Sunday, April 26, 2009

Key Person: The 60th Anniversary by a British Historian Who Made NATO More Active than Ever

Jamie Patrick Shea

Director of Policy Planning in the Private Office of NATO Secretary General, United Kingdom

Education: B.A., Surrey University; D.Phil., Oxford University




NATO held the 60th anniversary summit at Strasburg and Kehl in early April this year. France has come back to NATO command structure prior to this historical landmark. Jamie Shea has been working for NATO since he received his doctorate degree from Oxford University. Currently, he is the closest policy advisor to Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (Netherlands).

In order to promote public understanding on NATO, Shea gives lectures on NATO history through the video, entitled “Jamie’s History Class”. As he mentions in the video of the first lecture, we learn history to understand what happens in the future. NATO is in the era of transition. It faces new threats of global terrorism, non-state actors, nuclear proliferation, and the Russo-Chinese challenges. As threats evolves increasingly global, NATO operations spread outside the Euro-Atlantic area. Also, NATO has transformed into an acting and fighting organization instead of a deterrence organization against communism. Shea endorsed NATO intervention in Kosovo.

As if implying his future of being involved in policymaking at the turning point, Jamie Shea was born in London on 9-11 in 1953. Having received degrees in modern history from Surrey and Oxford Universities, Shea has been engaged in public relations and policymaking for NATO.

His lecture entitled “1949: NATO’s Anxious Birth” presents some lessons to Atlantic and global security present days. Jamie Shea is right to say that history is a mirror to foretell the future.

From the beginning, some NATO members explored to expand the organization’s coverage out of the Euro-Atlantic region. France wanted to include French colonies in Africa. Actually, Algeria was under NATO’s security umbrella, before winning independence in 1962. The Netherland wanted Indonesia, Belgium wanted Congo, and Portugal wanted Mozambique and Angola, included into NATO defense area. There is something common between these past arguments and global NATO debate today.

Also, Europeans tried to entangle the United States with their security in face of Red Army threat posed by Stalin. This is true to Missile Defense debate these days. Poles and Czechs want to keep the United States close in order to curb the threat by increasingly nationalistic Russia.

The role of NATO is a vital issue in present context as well: whether to deal with military issues only or including socio-humanitarian ones. While Britain and France preferred military role only, Canada insisted on including humanitarian role as currently stated in Article Ⅱ of the organization.

Regarding trans-Atlantic involvement, Shea tells conflicts between isolationists and internationalists in the United States.

Jamie Shea mentions in this lecture that the Congress and the military wanted Europeans to rearm by themselves during the early days of postwar era. Shea points out that they were so isolationists because they desired that the United States retain the right to declare the war independent of multilateral organizations. Come to think of it, Americans took the Iron Curtain Speech by Sir Winston Churchill so bluntly at first.

On the other hand, Department of State was a leading proponent to build a multilateral security organization to deter Soviet expansionism. Shea points out that the Vandenberg resolution by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg enabled the United States to overcome constitutional restraints to join a multilateral military command structure.

Once involved, the United States has expanded the notion of trans-Atlantic security more broadly than Europeans. Unlike the WEU, the United States included peripheries like Norway, Iceland, Italy, and Portugal into NATO. The foundation objective of NATO was to deter communists, not necessarily to promote democracy. Shea points out that even the membership for General Franco’s Spain was considered.

Another point of focus is Britain in the Atlantic community. Shortly after World War Ⅱ, Britain was a proponent of joint European defense. The United Kingdom led the launch of the WEU. Sir Winston Churchill endorsed regional integration to reconstruct war devastated Europe. However, once NATO was established, Britain leaned toward the special relationship with the United States rather than leading European integration. Shea says this was a lost opportunity for British diplomacy.

Finally, Shea mentions a critical point that real victors of NATO creation were Germany and Italy. I strongly agree with him, considering relatively isolated Japan in the postwar era, because of its hesitation to join collective security organizations.

NATO history presents us with lots of implications to trans-Atlantic security, and also foreign policy of the United States, Britain, and continental Europe. In addition, the German-Italian experience gives invaluable lessons to Japan.

“Jamie’s History Class” is a great help to understand the past and the future of trans-Atlantic affairs, or more broadly the Western alliance of liberal democratic nations. More importantly, he is a man who made NATO more active than ever. Therefore, I recommend this video lecture series for highly motivated students of international affairs.