Who will wake up the West?
On September 12, 2001, for the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Council invoked NATO's cornerstone article, the "all for one" pledge to defend any member subject to aggression. The NATO nations were not prompted by nostalgia or brotherly love. They knew that at some point, al Qaeda would target them. And they knew that unless they supported America in its hour of need, the United States could hardly be expected to respond if and when another of its members needed the weight of American power. America's cause was shared by the Western alliance strategically, politically and morally. Six years later, however, NATO stands divided, unable to commit to a cohesive and comprehensive strategy to defeat the ongoing common threat and ready to risk failure of its proclaimed and singularly important mission in Afghanistan.
The uncivilized, unprovoked acts of terrorism committed by al Qaeda in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania, and in the tourist spots of Bali, the London subway and in Madrid have shaken NATOs resolve. Last fall's Riga Summit signalled to al Qaeda that the Alliance that could stand together and win the fifty-year Cold War no longer has the stomach to fight, and win.
This inability collectively to confront the existential threat now facing all liberal democracies says that the time has come to begin thinking about a new global alliance. An Alliance comprising like-minded nations prepared to share the burden of defeating the relentless attacks of Islamo fascism, jihadism, and al Qaeda.
The 20th Century is characterized by unparalleled social upheaval, unprecedented health, scientific and technological advances as well as the emergence of mass communications and the movement towards a global economic order. It is also distinguished by its repeated and mutually ruinous internal conflicts and wars. It was an era that brought with it almost unequalled bloodshed and the wide scale displacement and slaughter of innocent civilian populations, the destruction of nation states, the fall of royal dynasties and the emergence of new national polities. Its closing decade saw a realignment of long standing global spheres of economic and military power and, with some major exceptions, the rejection and abandonment of unworkable and humanly oppressive ideologies and regimes.
During the 1930's and1940's, when the world's liberal democracies faced the grim prospect of either standing alone and being destroyed and enslaved by the expansionist, totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, or coming together to collectively confront and defeat them, they wisely chose to unite. More than any other act, it was likely this single commitment that ultimately allowed the allied nations, after six long years of war, to emerge triumphant in 1945.
The determination in the 1930's to act collectively to overcome the common threat was a replay of the same successful strategy adopted by the Western Allies in 1914 that led to the successful conclusion of the Great War in 1918. It should surprise no one, therefore, that the leaders of the West chose a similar strategy in 1949, when faced with the advance of global Communism. Although the resulting struggle to defeat Communism lasted for fifty long and sometimes perilous years, the wisdom of uniting to preserve western democracy for future generations was a policy that worked. Communism was rejected by the peoples of Eastern Europe and with the resulting collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 freedoms again emerged in its former vassal states.
Nevertheless, these epochal decisions did not occur by chance. In the 1930's they were crystallized by two prescient national leaders gifted with the wisdom and the moral courage to take a personal stand against external forces and their own populations - forces that if left unchallenged, unchecked and ill informed would change the course of humankind. Who were these key leaders? How did they persuade the doubters that an enemy was at the gates? How did they rally the West?
In August 1941, almost two full years after the Nazi German invasion of Poland, and less than four months before Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour, British Prime Minister Churchill, and United States President Roosevelt, convened the Atlantic Conference and held secret meetings aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta and the battle cruiser HMS Prince of Wales in Newfoundland's Placentia Bay.
The outcome was the forging of the Anglo-American alliance that would ultimately lead to victory in the Second World War. Over the remarkably short span of only four days these two exceptionally gifted leaders and statesmen, and their accompanying politico-military staffs, devoted their energies to fashioning a grand strategy for the conduct of the war against the Axis Powers, the conduct of future military operations, rallying other liberal democracies to their cause, and the drafting of an "Atlantic Charter,"setting out the shared principles and policies on which Great Britain and the United States based their hopes for a better future for the world.
The wisdom of Atlantic Charter lay in its clarity and frankness in stating that neither the United Kingdom nor the United States had any aggrandizement, territorial or other aims; wanted no territorial changes that did not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned; respected the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; wished to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who had been forcibly deprived of them; to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity; their desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security; and after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, their hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want; that such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance; and their belief that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force.
The Atlantic Charter concluded with a statement of Churchill and Roosevelt's belief that no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers; pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential; and a resolve to aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.
In short, the Atlantic Charter clearly identified the threat, presented a set of human values and a dream for the future that would resonate with peoples round the globe, and outlined the means of overcoming the common enemy.
Remarkably, by today's standards, within a scant five months, by January 1942, some twenty-six like-minded nations stood in support of the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter by Messrs Churchill and Roosevelt during their brief seaborne sojourn aboard ships in Placentia Bay. Counted among the nations acknowledging that the time had again come either to hang together or be hanged one at a time, was the United States, United Kingdom, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and South Africa.
These nations, and the other fourteen signatories of this unprecedented declaration subscribed to the common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter, voiced their conviction that complete victory over their enemies was essential to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands, and signalled to the rest of the world that they were engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.
