NATO Membership for Everyone!
If Administrative Process can achieve peace between nations, then open membership to everyone. Were it only so easy.
Geo-politics. Spheres of influence. Irredentism. Revanchism. Pan-European security.
What are these abstract things, and what, if anything, do they have to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Depending on what commentaries one reads, some combinations of these things have a lot to do with what is going on. According to some commentaries, NATO should have folded up its tents soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, for it had achieved its original purposes, which, in the famous words of Lord Hastings Ismay, the first General Secretary of NATO, had been to “Keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Keeping NATO in business without any clear mission merely enabled mission-creep, and that mission creep amounted to extending NATO to the borders of Russia and, ultimately, to threatening Russia’s security.
An alternative narrative is that NATO should have remained in business but should also have extended its membership to all of the European states – including Russia and an independent Ukraine. That would have saved us from our current mess, yes? For the affirmative defense of this point I recommend Tim Black’s very nicely crafted piece in Spiked, “The peace that could have been: After the Cold War, the West had the opportunity to bring Russia in to the fold,” February 26, 2022, https://www.spiked-online.com/2022/02/26/the-peace-that-could-have-been/
By extending NATO to all of Europe, Europe would ostensibly have established mechanisms for maintaining the security of Europe from external threats. Implicit in much of this seems to be the idea that NATO or some such pan-European apparatus would also have afforded mechanisms for dealing with conflicts between member states. Member states would have been situated to sort out conflicts without ever finding themselves threatening military action.
So, there’s a question: If merging countries into formal security mechanisms like NATO makes sense for some subset of countries, why not extend membership to all countries? Why not expand on the concept of Pan-European security to Global Security? Why not, say, invest the United Nations with much of the formal commitments and the military apparatus that NATO ostensibly commands? Why not just set up mechanisms by which countries commit to ban war and to respect existing national borders? Best of all, why not just give up on national borders entirely and commit to the ultimate merger by One-world Government?
Some readers may understand that the ultimate merger would be a great idea. It is, after all, something that entities like the World Economic Forum have been assiduously working for. Others may have the uneasy feeling that something profound is missing. Maybe there are tradeoffs between agglomeration and disaggregation. Indeed, it is not as though countries have not been merged together before. But, such mergers have often broken up. Note, for example, that countries have merged themselves into larger agglomerations – Empire! Sometimes they get absorbed into empire. Astro-Hungarian Empire. German Empire. Ottoman Empire. Roman Empire. Holy Roman Empire. Frankish Empire. Mongol Empire. Napoleonic Empire. British Empire. Chinese Empires (plural). The Japanese Co-prosperity Sphere. Russian Empire. Soviet Empire. Quasi-American Empire? An emerging Chinese Co-prosperity Sphere?
And sometimes empires break up. See the examples of all of the de facto and de jure empires listed above. Some observers like Woodrow Wilson celebrate the break-up of empires with language like “self-determination”.
There are a lot of people out there who cheer on Ukraine’s valiant efforts to fight for its own capacity for “self-determination”? Who wouldn’t but for irredentist enthusiasts of Russian or Soviet Empire? But, wittingly or not, many of these same people also cheer on versions of global empire. How to reconcile these preferences?
One way to do this would be to appeal to some of the language of Deepak Lai in his 2004 tome, In Praise of Empires:
According to Ivo Daalder, of the Brookings Institution, democratic imperialists want to “‘use American power, and the values behind it, to remake certain parts of the world in America’s imagine – a more democratic and prosperous place.’ Unlike traditional, predatory imperialism, democratic imperialism has its goal ‘to make countries free, open to globalization – on the assumption that, if countries are like us, they’re less likely to be a threat. It’s very idealistic.’” That is why on the issue of the aims of the new imperialism there is a convergence of views between neo-conservatives and the Wilsonian Democrats in the U.S. and [Tony Blair’s] new Labour in the U.K.”
In 2004 Lai was relating to debates inspired by the American and British interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here we are eighteen years later. Those interventions have ostensibly been discredited. But here we are again with the same proponents of “democratic imperialism” pressing for Ukrainian self-determination. Why? It is hard not to think that it’s because the democratic imperialists never had confidence that the Russian leadership would itself have accepted membership in the democratic imperial crusade. Russia remains subject to the rule of a kleptocratic clique. According to Vladislav Zubok in Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union (2021), the mechanisms the kleptocrats used to abscond with Soviet wealth and assets were instituted before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev’s reforms in the 1980’s put these things in place, clearing the way for the kleptocrats to make the transition from nomenklatura to a new class of oligarchs. Why would this clique of oligarchs commit to global governance on American (or European Union ) terms?
By this interpretation, the democratic imperialists and the Russian kleptocrats were always going to have reasons to be antagonistic to each other. The democratic imperialists, the Justin Trudeaus, George Bushes, BoJos, Blairs and Obamas of the world, endeavor to vanquish the irredentist regimes of countries like Russia and to extend their very particular version of globalist governance – governance informed by gender studies and the catechism of “climate change” – to the world. There are no pure “good guys” anywhere.
My own view is that the “democratic imperialism” involves a shallow, internally-inconsistent, Rousseauian concept of democracy as governance-by-consensus by a self-anointed class of philosopher kings. I make heavy contact with this in some pieces that I have posted in the last month. Specifically:
Religious Freedom: Who Cares?
The Puritanical will to build a “City on a Hill” motivates a militant cultural imperialism:
Democratic Socialism – Oxymoron?
“Democracy” contemplates decentralization. “Socialism” contemplates top-down, centralized control:
Stop Calling Progressives “Liberals”
One person’s concept of the “common good” does violence to another person’s individual rights: