NATO still mission-creeping at 60

NATO still mission-creeping at 60

We’re heading toward the 60 th anniversary of NATO. There’s to be a ceremony April 3-4 in Strasbourg and Kehl, the latter being the German town facing Strasbourg on the east side of the Rhine. Sarkozy of France and Merkel of Germany will meet and embrace, in symbolic affirmation of Unity Restored, after divisive conflicts now buried in the mists of time. I’m not sure what theatrical events are being planned to symbolize this celebration of Gallo- Teutonic entente, perhaps some flotilla on the mighty Rhine itself, with Sarko as a latter-day Mark Anthony and buxom Merkel as Cleo. To give vibrancy to the event, Sarkozy has just formally brought France back into NATO’s “integrated command.” Charles de Gaulle, a leader who looks better with every passing decade, took France out back in 1966 as a rebuke to American domination of the alliance. No doubt there’ll soon be an institutional shift back to Paris by NATO personnel, wearied of Belgian moules frites and waterzooi. You can be sure there will be galeforce gusts of bombast about the NATO alliance’s historic role as Europe’s mighty shield and buckler, guarantor of its freedoms against “aggression,” thus perpetuating 60 years of humbug. There was never the slightest chance of the Soviet Union and its auxiliaries in the Warsaw Pact rolling west in the prospective onslaught luridly evoked by Winston Churchill in a speech at the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March 1949. Churchill raised the specter of the “Mongol hordes” that had menaced Europe 700 years before, only heading home when the Great Khan died. “They never returned,” rumbled the old faker, “until now.” Having borne almost the entire burden of crushing Hitler’s armies on the Eastern front and having suffered appalling casualties in so doing, the Soviet Union was in no condition to invade Western Europe. This didn’t impede mad Western scenarios of the sort that threat- inflators routinely issued down the decades until the very moment the Soviet Union collapsed. Armored Cavalry Journal quavered in 1947 that “Russia could probably invade and occupy the whole of Western Europe against resistance from present American, British and French troops in a matter of 48 hours.” Driven by Truman’s 1948 arms scare, NATO lumbered into being in 1949, ratifying dominance

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