NATO: Beyond collective defense - Part 1

By Steve Farrell
web posted April 1999

The more one hears and reads about the cursory opposition the Republican party supplied to the debate on the war in Kosovo, the more convincing is the case, once again, that the party prefers pruning the enemies branches rather than laying a blow to their roots.

Most disturbing was their resistance strategy which expressed deep concern that NATO had moved away from its original intent as an international defense alliance to become a new force for offensive internationalism.

Republican Senator Ted Stevens, two days before NATO launched its first missiles, voiced his feeling that this turnabout was "a precedent he [didn't] want to be involved in."

A legitimate concern, but a departure from the original intent of NATO? Hardly. Propaganda aside, the original design of NATO was nothing less in intent and doctrine than a transformational tool of offensive internationalism, one which gave establishment foreign policy experts in the United States a great deal of leverage in forging a United Europe, with an intended joining of nations on both sides of the Atlantic to follow, all of this under the auspices of the United Nations.

An extreme assessment? Not at all.

Admittedly, the North Atlantic Treaty, did employ the words "collective defense" and did commit each one of its members to respond to the attack against one or more [members as] "an attack against them all," yet it is the language of the rest of the treaty which defines what NATO truly is and what it truly is not. To start with, more than any other two words in the Treaty are these: "United Nations" - debatably, the mother of all internationalism.

This brief treaty with but fourteen short one paragraph articles and a scant preamble, yet manages to squeeze-in eleven references to the supremacy of the United Nations and its principles which references maintain: 1. The absolute necessity to conduct NATO affairs within the bounds of the U.N. Charter (see NATO Articles 7, 1, 2, and the Preamble). 2. A mandate to immediately report to the U.N. Security Council all attacks or threats upon NATO members and all measures taken in response to those attacks or threats (NATO Article 5) 3. A requirement to terminate hostilities only after the [UN] Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security (NATO Article 5). 4. A vision of a future "universal" role for NATO under the United Nations or a coordinated role for NATO along side of other U.N. regional alliances (NATO Article 12). 5. A declaration that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization receives its authority to exist and "exercise...the right of individual or collective self-defense [from] Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations (Article 5)." In fact, almost all of the requirements referencing the U.N. are lifted verbatim out of the U.N. Charter - its parent organization.

Parent organization? Precisely. President Truman, affirmed this subordination before the United Nations General Assembly on April 13th and 14th of 1949, when he stated: "The twelve nations which have signed this treaty undertake to exercise their right of collective or individual self-defense against armed attack, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and subject to such measures as the [U.N.] Security Council may take to maintain and restore international peace and security."

UN Ambassador Warren A. Austin agreed, informing the same audience, "The North Atlantic Treaty fits squarely within the framework of the [U.N.] Charter." Indeed, NATO is listed in the organizational matrix of the United Nations.

Therefore, point 1, NATO is not merely a defense alliance, as we have been told, but a regional arrangement under the United Nations; which leads to Point 2. By resigning itself to the supremacy of the United Nations and its "principles" and by legally opening the door to a more "universal" role under the United Nations, NATO acknowledged the possibility of not just going to war on its own prerogative in "self defense", but also, as per request by of the United Nations Security Council.

Article 52, para.. 3 of the U.N. Charter, establishes the same, when it requests that "local disputes" be settled by "regional arrangements or...agencies," and that such measures be taken as necessary under the "initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council." .

Point 3 is that the frequently heard claim that the North Atlantic Treaty permits NATO to go to war only when a member nation is attacked is based on a faulty reading of NATO Article 5. Here is the applicable part of the article:

"The Parties agree that the armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an armed attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them...will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking forthwith...such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force."

The faulty reading comes in, when one realizes there is no negative or prohibitory language found here. This is not a prohibition which limits NATO's ability to go to war, but a mandate as to when she must.

Meanwhile, overlooked is NATO Article 4 which demands NATO members meet together and consider appropriate actions any time, in "the opinion" of one or more members, " integrity, political independence, or security," exist. But "opinions" and perceived "threats" are a far cry from the crime and realism of a physical attack and are the very stuff of interventionism and offensive wars.NATO's unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia, does not violate this principle, but is consistent with it. For Yugoslavia's civil war is in NATO's opinion constitutes a "threat to the stability of the European Community." (See NATO Article 2, the Preamble, and my next article concerning NATO's mission of "promoting conditions of stability and well being.")

