NATO has recruited the politically inane but the truth is much more complex

NATO Summit
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The thing about NATO is that it’s only possible to support it uncritically if you’ve never been anywhere near it. And sadly for me, I have. I find myself back here again, well over a year after writing this piece on why picking a side from NATO or Russia is a mug’s game for big babies.

Let’s be clear, being critical of NATO isn’t to accept the arguments of the Twitter conspiracists who flood the Canary’s mentions each time we criticise one of their faux-anti-imperialist favourites. Yes, that would be the ‘Gaddafi/Assad/Putin/Insert Authoritarian was actually just misunderstood’ crowd. Rather, it’s a call for a serious analysis of what NATO is and what it does. I extend the same call in regard to Putin’s Russia.

In truth, the pro- and anti-NATO camps are united in a key aspect of their politics: fervent anti-intellectualism. For them, politics seems to be a sort of real-world game of Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons. In their minds, they push pieces around a tabletop battlefield. There’s lots of partisan emotion, as if they’re supporting a football team. It involves little by way of even-handed analysis. 


I can’t imagine formulating a political identity around an indifferent military alliance, or around a version of anti-imperialism which exists only in my own head. It would be hard not to look at all this and feel a bit sad for them, if they weren’t such vacuous arseholes.

On numerous occasions, I’ve seen even mild critiques of NATO attacked. On two occasions in person, I’ve had grown adults melt down when it’s been suggested they exercise reason over emotion in the context of Ukraine. But unthinking fanboying and fangirling doesn’t cut it for me. You see, I’m not a centrist, liberal, or a social democrat. I’m not that easily taken in. And I know NATO’s record in Afghanistan and Libya, and it’s Cold War era dalliances with fascism.

Nor do I have a hard-on for a fantasised anti-imperialist version of the Soviet Union. I’d hope my politics are a bit more sophisticated than cosplaying Uncle Joe Stalin down the pub with my two clammy mates or, God forbid, on Twitter to a large audience. Please, all of you, bear in mind that your poor mum might see this stuff.

This is because I’m on the anarchist end of politics. I distrust all states and their military alliances. I ended up in these positions precisely because I took part in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. So if you expect me to morph into some kind of NATO-shagger over Ukraine, you’re set for a rude awakening.

Read on...

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Many people have been pulled into uncritical support for NATO on the basis of emotion. And that’s understandable. The constant images and stories which have emerged from Ukraine are shocking. There’s no doubt Russia is the aggressor, just as the US and UK were in Iraq. But emotion alone doesn’t cut it. If you subtract rationale and reason from your analysis what you have left is good-old fashioned war fever.

Of course, people are pulled into NATO fandom for slightly different reasons. Most prominently, the brand of simpering centrists who made up the FBPE (Follow Back, Pro EU) cohort on Twitter. For them, solidarity starts and ends at adding the Ukraine flag next to the EU one in their bio.

It’s not for nothing I accuse them of mistaking NATO for  ‘FBPE with Guns’, though in fairness it could just as easily be ‘Eurovision fans with F-16s’. In the end though, these are low-calibre people with low calibre politics. Anyone to the left of Tony Blair should hold themselves to a higher standard.

For my part, I’ll continue to view NATO with critical eye born out of hard experience. But keep on vacuously stanning your team, by all means.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/US Gov, cropped to 1900 x 1000.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Nice piece.

      NATO may be a ‘less worse’ organisation than Russia or China, but that does not make it correct on all issues.

      As for modern day politics, a critical eye on everyone involved should be the standard.

      1. But is it ‘less worse’? Your knee jerk assumption, for example, that China is implicitly a worse case is entirely based on inaccurate core beliefs deliberately manufactured by a hostile western media over 20-30 years. Perhaps trying to understand China would educate you but that would involve a more positive role than simply having a ‘critical eye’.

    2. Glentons “experience”.He was a storeman,or blanket stacker as other soldiers call them.Nothing wrong with that but the way he goes on you would think he was on the front line.The worst thing he saw was probably when the QM spilt his tea on a stack of 1033’s.Nato kept the peace in Europe for decades faced down the Warsaw pact and stopped the genocide in Bosnia.Three cheers for Nato.

      1. ‘Kept the peace in Europe for decades’ – I totally agree. But then it switched it’s stance from defence to aggression and look where we are now. They kept the peace before because they recognised the security needs of their enemies.

    3. As a former military ( one assumes) participant, you more tha most are entitled to comment and I would agree with much of what you say, but some of the rhetoric is presumptuous and dard I say it a teeny bit condescending. The reference go Stalin – a fascist who unlike Putin starved and murdered his people – is completely gratuitous and if you are not falling into the trap of glorifying NATO you have certainly fallen into the one that demonising Russia, which is the aggressor only if you ignore US provocation. Imagine a scenario where Mexico proposed to join say a South American military alliance hostile to the US – how long do you think if would take the US to invade?

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