The West should strike first, and with nuclear weapons, if necessary. So says a new, 150-page "manifesto" penned by five retired senior NATO officers and military strategists and distributed over the last 10 days to Pentagon officials and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. First reported yesterday by the Guardian's Ian Traynor, who managed to obtain a copy of the secret document, the manifesto forms the collective opinion of prominent military thinkers from the United States, the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands—including former NATO commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John Shalikashvili.
"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the report's authors conclude. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction." The former military chiefs go on to characterize the "first strike" nuclear option as "indispensable" and claim flatly that there is "no realistic prospect of a nuclear free world."
The report cites growing political and religious fanaticism, globalization, natural resource scarcity, and the weakening power of the nation state and international organizations like NATO, the UN, and the EU, as drivers of increasing world instability. To deal with this, the generals urge significant reforms to how NATO does business, including the establishment of a new "directorate", comprised of U.S., European, and NATO leaders, that would respond more quickly to events than NATO has done in the past, largely due to rivalry among NATO member nations and EU obstructionism. Other suggested changes, as reported in the Guardian article:
A shift from consensus decision-taking in NATO bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.
The abolition of national caveats in NATO operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.
No role in decision-taking on NATO operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.
The use of force without UN security council authorization when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".
The manifesto, Traynor suggests, will be discussed at the NATO summit in Bucharest this April. As for the controversial position on nuclear first strikes the report stakes out, Klaus Naumann—Germany's former top soldier, former NATO military committee chairman, and manifesto co-author—admits that even the generals had misgivings about making the recommendation, but finally agreed that they should leave the first strike option on the table. "Proliferation is spreading, and we have not too many options to stop it," Naumann said. "We don't know how to deal with this."