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NATO 101: The history of the North Atlantic Trade Organization

Published: Monday, April 2, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

For Chicago residents, NATO has become a household name as the city prepares to host its summit in May. However, what they do and why they’re relevant to international diplomacy is unknown to some.

According to its website, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in April 1949. It has 28 member countries in total, including the United States and other European countries like Spain, France and Greece. Twelve of those countries founded the treaty, and members have accumulated ever since.

A key part of NATO is the strength of its alliance. The website noted that according to the original treaty, an attack on one NATO country is an attack on everyone. Members of the alliance swear to come to the aid of their fellow members when necessary.

“You buy yourself security if you’re a small state,” said Dr. Clement Adibe, a political science professor at DePaul.

In its youth, NATO had three primary goals: combat the Soviet Union, prevent militaristic nationalism in Europe and promote assimilation in European politics.

However, after the Soviet Union fell at the end of the Cold War, NATO had to reinvent its mission. Now, they focus strongly on peacekeeping and security. But as the website noted, NATO is not the solution to every international struggle. They’re merely a piece of the larger puzzle in conflict resolution.

Adibe commended NATO for looking beyond the Soviet fight. He claimed this reflects “the resilience of bureaucracies.”

“They found a way to expand their agenda and make themselves relevant,” he said.

Adibe said that NATO members tend to be government officials specialized in dealing with the organization, similar to the system for the United Nations. These specialized individuals develop a coordinated, working relationship with their governments.

“For the United States, it’s an instrument of diplomacy,” he added. “NATO adds some legitimacy to American actions.”

The summit that will occur in May is a key part to what modern-day NATO does for the world.

“NATO summits are also held annually to provide leaders with a platform for strategic diplomatic and military planning,” said Jen Martinez, press secretary for the Chicago NATO Host Committee. “This will be the first time an American city other than Washington D.C. has hosted the NATO summit.”

Martinez said this could generate many benefits for Chicago, whether it is in tourism or the job market. Most importantly, she added, it’ll put Chicago on an even larger map.

“These summits will help solidify Chicago as a player in the global economy, which will ensure continued growth and business development,” she said.

Adibe believes that NATO is personally motivated to move the location of their meetings in hopes of educating people about what they do. The organization is based in Brussels, but they’ve had meetings in other places around the world.

“They have no reason to meet elsewhere,” Adibe said. “It’s a way of democratizing the institution.”

For the upcoming summit, Adibe said they will probably discuss the war in Afghanistan, particularly because some members are anxious to withdraw their troops. The website also suggested conversations regarding defense capabilities and allies outside of NATO.

