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September 17, 2009 |  5 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Strengthening the Non-Aggression Norm within NATO

Ian Davis: Criticism of Germany as an unreliable military ally is widespread and growing. But rather than deregulating the rules of German military engagement, we should be looking to include similar non-aggression clauses in the national legislation of other NATO member states.

Many commentors on the recent Atlantic Community Editorial Article Germany Goes on the Offensive called for a change in the German constitution to make it easier for the Bundeswehr to take part in offensive ‘out of area' operations. The air strike against hijacked tankers ordered by German troops in Kunduz province last week has led to further criticism of Germany as an unreliable ally.  But rather than deregulating the rules of German military engagement, we should be looking to include similar non-aggression clauses in the national legislation of other NATO member states and making non-aggression one of the guiding principles of its new Strategic Concept. 

It is in the interest of every state to strengthen the fabric of international law.  An effective law-based system of international peace and security is a more enduring guarantor of national and collective security than reliance on a balance of power through military strength.  In New Zealand, for example, a Private Member's Bill is seeking to ensure that the country's use of armed force is always in conformity with international law.  If passed, it would make an act of aggression, as defined in the draft Bill, a ‘leadership' crime.  A parallel international process to establish the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression is currently mired in procedural wrangling. 

What would be the outcome of NATO politically binding itself (and some of the more belligerent member states legally binding themselves) to the same standards of non-aggression as Germany?  Well, it would certainly make it easier for NATO to legitimately criticise the aggression of others.  It may also enhance NATO's legitimacy to act to temper such aggression, and, where appropriate, assist the Alliance in obtaining the prior authority to do so (within the UN Security Council).  It would also likely generate greater public support for such ‘last resort' interventions and avoid the kind of ‘national caveats' that have proven so controversial in Afghanistan.  And had a law, such is proposed in New Zealand, been on the statute books in the UK in 2003, the then British Prime Minister might well have tempered his enthusiasm for a ‘war of choice' in Iraq.

It should be stressed that such a non-aggression commitment would not prevent NATO (or any individual member state) from undertaking the lawful use of armed force in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence or where authorised by the UN Security Council, including as part of an enhanced commitment to enforce the ‘Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) agenda. 

Of course, the lawful use of force often turns on the particularities of each case.  But the nexus of failing states and fears of WMD proliferation have led to a lowering of the threshold in the use of force, including deeply misguided and even illegal preventive wars of alleged self-defence.  But numerous other options (both military and non-military) are also available, and may be more appropriate and effective in achieving security objectives.  The alternatives include diplomacy, conflict prevention, deterrence, containment and collective defence.

In the specific case of Afghanistan the picture is by no means as clear-cut as those that seek to legitimise the mission on the grounds that "ISAF is a UN-mandated mission".  Not all allied military activities in Afghanistan (and now Pakistan) fall under the ISAF command.  The US Operation Enduring Freedom) and some of the related operational activities (such as CIA targeted assassinations using drones and the inappropriate use of air power) are of dubious legality, continue to harm civilians and inflame the situation. 

A number of changes in strategy in Afghanistan are required to enhance the ever-decreasing chances of a successful outcome (and might also lead to the withdrawal of the national caveats applied by Germany and others).  These include: placing all US forces under the unified command of ISAF; creating a genuine multilateral decision-making process for ISAF operations (thereby ending the roll-out of unilateral, ‘take it or leave it', Af-Pak strategies agreed behind closed doors in the Pentagon and the White House); greater clarity of NATO's goals as part of a revised collectively agreed strategy for Afghanistan and the region; and a focus on securing and protecting population centres and helping to build civilian rule of law.

Dr. Ian Davis is the Founding Director of NATO Watch, which conducts independent monitoring and analysis of NATO and aims to increase transparency, stimulate parliamentary engagement and broaden public awareness and participation in a progressive reform agenda within NATO.

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Unregistered User

September 21, 2009

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Time for the US to pull out of NATO completely. Let the EU spend its own money defending itself. The EU is full cowards. Most of the Europian forces are hiding in their barracks. Who needs you anyway. The US is not going to turn over command to countries that don't have their own sons in harms way.
 
Stacy  Kaufeld

September 22, 2009

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It's irresponsible to believe that the US should pull out of NATO. The international climate has changed drastically since the end of the Cold War and certainly since NATO's creation in 1949. The relationship is mutually interdependent, and is no longer a solely military alliance. At that time, the Alliance was established to stablilize Europe from what was preceived as a major Soviet threat. Europe, devastated by 2 major wars in the first have the century, was militarily exhausted. Therefore, NATO was established and the US took the major role in European security.

