corbyn and NATO

There's something about establishment vilification which makes a person reconsider old certainties. In today's Times, Oliver Kamm takes Jeremy Corbyn to task for his 'pacifism' (as usual with JC, nothing is really for sure).

According to Kamm, what did Jeremy say?
"... asked at a leadership hustings how he would respond if a Nato ally was invaded by Russia, Mr Corbyn replied: “I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and also trying to not isolate any country in Europe . . .” He added: “I don’t wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it.”
We wearily recall Trotsky: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."

Kamm continues:
"President Putin’s regime has already unilaterally altered the boundaries of Europe by force on preposterous pretexts. Mr Corbyn has in effect announced to this aggressive and expansionist power that if he is in charge there will be no costs and no resistance if Russia adopts the same methods against allies to which we are bound by treaty obligations.

"A few weeks ago, Nato announced plans to increase its strength in Poland and the Baltic states. Under a Corbyn government, those democratic allies won’t be able to rely on us."
One should generally listen to Oliver Kamm's very trenchant, neoliberal/neocon views and then adopt precisely the opposite.

Going to war with a serious opponent (Russia) is an existential business. This is not something any state does lightly. You may recall that America, our supposed great ally, took its time coming to our assistance in both the first and second world wars. Strangely, they took account of their own national interests.

The problem with NATO is that its mutual self-defence treaty locks in a supposed commonality of national interests which cannot in fact exist.

When NATO attacks some ultra-weak foe in a discretionary war, this is obscured - the war effort by some NATO members may be purely notional. This renders moot Oliver Kamm's point:
"Imagine that Mr Corbyn’s wish had been acted on. In 1998, the UN Security Council voted three times to identify the crisis in Kosovo as a threat to international peace and security and demand a response by the government of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Milosevic’s forces intensified their persecution of Kosovan Albanians, driving hundreds of thousands from their homes.

"Belatedly, Nato launched a bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999. It thereby prevented a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe. Nato’s intervention rescued a threatened population and put Kosovo’s fate in the hands of a UN administration."
We say NATO, but in reality this was a coalition of the neocon-willing: no-one in the US or the UK feared retaliation from the Serbs. NATO was a convenient figleaf.

If Russia gets into a border war in Eastern Europe with a NATO member, does anyone really think NATO will automatically go to war on its behalf? General Sir Richard Shirreff pointed out in his recent book, "War with Russia", that for real wars NATO is an archaic, hollowed-out shell - an ineffectual paper tiger.

In truth we go to war when that's the only way to further advance our national interests. Treaties which would attempt to drag us into war against such interests are merely foolish pretences.

Would it really be such a catastrophe to let NATO go? Then we (and the rest of Europe) could get real about what we do, and do not, existentially care about.

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