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Tue Apr 3 2012 20:51
I'm very disappointed at the way you gloss over the role of NATO in our fragile world. As one commentator put it: "NATO is an instrument that the United States uses to advance its interests" -- Stephan Walt, Prof. of International Affairs, Harvard Univ. Please see my article on the subject: "NATO & G8: An Overview" which shows the history and role of these two intertwined entities--the real threat to our cities, nations and the world.
Nick Egnatz, Veterans For Peace
Tue Apr 3 2012 17:41
It is unfortunate that the DePaul student newspaper reflects the same narrow world view that is on display daily with main stream corporate media in the U.S. Sources for the story "NATO 101..." are limited to the NATO website, an un-inquisitive DePaul professor of political science Clement Adibe and the cheerleading Jen Martinez, press secretary for the Chicago NATO Host Committee. No where to be found a disparaging word. Let me attempt to provide that service.Afghanistan: On October 7, 2001 U.S., U.K. and Australian armed forces joined with the Northern Alliance which had been fighting a civil war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The reason given to the American people was that the Taliban had given refuge and protection to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda while they hatched and carried out the attack on 9/11. NATO took over control of the mission in 2006 despite public opinion in NATO countries heavily against doing so. General James Jones, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, assured the NATO allies that they would just be mopping up after the Taliban had been defeated. It gave the NATO members a reason to belong to the club, since the Soviet Union had dissolved. What we weren't told was that the Taliban government had extracted a promise from al Qaeda that they (al Qaeda) would not attack the U.S. while camped out in Afghanistan. Further the Taliban had offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country for an international trial upon receipt of proof of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Incidentally, up to this date there is no undisputed video of him ever acknowledging complicity in the attacks. The U.N. Charter does not allow one nation to attack another without specific U.N. Security Council authority. Further the nations are required to first exhaust all avenues of diplomacy before going to the Security Council. The U.S. spurned diplomacy and would not even consider having bin Laden handed over to a third party for an international trial. This is a war of aggression by any independent assessment and while NATO per se was not originally responsible, their leadership was only too happy to take over the face saving operation for their major partner, the U.S. Libya: March 17, 2011 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 was pushed through the Security Council by the U.S. and its allies 10-0 with five countries abstaining (Russia, China, Brazil, Germany and India). It called for an immediate cease fire, imposed a no fly zone over Libya and authorised all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, except for a "foreign occupation force". It also allowed for the freezing of Libyan assets which were considerable. It did not authorize a war for or support for a war for regime change. Western bombing started on March 19 and on March 31 NATO officially took control of the operation. What we were told: Gaddafi was a brutal dictator and enough was enough. He had to be stopped from killing his people. What we weren't told:• The CIA and British MI6 had been fomenting revolution in Libya• A sovereign nation such as Libya has every right to use force to combat an armed insurrection. The American Civil War being an example. I don't condone the killing of civilian which Gaddafi is quoted as calling for, but killing civilians sympathetic to Gaddafi is certainly not the answer.• Many of those fighting against Gaddafi were al Qaeda and al Qaeda sympathizers that had recently fought against us in Iraq• That Libya in 40 some years under Gaddafi had gone from the poorest country in the world to the one with the highest standard of living in Africa• That Libyan women had 100% legal equality with men, absolutely unheard of in the Muslim world. This was one of the major reasons for the revolt, to do away with women's equality. • All Libyan people enjoyed 100% free government healthcare.• All Libyan people enjoyed 100% free government paid education, including university and graduate school.• Gaddafi built the Man Made River Project at a cost of $33 billion. Called the "Eighth Wonder of the World", it is a system of underground pipes and aqueducts that provides 6.5 million cubic meters of fresh water each day to the populated areas• Gaddafi had proposed uniting the African countries under a common currency the African Dinar. Under Gaddafi Libya had a public central bank, unlike the private central banks that the U.S. and other Western capitalist countries have. The proposed African Dinar was a small, but distinct threat to the international supremacy of the private banking cartel that controls international finance. • The Libyan People's Sovereign Wealth Fund under Gaddafi invested $1.3 billion with investment bank Goldman Sachs in 2007. They lost 98% of their investment. Goldman Sachs offered to help them get their money back if only they would invest another $3.7 billion. Gaddafi declined. • The U.N. General...
Tue Apr 3 2012 13:28
This survey course on NATO ignores the Alliance's salient characteristic: That it is not only the world's sole military bloc, one which from 1999-2012 waged unprovoked wars in three continents (Southeastern Europe, South Asia and North Africa), but the largest multinational war machine in history.

The observation that the NATO "website noted that according to the original treaty, an attack on one NATO country is an attack on everyone" is a reference to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the basis for 150,000 troops from 50 nations serving under the military bloc's command in Afghanistan - the largest invasion force in that nation's history - and the largest number of troop-contributing countries in any war ever, certainly in one nation. The Afghan campaign is also the longest war in the history of the U.S.

In addition, Article 5 is the basis of NATO continuing its comprehensive naval surveillance and interdiction operation, Active Endeavor, throughout the Mediterranean Sea from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Suez Canal, currently in its eleventh year and with no indication of ending.

If at the time of its founding in 1949 NATO's chief purpose was to "combat the Soviet Union," then please explain how it is that eight years after the fragmentation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the bloc began a ten-year expansion that saw it increase membership by 75 percent, from 16 to 28 members in 2009.

Or what justification it employed to build military partnerships with another 40 nations throughout Europe, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, East Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa.

NATO is a historically unparalleled threat to world peace, not least because of its centrality in realizing the Ronald Reagan administration's plan for a potential first-strike global missile shield.

It needs to be abolished, not discussed as though it were a beneficent and innocuous security agreement.

Rick Rozoff


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