Chicago NATO Summit: Unilateralism, Protests, Media Coverage
* For protests so far we've got an early anti-war protest on Monday (eight arrests); an immigration protest yesterday (four arrests); an "FTP" protest (hint: it doesn't stand for "file transfer protocol"); and a foreclosure-moratorium protest.
* So there are clearly going to be a lot of protests, not all involving NATO or even war. For why anyone might be protesting NATO specifically, Achy Obejas has a good piece at WBEZ, calling the alliance "a front for American unilateralism":
Though it works in concert with the United Nations, it isn’t a part of the world organization and can make its own decisions, as was the case with its air strikes against Serbia in 1999. In practice, NATO has given a way for the U.S. to act unilaterally while taking cover behind an international organization. It has become the way the U.S. gets around the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have permanent membership and are in position to veto NATO actions.
[The War in Afghanistan] could have big implications for NATO. A major hope of the Bush presidency -- not all of it, to be sure, but much of it -- was that NATO could be transformed into an expeditionary alliance, that it could move beyond Europe to tackle global challenges. The acid test is Afghanistan. If NATO can't be relevant there, where it matters most, then what? And if NATO's contribution in Afghanistan is now deemed inadequate, as the new policy would imply, this would seem to suggest that our hopes of NATO, and thus Europe, becoming a real global power -- hard, soft, smart, etc. -- won't fully be borne out. This doesn't mean the United States should spurn NATO's help. It might just mean that the primary mission now for NATO as an institution is simply to add greater international legitimacy to what is becoming a more unilateral exercise of American power.
This could become the future role for NATO writ large, and it's not an insignificant one. No one should cheer or revel in Europe's limitations. The United States needs partners, and we can't do everything alone.
This might be a stretch, but it reminds me a bit of how the parking meters were handed off, at considerable expense, so a third party could shoulder the burden of raising rates. If NATO increasingly takes on the role of military-for-hire, and that's sort of the point of Smart Defense, it raises really important questions about who it answers to. If it adds distance between citizens and international military actions, it should be a cause for concern.
* FWIW, keeping troops in Afghanistan isn't terribly popular worldwide, at least as of a year ago. Of NATO countries surveyed by Pew, only Spain, out of the NATO countries, was in favor. Kenya, on the other hand, is totally down with it.
* Michael Miner has a piece on how the Chicago media has focused almost exclusively on NATO's disruption of Chicago—from closures to protesters—and not so much on the summit itself.
"What we did as foreign correspondents," [former Tribune foreign correspondent Richard Longworth] e-mailed me, recalling his Tribune years, "was to chronicle the news of the world and then link this to the lives of the people reading the Tribune. Sometimes this was a stretch, sometimes not. But it was the justification for a paper like the Trib having a substantial foreign staff. I can't think of any global story that linked to Chicago the way the NATO summit story does. But there's nobody out there to tell the story."
I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, yeah. On the other hand, Longworth started as a foreign correspondent well before the rise of the Web, when local newspapers, and maybe a couple national newspapers and magazines, were the average person's connection to world news. Now virtually any publication, national or international, is freely available, not to mention the many, many experts who can now bypass the media filter and communicate directly to an audience. So there's now an almost infinite amount of competition for global and national news, yet not much more for local news. Combined with falling circulation and ad buys, the economic rationale is pretty apparent.
* Speaking of which, Reuters has a good pre-NATO update on the situation in Afghanistan.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune