World War ThreeSeptember 4th, 2014

The alliance formerly known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is disturbingly reminiscent of the men who brought on world war in Europe 100 years ago. Each of the national leaders of that time and place enhanced his image in the nation he led with a flag in one hand and a sword in the other. Each marched his soldiers off behind beautifully mounted generals in plumed helmets, to martial music and the applause of adoring crowds. Today, modern equivalents of those venal men have the world at war once again, and, like 100 years ago, it’s impossible to reckon what it’s all about.

Looking back, it’s hard to tell which were the good guys and which the bad–several of the antagonists were part of the same imperial family–and so we conveniently conceded goodness to the winners and disparaged the losers. Also conceded to the winners were vast stretches of land in every corner of the world, causing generations of grief and bloodshed to the various unfortunate peoples who lived there.

The first world war was a unmitigated failure of civilization, without purpose and permanently disabling. Like its predecessor, the third world war, for no good reason, has inflicted death and injury on millions, and its consequences will haunt humanity for generations to come. As for the people who conceived and executed the present atrocities, they are dining royally in Cardiff, Wales, plotting further military adventures in Russia, Syria and Iran.

We don’t refer to the current alliance by the acronym “NATO” these days, but with a conventional proper noun–”Nato”–that rhymes with potato. That may be because the alliance’s involvements with events in the North Atlantic are few and far between. Lately, they’ve meddled in Afghanistan and Ukraine, but in states located on the Atlantic Ocean, not so much. I watched a procession of flag-bearers from various nations at the organization’s convention in Cardiff and it reminded me of the colorful processions of Hussars and Cossacks and Legionnaires, bound for the mud, blood, and slime of the trenches. Fools led by fools.

How, a century later, in the wake of one unsuccessful military adventure after another, seemingly rational people could continue to maintain a military alliance is a mystery our grandchildren, if they survive, will have to unravel. Armed force is an anachronism. If Nato, with its bunker-busting bombs and supersonic jets, couldn’t beat Afghanistan in a war, is a military engagement with Russia a realistic prospect? And if it isn’t, should threats of armed force by this useless, reckless cabal be tolerated?

In this country, the threats come, without exception, from Democrats and Republicans, at a time when elections are just around the corner. Voters who are unwilling to tolerate Nato’s sabre-rattling should make it clear to candidates and office-holders alike that they won’t cast a vote for anybody who supports Nato’s dangerous tactic. If this means spoiling things for Democrats, so much the better. Retribution is due.