“NATO is no longer a static alliance focused on defending Europe from a Soviet tank invasion. It is now an expeditionary alliance that is sending its forces across the world to help secure a future of freedom and peace for millions.”
–President Bush, April 2, 2008

Leaving aside the impossibility of this intemperate vision presently being demonstrated in Afghanistan’s fractured and incoherent NATO command, and that slowly unfolding fiasco’s mocking exposure of the limits of alliances (that we need to have the absurdity of a multinational defense arrangement taking on an “expeditionary” role demonstrated for us only increases my suspicion that the world has indeed gone mad), and furthermore granting undue credulity in that “freedom and peace for millions” is not mere folderol but the universalist madness it resembles, the Talking Heads lyric comes to mind: well, how did I get here?

It was after all a historical nanosecond ago that we crossed that Rubicon of unprecedented military entanglements by taking on responsibility for Western Europe. How NATO advanced and morphed from what were essentially ad hoc beginnings to the frankly aggressive effort we have now should be a required course for America’s incoming freshmen (of course then it would be taught by a collection of cocooned neocons waiting for their next government opportunity and retired generals).

NATO’s alarming sprawl demonstrates the Cold War is not really over, as its unfortunate instruments, now imbued with self-preservative will, finding new products to offer new markets, lumber on, transferring American wealth to increasingly far-flung places in the form of weapons systems (that will provoke counter-systems and hence the need for more and better weapons systems, and on), driving an obscenely self-sustaining global arms trade. The antagonisms and massive bureaucratic structures of the Cold War live on; some grow worse, some just grow.
I repeat: the Cold War is not over, and its ultimate consequences are yet to be determined. That’s why the entire popular narrative of the US successfully facing down the Soviets and “winning” the Cold War should be challenged, on principle. Things are generations from settling, and not only is it true that the path we took to get here is not necessarily the best, but we haven’t yet determined what here is.

Suggested Onion headline:
John McCain sets Goal of Bringing All World’s Nations into NATO by 2030