With the end of the Cold War and the integration of the European Union, US allies are feeling far more secure than they did 60 years ago. With this change in international relations, the direction and strategy of NATO must also adjust. Military security is no longer concentrated in Central and Eastern Europe, and the US is far more vulnerable and cannot achieve security in the Middle East alone. Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that.

In order to establish stablity in the Mid-East, the US and Europe must work together. Granted as the predominant military superpower, the US will take the led in establishing order in region, but maintaining that order will require much more than military presence. US presence in the region can't be preceived as Imperial overreach, especially in an area that was under colonial rule until the mid-twentieth century. Europe can work with the US to help establish political, economic, and social order.

If the US were to withdrawl from NATO, the Alliance would likely have to pull out of Afghanistan before it could fulfill it's intended mission - the removal of a safe haven for al Qaeda. If the alliance pulls out of the Afghanistan, the Taliban will reestablish its presence in a region permeated with extremism and a nuclear stockpile in neighbouring Pakistan. This situation would certainly not be in the best interests of the United States.
 
Jakob  Schirmer

September 22, 2009

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We live in a time in which conformity with THE international law will not be reached. Whereas on the one hand international humanitarian law and the law of conflicts might be unified, on the other hand international law in respect to the classical state dissolves. Is there THE solution according to international law for the indpendence of Kosovo, Tibet and South Ossetia? Or are there only political solutions referring to some regulations of international law, which just apply? The interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia could be justified in respect to international law as well as they could be criticised. We need a discussion leading to a consensus in international law before we approximate the national legal orders to the international law - otherwise justifications according to international law are rather political manoeuvres.
 
Katerina  Kanavari

September 23, 2009

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Engaging non- aggression norms and strengthening the sphere of international law, theoretically it should have been a priority for NATO. Nevertheless, the short and long term consequences of such a policy enlighten the strategic decision of NATO not to do so.

If NATO encompasses instead of deregulating the German laws of military engagement, inevitably it will reveal a weakness and a failure of the previously followed strategic concept. Furthermore, the reinforcement of the international law contributes to balance the international relationships mostly through diplomacy and negotiations, in order to avoid an ultimate conflict. However, NATO represents a military engagement of the member states; it would be then controversial to assume that it better corresponds to an effective law- based system of international peace than a balance of power through military strength.

Moreover, if NATO politically binds itself to non- aggression standards and to the UN Security Council, it will not have the authority to proceed to operational activities and military actions with the same political convenience as in the past.

The dissatisfaction of the public opinion was a result of successive flaws of NATO’s military strategy and dubious legality actions as well. As the media do not have the same influence as they used to, the NATO has to face the internal problem itself. By engaging other means and authorize other organizations to decide, it may solve the miscalculations of the present but at the same time it risks to reduce the authority of NATO in the long run. In my opinion, NATO should reconsider its strategy, embody international practices, and never again underestimate the opponent, the public opinion and the other countries involved; recovering through learning from the others and the mistakes of the past without being deprived of any authority would be the best case scenario for NATO.

“The main reason for the Romans becoming masters of the world was that, having fought successively against all people, they always gave up their own practices as soon as they found better ones.” Montesquieu [1748]
 
Donald  Stadler

September 23, 2009

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"we should be looking to include similar non-aggression clauses in the national legislation of other NATO member states."

Ummmm, right. This reads to me that the author seeks to compel all nations in NATO to amend their constitutions to the German model, in this regard at least. An ambitious goal to be sure.

Leverage will be needed - what leverage could possibly be strong enough? I've got it! Threaten to drop h-bombs on their capitals! Er, isn't that slight overkill and just slightly out of sync with the goal itself? ;)

Revoke their EU membership? Can you do that? And what about the non-EU members?

There is an inherent paradox to the goal as stated, because military alliances at least implicitly require aggression. Even self-defense requires aggression. Launching an anti-tank shell at an invading tank is an act of aggression, as is shooting a rifle at an invading infantryman. So if you outlaw aggression within NATO you convert it into a non-military alliance, do you not?

There is another problem here, in that the reason that Germany has been able to follow it's own rules for so many years is precisely because the other NATO members do not. German rules rigorously interpreted state that German forces do not fight except in defense of Germany's borders. If the US were to implement that rule, and defend the US borders?.....

Think about it.
 

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