Anders Rasmussen’s Fogh-gy Plan For NATO After Libya

The Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, recently published an opinion paper.  Titled “NATO After Libya,” and published in Foreign Affairs, Anders Fogh Rasmussen discusses European austerity and the future of the global defense shield.  If I had to write a crib sheet to fit on a pin head, I’d sum it up as “spend smarter and integrate.”  As a blurb, it would be “prevent the economic crisis from becoming a security crisis.”  Too right.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Point Man for Nato

The essay itself is rather short, and everyone should read it for themselves.  Do that now, since at the jump I’m going to play a game of Statement –> Translation.

Statement –> Translation is where I take a chunk of information, dust off the debris, and translate.  Cryptojournalistically, of course.

Without further ado:

…military might still matters in twenty-first-century geopolitics. The security challenges facing Europe include conflicts in its neighborhood, such as in Libya; terrorism from failed states further away; and emerging threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and cyberwarfare.

Sounds good, right?  Only I didn’t know the internet was susceptible to traditional armaments.  Nuclear proliferation is also something which does not bow to tanks and air power.  I’ll give NATO’s Secretary-General the benefit of the doubt.  I am a mere cryptojournalist, and he wields the power of NATO.

Continuing with the theme of military might:

…in an unpredictable environment, hard power can enable peace. Just as the presence of a police officer may deter a burglar, the projection of military power can help prevent and, in extreme cases, diminish threats, as well as ultimately open the way for political solutions.

This is one of the great misnomers of our time.  Soldiers and police are not the same.  If you wanted to protect your home, would you buy a dog or a cougar?  Yes, that’s the analogy I’m drawing.  A dog is a domesticated animal, while a cougar is as likely to pounce a homeowner as it is a thief.  Trying to craft an analogy of soldiers in a war zone being equivalent to beat cops is daft.  That’s right, the underlying premise of many of our military excursions is daft.  Military personnel are not police.  Nor should they.

Sorry if I’m breaking the one to break this to you, but cops and soldiers are not the same.  If you do not see the difference, I’m surprised you’re even reading this blog.

Even with all the military might at NATO’s disposal, Rasmussen reminds us mere physical power is not the goal:

the way forward lies not in spending more but in spending better — by pursuing multinational approaches, making the transatlantic compact more strategically oriented, and working with emerging powers to manage the effects of the globalization of security.

Sounds like “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”  Hard work is overrated, anyway.

If a beaver revs a chainsaw in the forest and there's no one there, does the chainsaw make a sound?

Sounds like more cooks in the kitchen.  “Better, not more,” while an admirable sentiment, is contradictory when said in the same breath as multinational approaches and security globalization.  Ever competed in a three-legged race with two extra people tied to your leg, with another three on your back?  That’s what to expect from better spending with a more multinational approach.  Expanding bureaucracies is never a streamlining move.

But it gets better.  Here is Mr. Rasmussen’s description of “smart defense,” and how to implement this idea.  It’s fun:

Smart defense is about building security for less money by working together and being more flexible. This requires identifying those areas in which NATO allies need to keep investing. The operation in Libya has underlined the unpredictability of threats and the need to maintain a wide spectrum of military capabilities, both frontline and enabling ones. Keeping a deployable army, a powerful navy, and a strong air force costs money, however, and not all European countries can afford to have a bit of everything. So they should set their priorities on the basis of threats, cost-effectiveness, and performance — not budgetary considerations or prestige alone.

Another great piece of rhetorical sophistry.  Who wouldn’t want a smart defense?  Now wait a second there, chico.  Read that passage carefully, since there are a statements that do not reconcile.  Rasmussen declares the need to build security with less money.  Without missing a beat, he then points out the need to “maintain a wide spectrum of military capabilities,” which is never cheap.

A Brussels favorite

Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, though, or you’re likely to miss another irreconcilable contradiction.  Mr. Rasmussen points out the “unpredictability of threats” which have arisen in Libya.  By the end of the paragraph, however, he is calling for European countries to “set their priorities on the basis of threats,” which sounds like a job for a soothsayer or guru.

NATO countries are being encouraged to prioritize their individual military spending on the basis of something unpredictable? Sounds familiar, but I’m struggling to put a finger on it.

That's more like it

Remember the calls years back to buy visqueen and duct tape?  To protect your home from biological agents?  Of course you don’t, that was years ago.  It falls along the same lines as Rasmussen’s thinking about threats.  Using NATO logic, namely ‘on the basis of threats,’ well, everyone would have rolls of visqueen (which is a brand-name for plastic sheeting material, FYI) in their homes from the anthrax scare.

As you can see, I’m having a difficult time reconciling the notion of threats and their unpredictability.  How do you predict the unpredictable?  How can thy ground that which is ungroundable?

Pardon me, I have a meeting with the Supreme Allied Commanders, per se

I’m generally impressed.  I normally expect that level of rhetorical trickeration from a banker, not a military man.  Well played, Fogh, well played indeed.  Since we’re beginning to delve into the fantasy world of banking rhetoric, let’s wrap this up before we fall into another topic altogether.  Bear in mind this is in reference to leaning on so-called emerging powers to pick up some of the slack in global defense:

Working together could eventually lead to a common understanding of how to build twenty-first-century global security, which entails a sense of shared responsibility. This way, what too often seems like a zero-sum scenario can be turned into a win-win one.

Zero-sum games by their nature cannot be mutually beneficial to all parties.  Talk about the cart in front of the horse.  Anders Fogh Rasmussen believes he’s a general manager of a football team.  What he fails to grasp, is the world plays soccer.  The powers of persuasion are not going to change this. He’d like to assign each nation a position, while the countries themselves prefer to run back and forth, in the vain hopes of a tie.  Does he even know what he’s asking for?

Hone in on the word ‘seems’ for a moment.  Rasmussen is not even proclaiming planetary defense is a zero-sum game, yet hopes to turn the notion of global security into a plus-sum (win-win) scenario.  By hypnosis?  Which leads me to wonder, how?  There is no foundation for defense (at least in this article) being either/or, so what is it?

Coupling the seeming state of things with a hopeful outcome leaves a lot of wiggle room for what peoples’ genuine opinion of defense is, be it zero or plus sum.  Broad and vague, just how I like it.

Since I’ve got an affinity for statements twinged with the doom and gloom of apprehension for the future, here is Mr. Rasmussen’s closing statement:

Making European defense more coherent, strengthening transatlantic ties, and enhancing NATO’s connections with other global actors is the way to prevent the economic crisis from becoming a security crisis.

Just to be a speculative prick, I’ll go out on a limb and guess the premise “prevent the economic crisis from becoming a security crisis,” becomes a talking point around Labor Day.  It reeks of the sort of fear mongering that will play almost too well domestically.

Will NATO’s budget dry up after the Libyan incursion?  Doubtful.  If you believe the next theater of warfare is the Arctic Circle, well, then it’s clear there will always be a place for NATO.  Now, is that in a zero-sum, or plus-sum world?

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