When NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — was founded in 1949, it had one essential mission. It was a Western mutual defense treaty, meant to keep the Soviet bloc from rolling across Europe and taking over. Since Hitler had tried that a decade earlier, and been stopped only four years earlier, the NATO idea was built upon a foundation of very fresh and very bad memories. It basically put American formally on the dotted line to defend our allies if the Soviets invaded.
The Libya action is NATO’s second real involvement in military conflict. The first was the 1990’s air war over Kosovo. NATO undertook that mission after a lot of dawdling and some prodding from the US, but while that action wasn’t really about mutual defense — it was about humanitarian intervention — that mission was at least in Europe.
Rush talked about this on his show today, and it’s been bugging me too. Like Kosovo, the Libya mission is also not about mutual defense, and it’s not even in Europe. It’s nowhere near the North Atlantic. So amid all the hoopla about NATO taking over the no-fly zone over Libya (now that Libya’s air forces have been destroyed, by the way), I keep wondering: What’s this got to do with NATO?
The mutual defense organization is going to need a bigger charter if it’s going to keep being the teeth in the UN’s Responsibility to Protect.