Gimme More Magna Carta!

On this very Web site I wrote a thing in March 2008, titled “What Should NATO Do?” It ended by worrying that NATO’s Afghanistan policy was in danger of drifting into the hands of the Firepower People, which now seems realistic. Imagine my surprise to discover that, later in the same year, on Dec. 5, 2008, NATO was asking itself the same question!

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WHAT SHOULD NATO DO?

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20. (S/REL NATO) Ambassador Volker suggested three specific areas where NATO could help improve the regional situation. He said the Alliance needed to ask itself how it can better engage at the provincial and district level; how NATO and ISAF should facilitate better contact among Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India; and whether it should encourage nations to commit resources to help Pakistan deal with displaced people and repopulate the FATA post-conflict.

21. (S/REL NATO) Lavoy endorsed these ideas, and added that despite the troubling picture in Afghanistan in 2008, Afghanistan is “winnable,” and the international community can help Pakistan turn a corner. The formula is to enhance security, exhibit good governance emanating from Kabul but active at the district level, and empower the tribes to have a stake in development at the lowest levels. These recommendations are logical extensions of the current strategy but require reorganization of resources. He concluded:

— NATO should consider shifting the ISAF center of gravity to the district level. — The international community needs to engage tribes without arming them, and reinvigorate the traditional tribal system by instilling confidence in the population. Securing the people will go a long way to improve their willingness to resist the Taliban. — The ANA needs to be stronger and is the best tool. It will cost more resources and require more ingenuity. — Anything NATO can do (including strong messages the SYG can carry to Pakistan on an upcoming trip) to encourage closer military-to-military cooperation would be helpful. — Elections are a critical event and must be successful. September is the right time so that we have enough time to organize to secure the Pashtun population. — 2009 is the key year to influence Pakistan and Iran to halt lethal assistance to the Taliban by showing Afghanistan’s neighbors that the Taliban will not prevail. The international community should be relentless in pressuring Pakistanis on this issue. — The international community should put intense pressure on the Taliban in 2009 in order to bring out their more violent and ideologically radical tendencies. This will alienate the population and give us an opportunity to separate the Taliban from the population. REID

This was revealed in WikiLeaks cable 08USNATO453, which will come as no surprise to Lorne Gunter at the National Post, because he hasn’t read anything in the cables he didn’t already know. This means he didn’t get fabulous National Post scoops by revealing to the rest of us that the British government “fixed” the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq so as to protect “American interests,” or that the Americans leaned on the Germans not to prosecute CIA agents for war crimes (or maybe just regular crimes), or that the Brits are establishing a “marine park” around Diego Garcia to keep the wogs safely away from the American military base implicated in war crimes. Lorne, if you’ve passed up all this good stuff, it’s no wonder the National Post is going broke. Or perhaps you believe such information is best kept secret in a competent police state, which you have the good fortune not to live in through no fault of your own.

Cable 08USNATO453 also reported at paragraph 18 that the Canadian permanent representative, who is Rob McRae, had stated in the discussion on Afghanistan that the Afghan National Army might require 200,000 troops.

18. (S/NF) The Canadian PermRep agreed the importance of a vastly larger and more competent ANA force, and proposed that up to 200,000 troops might be necessary. The Belgian Ambassador proposed that NATO may need to prioritize ANA training as ISAF’s number one priority in coming months.”

You can’t put too high a price on this sort of informed diplomatic intervention, but I point out (again) a Jane’s article in the public domain on Dec. 18, 2007 (like, you know, a year previously, Rob) along the following lines:

“The dream-like scenario of 200,000 well-equipped, properly paid, highly motivated ANA soldiers defending the Afghan state from every conceivable security threat is one that punctuates the sleep of senior Western politicians and military leaders alike. Unfortunately, they awake to a very different reality.”

So it occurs to me we’ve reached that point, similar to, say, 1213, when the king and his court have become detached from reality, listening as they do only to people who tell them what they want to hear. So, one solution is to let NATO evolve toward parliamentary democracy (ignoring for the moment the perfectly good United Nations that, admittedly, could use some work).

It turns out that NATO has its own Parliamentary Assembly! Who knew? The Parliamentary Assembly has 257 members, of whom 36 are American (this makes Stephen Harper’s minority government look really substantial), and I would argue that the American president is acting like a feudal king who rules by divine right, a right not yet challenged by the barons at NATO. The parallel isn’t exact of course, but there is no obvious reason why the Commons shouldn’t assert itself and demand that policy be debated. The citizens of NATO are paying for this obsolescent, malignant, blundering, headless beast, so we should all get a say in what it does. Here’s a plan:

  1. All NATO proceedings should be televised and streamed live.
  2. NATO policy can be proposed by an executive, but must be publicly debated, with the debate available from the equivalent of Hansard.
  3. NATO citizens should get to vote for NATO delegates, who would run campaigns to get elected.

There are some who will argue that you can’t run a sophisticated international military alliance in a democratic fashion in public. That is precisely the point. NATO is at the moment usurping Canadian foreign policy, and then trading on the whole “NATO Secrets” boondoggle to keep Canadian citizens in the dark about what its own armed forces are doing, including the possibility that we have colluded with or been coerced into war crimes through our NATO “obligations.”

It’s time for the citizenry to take Brussels. There must be somewhere like Runnymede.

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Author: Neil Kitson

Neil Kitson is a dermatologist and garment manufacturer in Vancouver.