Tony Corn has another provocative article in Policy Review, this one titled The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs. Tony, you may remember, also wrote the “conservative, chewy, [and] cantankerous” article, also published on Policy Review, World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare (see MR post on it here).
His latest article looks primarily at the apparent rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a new NATO and EU bundled into one in the shadow of heliocentric-like view of perpetual and natural global US dominance. While some question the viability of the SCO and its ability to weather competing interests of Russia and China, we’re already seeing some rhetorical unity come from the partnership with the recent warning from Russia, China, and Iran (a non-voting member of sorts) on US involvement in Central Asia. Highlighting the potential of SCO to become at least an imperfect bloc should be worrisome at least in the near term if not mid and long term.
In looking for a counter-balance, Tony picks NATO, which I’m not entirely comfortable and what I focus on in this post. Now I may be looking at trees and missing the forest, but it seems to me there are structural problems with this comparison. But the role of NATO is central, as Eddie’s posts show here and here.
The organization Tony sees as needing a counterbalance (an argument I agree with) is the SCO. The purpose of the SCO is the
strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighbourly relations among the member countries; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, to move towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order.
Right from the start, organizationally any comparison with NATO is problematic. As a counterweight to SCO, these are far from equals. NATO, as a tool of projection, NATO is a very weak organization, but not as weak as SCO. However, the prime areas of contention in which these two might go head to head are either in the SCO’s backyard or Africa. The former might not be an issue, but strategic transport to Africa is problematic for both, although NATO can beg, borrow, or hire transport.
There is a difference in thinking global and being global. While NATO may debate going global, it is severely limited in its ability to actually be global. NATO member tasking to Afghanistan, for example, required borrowed US & leased Russian aircraft to transport them. NATO, US excepted, currently has no organic strategic air transport and won’t for years to come (the 2007 goal seemed to slip by). In this regard, NATO at least can tap in US and Ukraine transportation (Germany used the latter, the UK used the former for Afghanistan). China is cutting its teeth through UN peacekeeping deployment.
The critique of the indecisiveness of NATO is in part part of the structure of NATO and the European question of what should the future of European security look like. Remember that NATO is focused than SCO. Whereas SCO would promote territorialization of the arctic sea floor, NATO would not. NATO might used to defend a claim by a member, but it’s not clear that would be the case. Perhaps a muscular (or even effective) EU Force would do it, as they are more closely tied to EU socio-political-economic interests (granted, EU through Berlin Plus accesses NATO, it isn’t NATO per se and adds bureaucracy etc).
I do agree with the section on USN understanding of future war, which is largely why COCOMs (and other major positions in strategic comm. areas) have been going Navy… they get it and they’ve been practicing it. The PACOM chief was (and is) arguably one of the most powerful men in the world with socio-pol-economic powers (let alone mil) and pomp & circumstance outstripping any politician from the US or elsewhere, especially Ambassadors in the region.
What’s the solution? Build NATO, the American-led (or centric depending who you’re talking to) military-focused organization, to better lead in socio-political-economic areas? Or build the military capabilities of EU, that socio-political-economic org where the US isn’t a co-equal (or super-equal) partner, through EU-specific capabilities, further enhancing Berlin Plus, or something else? Or go the super soft route and give the OECD some teeth? I don’t have the answer, but as Tony implicitly points out, NATO as it works now isn’t the answer.