A careful consideration of the North Atlantic Treaty admits that there really is no check upon what NATO may or may not do if it resolves to go to war, but this one: NATO may not go to war "in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations (NATO art. 1)" Which is point 4. Which brings us to point 5. Contrary to the claims of a widely circulated conservative communiqué the invasion of Sovereign Kosovo is not illegal, for it does not violate the U.N.'s supposed banning of U.N. intervention in the internal affairs of a state.

True, Article 2, paragraph 7 of the U.N. Charter does read: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state." A cut and dry law, or so it appears. Ignored, however, is the proviso attached to the same sentence: "this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measure under Chapter VII." A Soviet style loophole, especially when one takes a gander at what is in Chapter VII.

Chapter VII, Article 40 maintains that the U.N.'s enforcement measures may include: "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and or rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations."

And if that "proves to be inadequate:" Article 41 permits: "such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security."

What is left? The U.N., by a carefully crafted loophole, can do whatever it wants to disrupt the internal affairs of a nation.

Also, like the North Atlantic Treaty, Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter armed with plenty of vague language as to what constitutes a right for the U.N. or its surrogates to intervene. Article 39, for instance, insists that the Security Council address "the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression." And Articles 40, 50, and 2 permit "preventative enforcement measures."

And non aligned members, involved in their own little squabbles, supposedly out of the jurisdiction of the U.N. are not safe. As Article 2, Para. 6 blatantly proclaims: "The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security." Granted to the invaded non aligned nation, is only a right to "consult" with the Security Council, if these "preventative or enforcement measures are causing "economic" harm.

Since NATO is tasked to operate consistent "with the purposes of the United Nations," NATO's invasion of a sovereign non aligned state, is perfectly legal within the framework of North Atlantic Treaty, and the United Nations Charter.

So what does it mean when the only prohibition against NATO going to war is that it must do so consistent with the UN Charter? It means that there is no prohibition against war at all. And when one considers that those at NATO and the UN are unelected officials, and that its member nations are bound to the alliance by absurd and obnoxious 20 year blocks, the propensity for going to war, is unchecked and boundless. That NATO would someday joins hands in a more aggressive role as a military arm of the UN., was just a matter of time and opportunity.

In 1949, NATO was sold by Democrat Harry Truman to conservative Republicans as an opposition strategy to the Soviet Union's use of its veto power in the Security Council. That was the propaganda, but what has really occurred is a well thought out, preplanned vehicle for internationalism, one which "taps into the U.N.'s untapped resources," one which sidesteps any and all vetoes, makes up for funding shortfalls at the U.N., quells conservative opposition in the United States, legitimatized large foreign standing armies in Europe, fostered dependency among those nations "blessed" with our troops and our missiles, and swung open the door wide for an expansion of executive war making powers in every member state..

Point in fact, immediately after Senate ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty, President Harry Truman, armed with this new precedent, marched American troops into Korea, claiming Presidents no longer needed congressional declarations of war. In Kosovo, President Clinton smugly did the same, seeking only a resolution of support for what the North Atlantic Treaty clearly authorized him to do.

The Republican Party supposition that offensive war is contrary to NATO is far from the mark. NATO was and is an aide-de-camp of the United Nations. It's own by-laws permit it to act in the same busy body nature as the U.N., and so it should be of little surprise to see her now act like the U.N. It is not a departure from NATO, nor from international law under the United Nations which is at fault here, it is our participation with and acceptance of the premise that our survival is contingent upon membership in organizations whose laws and actions violate the letter and spirit of our own Constitution.

George Washington's taught us a better plan for internationalism. It was one which fostered friendly and commercial relations with all, entangling alliances with none. He believed that the best defense was a strong and independent America. Until the Republican party returns to Father Washington's inspired advice, and lays a blow to the roots of our current problem, we will have many more Kosovo's, create many more unnecessary enemies, foster a heap of more allegiance to a very questionable United Nations Organization, and provide more and more misguided, meaningless, and ineffective opposition to the decline in U.S. sovereignty and the ascendancy of executive power which all of them represent.

Next: NATO: Beyond Collective Defense, the Political Agenda.

Steve Farrell is a senior staff writer with Right Magazine. Please email your comments to Mr. Farrell at

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