Without reservation, each of the twenty-six national governments pledged to employ its full resources, military or economic, against the members of the Tripartite Pact (Germany, Italy, Japan) and its supporters, to cooperate with the other signatories, and not to make a separate armistice or peace with their enemies. By March 1945, nineteen other nations had also signed on to the declaration and agreed also to render material assistance and contributions in the struggle for victory.
The trans Atlantic alliance of two English-speaking nations, one a constitutional monarchy, the other a republic, which had begun with an unprecedented act of moral courage by their elected leaders in the face of seemingly hopeless odds, had grown from two states to forty-five. Very different from the situation in the year 2007 that finds members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (UN) deeply divided and unable to acknowledge the common threat, let alone formulate, a common grand strategy to deal with the existential threat of Islamo-fascism and jihadism.
Between 2000 and 2007 some nations in the West have fought in two undeclared wars and many more regional skirmishes, yet the Islamo-fascist and jihadist threats remain as great as it was in 2001 when its aims became clear. Totalitarianism, this time wrapped in the religious disguise of Islam, is again on the march. Its goal is the same as the defeated Nazis and Communists regimes that preceded them. Under the cloak of Islam, the Islamo-fascist leadership seeks to impose its will on the liberal democracies of the West, subjugate its peoples, deny the enlightenment of western democracy, and turn back the clock to establish a pseudo religious state reminiscent of Islam's seventh century caliphate.
The Islamo-fascists' will to win remains unbroken and they have yet to flee the field. In short, today's threat remains essentially the same as it was on September 11, 2001, when America was first attacked on its own soil. So what must the West do if it is to avoid another century of war like the last one?
Following the 1941 declaration of The Atlantic Charter it took the Allied Nations who had signed on to it a further three years to develop the capability to strike the blows on the Eastern Front and against the Atlantic Wall that led to their final defeat. We are now ending the sixth year since 9/11 and the free nations of the West have yet to evolve a cohesive and coherent grand politico-military strategy to defeat the threat of Islamo-fascism.
Nothing perhaps exemplifies this dangerous situation better than the inexplicable behaviour of some of NATO's European member states. In the wake of the Islamist's bombing of Madrid's Atocha railway station, Spain - the same courageous nation that in modern times could overthrow the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco and reestablish democracy, and had fought incessantly for 800 years to defeat and expel its Moorish conquerors - decided it had enough, threw in the towel, and withdrew its troops from the fight in Iraq.
Similarly, Nations such as France and Germany, who owe their present day freedom and prosperity to the willingness of other nations to sacrifice their sons and daughters, and their nations' wealth, in World War Two to defeat and throw out their Nazi occupiers, see nothing wrong with placing 'caveats' on how they may employ their soldiery in Afghanistan, while other nations within the same alliance continue to pay the price in blood and treasure.
The defence of the West demands that when you will the ends - the political objectives that require the use of force - you must also will the military means. If you will the military means, you must also will the financial means. A nation, or an alliance, unclear about why it is fighting, or what victory means, is usually on the proverbial road to ruin. In a war where one side (the jihadists in the Middle East, for example) has huge numbers willing to die, while the other (the West - including NATO) has small numbers mainly unwilling to die, the result cannot be long in doubt. Those who have the will to win will prevail.
Is Canada at war? Is its closest allies, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States at war? The answer appears unquestionable: Of course we are. Yet if this is true, then why have none of these nations ever made a formal declaration of war? Their leaders have repeatedly reminded their fellow citizens ,and the world at large, that their country stands firm in its resolve to prevail in what is popularly called the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).
In this regard, perhaps none have been more consistent than our own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. In his maiden speech at the United Nations in New York he emphasized the importance of Canada's mission to the GWOT. Immediately following last September's visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's and his appeal for Canada's continued military involvement in his war-torn country, Mr. Harper told a rally on Parliament Hill in support of our troops in Afghanistan:"We don't start fights, but we finish them."
And in a televised address to mark the five-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks he observed that: ". . . because of this war of terror, people around the world have come together to offer a better vision of the future for all humanity." And then he elaborated: "For this vision to take hold, the menace of terror must be confronted. And these horrors cannot be stopped unless some among us are willing to accept enormous sacrifice and risk to themselves." Has Prime Minister Mr. Harper begun to exhibit the prescience and moral courage of a Churchill or a Roosevelt? Has President Bush or Prime Minister Blair? Perhaps. But why then has neither Canada, nor any of its major partners, decided not to enact a formal declaration of war, even though it is taken for granted that all are now fighting one? Is it because Canada and its allies lack the political will?
Or are there perhaps other reasons? There was no hesitancy in 1939 and 1941 as to what had to be done when German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Imperialism presented the world's democracies with the choice of either confronting and destroying them, or looking the other way and awaiting their own inevitable defeat and subjugation.
Who among today's world leaders will wake up the peoples of the West? Who among them will come forth and display the same moral courage and wisdom that motivated Churchill and Roosevelt to become the architects of victory in World War Two? Who will be the architects of a Global Charter for the 21st Century? Who will fashion the essential but missing grand strategy that they will need to defeat the steadily gathering threat of Islamo-fascism and al Qaeda? Who will wake up the West?