"You may not be interested in the war, but the war is interested in you."

NATO complex. About military policy, nuclear weapons and Norwegian US service
Forfatter: Jon Hellesnes
Forlag: Samlaget (Norge)
NATO / With his new book The NATO Complex, philosopher Jon Hellesnes insists on the honorable dissident tradition of Luxembourg and Liebknecht.


In January, I participated in a commemoration of the centenary of the murder of German communists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the leaders of the small outbreak faction of the German Labor Party, which fought against Germany's participation in World War I. Against the Social Democrats, who argued that the war was a patriotic necessity to fight autocratic and imperialist Russia, Liebknecht raised the slogan "The main enemy is in our own country". Like Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russia, the Luxembourg and Spartakists allies argued that the task of the labor movement in all countries was to overthrow their own belligerent government. Liebknecht and Luxemburg's ideas were considered traitorous and dangerous by the political establishment in Germany, but in retrospect there is no doubt that they were the right ones. World War I was so far from any noble or necessary struggle, just a barbaric mass slaughter.

Even today, the security policy debate is characterized by the fact that armaments, militarization and foreign warfare are regarded as necessary and noble patriotism to fight authoritarian and evil Russia. But there are also vivid and critical counter-voices that throw themselves into the fight against their own government's role in the madness. With his new book NATO Complex the philosopher Jon Hellesnes writes in the honorable dissident tradition of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

Perverse logic

Hellesnes begins by warning that the danger of nuclear war is greater today than during the Cold War. This, he believes, calls for cross-political efforts – even from partyless ones, such as himself. In his account of the methodology, he emphasizes that his criticism of the United States and NATO does not entail any illusions about the regime in Russia, but is a call to sweep for one's own door before pointing to the grime of the neighbor. This seems like a wise method. His criticism of the participation in the Libya war, and of Norway being made a base for US operations targeting Russia, is immensely timely. The same is the point that this has been almost purely administrative, without political debate.

The danger of nuclear war is greater today than during the Cold War.

Jon Hellesnes is educated in military philosophy, and the strongest and most thorough parts of the book are where he discusses the nuclear weapons issue. He emphasizes the threat of using nuclear weapons in case the opponent should attack, also implies that the threatening party must be willing to carry out the threat, and that the enemy must be convinced that he is willing to do so. This perverse logic increases the danger that nuclear war can occur by accident or misunderstanding. Hellesne's conviction of this system is harsh and well-written and deserves to be reproduced: "The reality is that NATO's nuclear weapons strategy, which the State of Norway accepts, poses a risk of being complicit in the largest crime ever: In the event of an outbreak of war, the US command can deploy nuclear weapons and thus launch a form of criminal warfare that surpasses all history known by genocide and boundless malice. The fact that the opposing party is also willing and ready to transform into devilish evil power does not diminish the madness. The first priority in defense and foreign policy should have been to work for relaxation in Russia and for a general condemnation of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. "

Varying source usage

Unfortunately, some of the texts are overshadowed by a bit of a random and easy-to-use source: One of Hellesnes's arguments against Norwegian NATO membership is that if there is a war between the United States and Russia, the United States' strategy is to add warfare to our neighborhoods. The source he cites here is an NRK interview with an American officer, sometime in the early 1980s – thus impossible for the reader to verify. He further supports the claim by citing former US Presidential Adviser Zbigniew Brzeziski that Western and Central Europe can be considered vassal states for the United States. But the quote does not mean making these states a battlefield. Elsewhere in the book, arguments are built up based on references to things the author he saw on YouTube or "can't quite remember where he read".

The criticism can be unfair, since it can be seen as a matter of genre. The book is presented as a "piece of writing", ie essays, with the exception of the last three chapters, which are written in an academic tone and with solid source evidence. These are very instructive discussions of military ethics, military realism, nations and nationalism. In addition to the last chapters, the book is easy to read, fits briefly and requires no special prior knowledge. The language is good and the commitment clear. Hellesnes grabs the embellished, official NATO rhetoric, shakes it – and leaves it naked.

Hellesnes grabs the official NATO rhetoric, shakes it – and leaves it naked.

A few times during the reading, I admittedly wondered who the book was actually written for for: The criticism is very sharp, for example, Hellesnes writes that principled argumentation is absurd to people like Jens Stoltenberg, and that NRK is part of Western propaganda. While it may be apt, it also means that people who are on the opposite side of the debate will automatically move into a defensive position rather than enter into a discussion. Is the book only suitable as an internal medicine for meaningful traps? No. Again like the anti-war protests of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, it is written in an engaging and accessible way, indicating that its ideal audience is young, searching people who have not yet decided on the issues raised, but who have everything to gain from to do this. As Hellesnes writes: "It may well be that you are not interested in the war, but the war is interested in you."

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