NATO Is No Beacon of Democracy

by Ramona Wadi

The Capitol riots are a result of Trump’s encouraging violence as legitimate protest, similarly to how NATO’s narrative undermines democracy through foreign intervention.

The storming of the Capitol earlier in January elicited several reactions, perhaps none as hypocritical as that of NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “Democracy must always prevail over violence, and I’m confident that the democratic institutions of the United States will handle this challenge,” Stoltenberg remarked.

Democracy must prevail over violence, except when violence must prevail to purportedly bring about democracy, as NATO has demonstrated repeatedly, whenever the War on Terror or the Arab Spring narratives have determined the necessity of foreign intervention. A military alliance that uses violence to prevent violence is what NATO is about, briefly. Under a collective agreement to use force, NATO has manipulated the meaning of democratic.

Which is why Stoltenberg’s comments in relation to the happenings at the Capitol, deemed “shocking and unacceptable”, cannot be taken seriously in terms of the alliance’s record of creating failed states which require perpetual foreign presence – all in the name of democracy.

Early in his tenure, the former U.S. President Donald Trump declared NATO “obsolete”, causing a rift between the U.S. and its European allies. With the Biden Administration, Stoltenberg will seek the U.S.’s return to full cooperation – a feat that should not prove too difficult to achieve, given U.S. President Joe Biden’s communicated priorities: “Day One, if I will I’m going to be on the phone with our NATO allies saying, ‘We’re back.”

Highlighting Trump’s contempt of democracy is an easy feat. Trump’s policies, as despicable as they were, on issues such as migration, Palestine and Latin America, to name a few, exposed the dynamics of U.S. politics. The scenes at the Capitol, described as shocking, exposed a fragment of the U.S.’s political violence, as well as the oblivion which U.S. society is shrouded in. A taste of violence on one’s homeland is shocking – U.S. violence on other sovereign countries has been normalised as an alleged expression of democracy.

Stoltenberg’s most recent address speaks of the importance of European and U.S. unity against “adversaries”. A NATO narrative of adversaries singled out the Cold War as a premise to highlight a distinction in diplomacy and the constructed enemies. Today, Stoltenberg states, “there is a more blurred line. We need to deal with multiple threats. Coming from state and non-state actors.” The underlying message is a call for a globalised NATO which, in turn leads to a globalisation of war. If NATO manages this strategy, it will also have cemented its impunity when an enemy is identified in the next chapter of building “a community of democracies”.

Particularly when NATO singles out a country for not respecting human rights and “our values”, the alliance needs to take a look at itself and what it represents – bombing countries in the name of democracies, and crying foul when slivers of that same violence manifests itself at home. NATO does not stand for international law, anymore than the UN stands for human rights. Keeping the alliance “safe” at the expense of ruining other independent countries – many of which have not posed any global threat, and which became havens for terror after NATO intervention – is not democratic.

The Capitol riots are a result of Trump’s encouraging violence as legitimate protest, similarly to how NATO’s narrative undermines democracy through foreign intervention. Stoltenberg’s comments usher in a new era of cooperation with Biden – one that is familiar and dependable in terms of cohesion. Trump’s shunning of the alliance was construed by NATO as a rift and, in terms of the U.S. being seen as having strayed from international consensus, the attack on the Capitol perhaps provided an opportunity for NATO to highlight its alleged commitment to democracy. But how democratic is an alliance that uses aggression in rhetoric and in action, to maintain supremacy? How democratic is NATO when it construes military power and weaponry as tools of violence only when the countries do not form part of the alliance?

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