Libya, a developing nation in North Africa, which has set an ideal example of development, is witnessing a downfall; economically, politically and socially. This is because ‘rebels’ (with an ever-present tribal mentality to overthrow Gaddafi without realising the severity of the measures they have adopted), who are aided and equipped by NATO forces are destroying Libyan oil fields & buildings, ruining existing infrastructure and killing innocent civilians. A nation built with hard earned wealth (Americans or Europeans didn’t gift Libya the wealth it has earned, in fact they tried everything possible to stop Libya), is now being sent back to the stone age with naive impunity.
In its last 43 years of history under the leadership of dictator Gaddafi whom NATO now wants to remove badly, Libya hasn’t met with such a catastrophe. To a sane observer, it is not difficult to realise that if Gaddafi is bad for Libya, then what NATO strikes are gifting to Libyans in the name of ‘liberation’ is even worse. However, this is not the first time that the world’s most influential collective defence force NATO has endangered world peace. History bears testimony to the blunders that NATO has committed and the wars that it has waged, which are not only unjust but also unpardonable for mankind.
After being formed on April 4, 1949 based on the North Atlantic Treaty with a simple ideology to keep the “Russians out, Americans in and Germans down”, as aptly stated by the first NATO Secretary General Lord Hastings Lionel “Pug” Ismay, NATO basic structural premise was its key fault. Its biggest failure has been in defining its relationship with Russia. The Soviet Union expressed its desire to join NATO in 1954, but the proposal was rejected, suspecting that the Soviets were conspiring to weaken NATO. But surprisingly, in the next year, it accepted West Germany on May 9, 1955 as a member to resist Russian military might. This move not only formally started the Cold War but also resulted in the creation of the Warsaw Pact signed on May 14, 1955 by the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and East Germany – a pact to counter NATO, which apparently hasn’t even matured with age. As recently as in 2007, NATO again slighted Russia with its announcement of plans to install a defence system with interceptor missiles in Poland and Czech Republic to defend the nations against Russia. Yes, one can understand that Putin loves to attack nations faster than talk (Georgia, an iconic case study), but to deliberately go overboard in announcing the missile systems was a critical geopolitical blunder.
NATO’s second mistake was getting itself into the 1999 Yugoslavia war. By doing so, it not only violated its own rules but also the international order. According to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the organisation as a collective defence force is permitted to use force only if any of its members is attacked – and no NATO countries were invaded in that war. Also, Article 53 of the UN Charter says that no collective defence alliance has the right to bomb a nation without prior approval of the UN Security Council. NATO didn’t bother to ask UNSC. NATO’s involvement led to more deaths than those resulting from Yugoslavia’s ground attack on Kosovo.
NATO has also failed to redefine its role outside Europe. It was primarily formed with American influence and support; firstly, to combat Russia, and secondly, to keep American interests alive in Europe. However, 9/11 changed the course of history. It gave the US a chance to misuse Article 5 of the NATO treaty and that too, outside Europe in Afghanistan. NATO’s engagement in the Afghan war was carried out on the grounds that there was mutual consensus that NATO will not be used in the far east. But NATO later refused to have made any such claim. Under the leadership of US, NATO attacked a nation – Afghanistan – in the name of fighting terrorism. NATO operations killed thousands of innocent Afghans. While it may be argued that NATO’s Afghan moves reduced terrorist activities, what cannot be denied is the collateral damage being caused by NATO due to its gunslinger behaviour.
Now, NATO is committing the same mistake in Libya. The liberation that Libya needs is not what NATO can give and certainly not using the extreme methods that it has employed. Gaddafi, in a letter to President Obama, wrote that “democracy and building of civil society can’t be achieved by means of missiles and aircraft or by backing armed members of Al-Qaeda in Benghazi.”
It’s hard to disagree on that point. But NATO with 28 member states, an estimated 70% of the world’s combined military spending, is definitely not going to learn any lessons from Gaddafi. The West always wanted Libya at their feet for its vast oil reserves (Libya has the largest reserves in Africa and ranks 9th in the world with 41.5 billion barrels as of 2007) – and to defeat an erstwhile ally Gaddafi, the cherry on the cake. Undoubtedly, Gaddafi should seriously consider allowing democracy within the nation. And if NATO seriously wishes to prove a point, why not start with Saudi Arabia?