• Opinion
  • NATO and the Construction of the Enemy

  • By Marga Ferré | 04 Jul 22 | Posted under: USA , European Union , History , Peace and War
  • Marga Ferré, Co-President of transform! europe, comments on the NATO-led western militarisation and analyses its ideological foundation. In this context, she points out the construction of the "other" as the enemy and racial supremacy, which both must be fought.

    Now that NATO is aiming to redefine itself under the euphemism of Global NATO, it is scarcely hiding its intention to once again strengthen its limits (walls) of bloc politics, a scenario that antagonises the “other”, an “enemy” that justifies its existence and, above all, the enormous expenditure on defence that is made more expensive by NATO’s mere existence.

    By reading President Joe Biden’s latest National Security Strategic Guidance from 2021, the following realisation can be clearly drawn: they are desperately trying to return to what they recall as the US of “before”, the rector of the “Pax Imperator” that defined the western hemisphere following the Second World War and reached its fever pitch during the Cold War, to which this newly refreshed NATO looks back upon with melancholy.

    Once the Wall fell, NATO had no reason to exist, so it was and continues to be clear that a military organisation’s existence must be justified by positioning itself as a strong defence against... an enemy, a threat, an other to fight. This real and ideological antagonist was communism during the Cold War. After that chapter ended, who would be the enemy? Who is the other in the mirror to necessitate arming ourselves to the teeth? Who could be this other antagonist that the west could unify against under the auspices of the Pentagon? The creation of an enemy, its dehumanisation, its exaggeration, and its persecution are the common characteristics of bellicose thought that, let us never forget, aims for a policy of domination that is inherently reactionary.

    Not only is the US in decline as a dominant empire, so is the very idea of the US as the most powerful nation in the world. I will not be analysing the material causes that provoke western militarisation and the new Atlantic Alliance strategy in this article, but rather the two super-structural ideas used to justify it culturally and ideologically: the construction of “The Other” that must be fought, and the racist supremacy used to do so. 

    A Brief History of “The Other”

    It is well-known that communism was the enemy during the Cold War, with the West rolling out an anti-communist ideology machine that ran from political persecution through McCarthyism to a myriad of films that built a collectively imagined evil associated with the USSR to justify the arms race.

    During the Cold War period, two military doctrines were established that we must dust off because, in a way, they remain quite valid today:

    Mutual Assured Destruction, (or MAD) established that, given their nuclear arsenal, either of the warring parties using nuclear weapons would result in mutual annihilation. Although it may seem quite irrational to us, this is the cornerstone doctrine with which dissuasive weapons policy is swung.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower took a step further in 1954 when he launched the Massive Retaliation proposal, which stated that any military action by the enemy would be responded to much more forcefully, or in other words, disproportionately. It was assumed that the aim was dissuasion based on the argument that striking harder would paralyse the enemy with fear.

    While these two military doctrines may seem quite medieval, they continue to be the excuse that NATO maintains, no longer for their existence, but rather to increase their delirious expenditure on weapons and refuse denuclearising their arsenal.

    After the Wall fell, the following road map was put forward by the Clinton Administration with the concept of Rogue States, which passed the enemy label on to a list of countries that the US deemed to be a threat, first including North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and Libya. Over time, other countries were added, although transparent inclusion criteria were never defined and it was never clear why some states were the enemy while others were not. It was always suspected that the Rogue State accusation was the perfect excuse to unleash anti-ballistic missiles against non-nuclear threats and maintain geostrategic control over energy, which was obviously never stated explicitly.

    The September 11th attacks opened the door to a new definition of “The Other” focused on the Axis of Evil established by President George W. Bush in 2002, which contained a call back to the Axis countries during World War II and the Regan-era term “evil empire” that his predecessor used to classify the USSR. This new axis of evil (the others, those that should be destroyed) was comprised of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The enemy was “states that favoured terrorism”, and the terrorist débuted as the new antagonist to fight, which opened the doors to various invasions and an unprecedented peacetime roll-back of rights and freedoms.

    This doctrine continued almost up until present-day, when Joe Biden announced a new one with another enemy to fight: authoritarian states vs. democratic states. This is the central idea of his strategic agenda that does not even try to hide that the entire proposal is aimed at fighting China. To do this, the proposal attempts to shape hostilities into liberal democracy vs the rest. The Summit for Democracy organised by Biden was a fiasco, but it was a US attempt to define two blocs in a world where China is the enemy to defeat under the guise of being what his document various times calls an “authoritarian state”, a label shared by Russia alone.

    Even more ambiguous but equally effective is the concept of a West against East that would serve as an imaginary enemy to fight, with colonial and racist overtones that are quite difficult to ignore. 

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