Sunday, May 20, 2012

Just say no NATO

Thousands are gathering in Chicago and today is the start of official protests against the official NATO summit. What are some objections to NATO and what are alternatives?

NATO is not a body for governance, yet it acts like one. Rather than intervention in world affairs by a military alliance--which is all NATO is--we should be intervening with nonviolence, as envisaged by Richard Falk, Johan Galtung, Elise Boulding, John Burton, Edward Azar, and other founders of the field of Conflict Resolution (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2011, p. 399).

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. It was in part a response to the Berlin blockade and in some ways marked the official beginning of the Cold War. It used all the models of war, demonstrated the dominance of military thinking, and, sure enough, prompted the formation of the enemy, the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Cold War was in full frenzy.

Meanwhile, the Conflict Resolution field was just forming, taking its mission from a variety of problems and potential solutions. The problems included 500 years of colonialism, the Nazis and their genocidal rampage with the collaboration of the most highly educated people in the world at that time--the German citizenry, Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the willingness and ability of humankind to threaten planet death, as though that were sane), and the nascent Cold War battle for global hegemony by two command-and-control systems, East and West, dictatorial communism or predatory capitalism behind a fig leaf of 'democracy.' No other field has attempted any brief so audaciously, so systemically, or with such a scope of problem-solving. Is it any wonder we revere our founders and continue their work with hope for success for humankind?

NATO is the old guard, the ancien régime of human thought, based on destruction or the threat of destruction. NATO is ripe for dissolution. It bombs and invades, drone-kills and violates sovereignty, and arrogates unto itself this right to kill. It justifies the slaughter of Afghan children by pointing to how bad the Taliban is, while the Taliban justifies insurgency and terrorism by pointing to foreigners attempting, yet again, to rule Afghanistan. NATO kills in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places which it unilaterally decides are harboring enemies of any of the now 28 members of the military alliance, but most specifically the capitalist system centered in the US.

The alternatives are many, but combining the nongovernmental and supranational nonviolent interventions, geared toward reducing, remedying, and replacing the structural inequities that largely prompt insurgent violence and terrorism--that is what Conflict Resolution researches and practices.

So we have some choices. Thank you to all nonviolent activists who are in Chicago right now, urging us all to make the choice to end military alliances, including NATO, and explore different methods of seeking true security based on a global community instead of a global military contest that kills the Earth, humans, and life. Those who maintain nonviolence will further the cause and those who mistakenly use violence or even property destruction in the middle of mass action will not help. A wise humankind will choose to dismantle NATO and use nonviolence to address all our problems. NATO is the past, and if we want a future, we will choose a different way forward.


Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, and Miall, Hugh (2011). Contemporary conflict resolution (3rd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press.

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