Using NATO and Other Alliances to Counter International Terrorism
The increased use of terrorism to attack foreign nations has increased during the last decade at an alarming rate and on an even more alarming scale of destruction. Following the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States by organized terrorists, and because the United States' response to that attack has since itself come under world scrutiny and criticism, the time has arrived for the world community to take decisive action in coming to agreement on how, and by whom, action should be taken to prevent and to respond to acts of terrorism. This essay takes the position that the United Nations is not the entity that should be charged with preventing and confronting terrorist activity. Rather, that responsibility should be placed upon a different organization, and one that does not come under the management or control of the United Nations.
Article 2, of the United Nations Charter, states that all nations must settle disputes through peaceful negotiation (Cohn, Marjorie, 2002, p. 25). While this is admirable and exemplary of the highest human goals, it is not the reality of the world in which we live today. Further, boundary in terms of a geographic location, which would define a country as the entity on behalf of which the terrorist activity is being conducted do not exist in the realm of terrorist activity. Most terrorist activities being conducted around the world today, arise out of the disputes and religious beliefs held by people of a fundamental Islamic tradition. However, terrorism is not limited to persons advocating Islamic religious fundamentalism; as was evidenced by the events that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 (Welsh, Jennifer, 2004, p. 5). Or the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) decision to turn to terrorism as a tool against the United Kingdom in seeking change and control in Northern Ireland up until the early 1990s (Smith, M.L.R., 1997, pp. 15-51).
Because the United Nations has proven itself an ineffective peacekeeping force and has exercised zero ability to confront terrorism, the mantle should be passed to NATO and other alliance forces to prevent and combat world terrorism. This has been proven time and again in the past, and now, with the situation in Darfur where we see, once again, a situation where it cannot be denied that genocide is being waged against minorities. Also, following the events occurring in the United States in 2001, equally violent acts were perpetrated against civilian populations in the UK and in Spain by terrorists. The terrorism in the UK and in Spain was following the events in the United States in 2001, and following the passage by the United Nations its Resolution 1373, which put legal obligations on its 191 members to cause them to help stop in their tracks the perpetrators of terrorism by cutting off funding, travel, and information networks that helped the terrorists succeed in their destructive and deadly missions (Cortright, David, 2005, p. 62).
Foreign financial aid does not prevent terrorism (Graham, Carol, 2002, p. 28).
Thus, it is the conclusion of many political and military experts, and a conclusion supported by the international community, that the best way to counter terrorism is to prevent it from occurring in the first place (Reisman, Michael, 1999, p. 3). That can be accomplished by putting into place bilateral agreements on the response to terrorism, so that the response itself will serve as a deterrent to the terrorist act (Reisman, p. 3). The bilateral agreements can be upheld by multilateral conventions, and to put the bite behind the bark, so to speak, the international community can utilize NATO forces under a strict set of guidelines that describe a response of how, when and where NATO forces will react to international terrorism.
Using NATO as a mechanism to deter, combat, and pursue terrorism might be more complicated than most people realize. However, where until 2001, perhaps, there were those politicos who questioned the need for a continued NATO organization, 2001 solidified in the minds of most world leaders the continued need for NATO (Moens, Alexander, Cohen, Leonard J., and Sens, Allen G., 2003, p. 20). NATO has increasingly gained attention as world leaders to ways to prevent and deter terrorism. NATO was a useful and successful organization during the Cold War, and there are many who believe that it should be utilized in the war against terrorism in much the same way.
NATO is also an organization that has experienced internal changes that have made it appropriate to consider it in terms of the war on terror (Moens, Alexander, et al., p. 20). "Transatlantic friction has developed over a greater European Union role in foreign policy, especially in areas of concern to the United States, such as Russia, North Asia, and the Middle East (p. 22)." Also, China and Korea are players in the international picture, and can serve to impact NATO's viability as a modern entity and organization utilized by the free world to maintain and exact peace and to counter terrorism (p. 22).
The war on terror is not cited in NATO's mission statement, but that could, like the organization itself, be updated to respond to the threat of terrorism (p. 24). "Despite the activation of Article 5, an important political sign of unity and solidarity, the war on terrorism may accelerate some of the corrosive trends (p. 30)," previously cited here. There is a role for NATO in fighting the war on terror, one which cannot be supplanted by the United Nations.
As far as experts are concerned, the words of former SACEUR Wesley Clark put the question of NATO into perspective as regards NATO's role in the modern world faced with global terrorism (p. 80):
The fundamental questions on which the Alliance's future depends are these: Will the European Union truly make NATO an institution of first choice for meeting European security needs? Will the United States pledge, and follow through, always to participate where there is a security challenge to Allied interests? If the answer to either of these questions is No, then further problems for the Alliance are inevitable."
Also, that would mean that the Alliance would not be a useful deterrent or tool in the war on terror. Only if Europe and the United States are prepared to seriously address and take steps to deter, confront, and prevent global terrorism by using NATO as the force with which to do those things, will NATO take on a useful role in the modern world; and will the global community be able to at least, as a global community, confront and deter and prevent global terrorism.
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