John F Kennedy said, “It is an unfortunate fact that
we can only preserve peace
by preparing for war.”
In an era of peace, it is wise
for us to remember that the current way
of things is not the norm. War has been an inevitable part of human life for thousands of years. But do our current systems keep war out of our minds, or are they corrupted vehicles of future wars?
The Situation at Hand
In the news, the shadow of war is looming high. Russia is massing its troops on the boarders of Ukraine, in a move most in the west condemn as a planned invasion, whereas Russia dreams it a military exercise. Recent moves by the Russians are characterized by the West as an attempt by the Kremlin to threaten NATO into barring Ukraine from Membership. The Russian President Vladimir Putin is thought to dislike the thought of Ukraine moving further towards the West. The President’s imperial ambitions are also well known, as his annexation of the Crimea (a piece of Ukrainian land) shows.
This Russian example shows the main issue in the idea of NATO; it serves to antagonize certain countries; however, it also shows one of the central positives; smaller countries and enclaves are protected from violence by bigger countries. These ideas will be unpacked using one of NATO’s biggest actions, Yugoslavia, as well as viewing one of its more aid-based missions, the NATO training mission in Iraq.
The Republic of Yugoslavia was a state made from the Versailles Conference and the Second World War. It was a flawed state, as it was designed to be a unified Slavic nation, yet the Slavic Nationalities in that land were often at odds and brutal repression was common. One of the groups, the Albanian Kosovans, had been discriminated against ever since the state was founded. Eventually this came to a head in November 1996, when war between Kosovo Albanian separatists-initiated war against the Yugoslav government. by September 1988, NATO’s security council met and decided a threat against the National Security of NATO and its allies was posed by the ongoing war and the refugee crisis that could be caused. The actions of NATO eventually led to a ceasefire between the two sides and the administration of Kosovo as a semi-independent province of Serbia.
In the above instance, NATO served to end a war and defend the rights of a smaller nation, yet it also did so for selfish reasons and radically increased the size and scope of the war.
The Iraqi training program was an intergovernmental military cooperation between NATO and the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government’s armed forces were not up to the task of defending itself, so the government requested NATO support with training their officers. The program is ongoing but has experienced great strides in training and support of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The program is an example of NATO’s non-combat role as support to smaller countries and their allies, thereby both helping countries defend themselves (helping propagate peace) and giving allied countries the ability to wage war against their enemies.
NATO’s contribution to peace is sometimes blurry, yet in the aggregate, it seems to serve as a deterrent to war. Its morality is another question, yet morality is not the question today. NATO, if it is viewed by its actions, serves peace, and keeps war out of the forefront of our lives in the way it cursed our ancestors in years past.