“Of late, politicians and establishment experts alike are widely commenting on the question: NATO, what is it good for?” (Bloice, 2012). This is a sentiment that has, in recent years, been echoing across many political and military analysts’ minds. Since the endorsement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4, 1949, the global political situation has undergone various changes that have eventually brought into question the purpose of existence of NATO. This essay summarizes the formation of the organization, its development through the years, and its current position in the modern post wars world. It also analyzes the role of NATO in various military and political situations and whether the organization has adapted well to the changing political landscape.
The formation of NATO was essential in order to link the military forces of North America and Europe. This would provide adequate military defense in case of an attack on one of its member states. From 1950 to 1991, the main purpose of the organization was to defend member states, especially those in Europe against the invasion by the Soviet Union and other countries involved in the Warsaw pact (William, 1986). Between 1989 and 1991, several revolutions saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of USSR.
After dealing with the main adversary, there were developing questions on the real mandate of NATO. Some people called for its disbandment while others claimed that it would be necessary in order to maintain peace in various countries where ethnicity was a serious issue. Subsequently, the organization persisted and underwent a radical restructuring and reorganization. It proved helpful in various ethnic wars in the 1990s and most recently helped to implement a no-fly zone in Libya.
Changing Political Landscape
Initially, NATO was created only to provide military support to its member states (Weiss & Forsythe, 1994); however, with the fall of Russia and the end of various ethnic wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the military role of the organization started waning. The last significant military operation was in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks (BSC, 2005). Political questions became more important than military ones (Osgood, 1986). Global politics was shifting from being military based to talks and consultations (Ziring & Riggs, 2005).
NATO has to some extent recognized the shifting political dynamics and tried to change some of its policies (Bardo, 2002). It started getting involved in humanitarian activities after the end of the cold war. A good example is when in 1999, NATO provided both military and humanitarian interventions in Kosovo (Thomas, 2004). The organization has also in the recent years become more politically involved than it was in the past. This can be explained by the realization that military intervention is not enough; political talks and resolutions are also extremely crucial in bringing peace and stability.
To my mind, NATO has made a fair attempt in changing its mandate and policies in view of the changing political dynamics. Most notably, it has improved on its humanitarian responses to war-torn countries. However, that is just about as far as it goes. The organization has never had any notable success in conflict resolutions through non-military methods. Even in the recent uprising in Libya, it had to resort to using force to restore calm in the country. Perhaps the only success it can boast of is bringing together the communist countries like East Germany and Russia that were formerly regarded as enemies by the USSR.
NATO has largely failed in solving some of the most urgent political conflicts in the modern world (Weiss & Gordenke 1996). In 1995, NATO entered into dialogue with six Arab countries in an attempt to bring stability in the Middle East. However, till date, the talks or any other subsequent resolution have not brought any peace or stability largely because most political leaders in Middle East see NATO as a western tool to help Israel defeat its enemies. NATO in its part has not done much to dispel this notion.
Despite various successes attributed to NATO, the failure to bring peace and stability in war-torn countries and regions through non-military means puts the organization in a bad light. If no action takes place to rectify the situation, the organization could soon become redundant and useless. NATO needs to detach itself from western influence and educate everyone on its policies and objectives.
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