Thoughts on Article 5

For followers of this blog, it may have been apparent that I have been flip-flopping on how I provide footnotes or citations. For all my academic posts, I followed the syllabus in composition, and it was intentionally included when being posted here; for other non-academic posts, I have resorted to easier hypertext links… for the most part.

 There has been the notion that one day, I plan on taking most of these posts and publishing them in a tangible form. As a result, I am conflicted with the disparate ideas of either sticking to Chicago Turabian formatting or continuing with the path of least resistance until I can find the motivation or assistance to go back and change from links to proper citations.

We love the path of least resistance… don’t we?

In trying to make sense of the news, history, and the crossroads we always seem to find ourselves as societies, I ended up mulling over the North Atlantic Treaty and what it might mean in the near future.

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

If there were to be an intent to undermine – and possibly force the dissolution of NATO – then it would be a forced invocation of Article 5 for the sake of a relatively unimportant nation. The First World War started in a similar fashion: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 led to a series of events in in Europe, which forced major nations with associated alliances into a much larger conflict.

…A seemingly innocent street corner in Sarajevo. (Source)

As I have stated before, history is not a matter of casual repetition – it is more of a pattern in causality. The naval build-up by Germany and the United Kingdom in the 1ate 1800s cannot be directly compared to the increasing size and capability of China’s navy and the corresponding calls for a reciprocal path for our own. Similarly, the advent of technologically-enabled warfare such as electronic, cyber, and – to a certain extent, information regarding social media – might bear some resemblance to the appearance of submarines, tanks, and aircraft in the First World War. However, much like Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty which formalized the “efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security.”

In “Most Likely / Most Dangerous,” the idea of prioritization in terms of intelligence, historical analysis, and what to do about it. This has been a continuing idea over the last few years, and one which I cannot seem to shake. In recent discussions, the topic of why it should be important that more folks have more of a vested interest in information operations. The act of manipulation is far easier when the target suspects nothing, after all. The unfortunate reality is that a blissful and willing ignorance on these matters is reassuring for some and extremely vexing for me.

Part of the answer is painfully obvious and has been hinted at previously: the RAND report, National Will to Fight – Why Some States Keep Fighting and Others Don’t. One interesting elaboration on their definition

Finally, our definition of national will to fight has two additional important words: expectation and sacrifice. Governments often initiate conflicts with optimistic expectations of victory. This is partly due to the tendency to overestimate one’s own capabilities, will, and the rightness of one’s cause while underestimating those factors in others, and it is partly due to the need to build support for the decision. Setbacks almost inevitably occur, and a government’s reaction provides important indicators of its will. In the same way, a government’s reaction to the need for greater political, economic, and military sacrifices to achieve success can indicate will.

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Dan van der Vat’s 1986 book, The Grand Scuttle – The sinking of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919, takes an interesting look at the logic behind how the vaunted German warships came to be and Alfred von Tirpitz’s (1849-1930) “risk theory”:

Germany should be strong enough on the high seas to be capable of inflicting serious damage on the world’s most powerful fleet, even in a losing battle. This strength would deter the leading naval power because its own fleet would be reduced so much in an encounter that its world maritime supremacy would be lost and the basis of its power destroyed.

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Much like submarines were initially disregarded as a “plaything for the younger officers…diverting time and money from other more useful and dependable branches of the service,” their application in conflicts and deterrence since has shown that there is a distinct possibility that digital, information, and social warfare may be in the process of being grossly overlooked by the general populace. While submarines did not usually have a highly-visible direct impact on the lives of the nations at war, these new forms of warfare do and will have everything to do with the individual citizen of a nation, for their ideas and their participation – or lack thereof, in both cases – will become even further weaponized than it already has been.

This is the crux of the problem and this disjointed and wandering blog post: it may be possible that, by the slow erosion of credibility, unity, and focus, we may find ourselves looking back with the infamous 20/20 hindsight with amazement that we never really saw the signs… or cared to. Some of us want to care, and we end up becoming lost in a sea of “white papers,” reports, podcasts, blog posts, and whatnot… but we seem to be outnumbered by the political momentum of those who want to appear to care for every distraction offered by social and traditional media.  

The events which stood, in retrospect, as a glacial precursor to the First World War offer a pattern which is apparent only to those who take a considerable investment in curiosity and time to attempt to understand. Even my own interest in the subject is relatively recent and slow in maturing towards the start of comprehension.

We are in an age of nearly instant communication and the ability to follow events on a scale never before thought possible, yet there seems to be a comfort in biases. During my time in the Army, intensive academic training was often compared to trying to drink from a fire hose at full pressure. In a similar vein, I completely understand the solace that people seek in their own comprehension of the world around them; this post was inspired by a rather disturbing realization of the possibility that, in order to negate the geopolitical influence of the U.S., nefarious state actors actually have several options available – from furthering suspicion in election interference, to forcing rapid doctrinal shifts in crisis areas, to using refugees and asylum-seekers as readily politicized pawns in domestic policies, to somewhat internationally dubious territorial claims, to proxy conflicts which consume resources and attention alike… and many more ideas strange and overly complex to the average person.

The unifying factor in this post and this issue is yet another repetition from many previous posts: the people within a society. It could be suggested that the First World War was started by Gavrilo Princip’s actions on that fateful day in 1914, but this would be an oversimplification. Just like there is not one single aspect which creates a conflict, it is usually not one person’s understanding of a trend which would prevent another. As an informed constituency, sure… but that isn’t going to happen for a while.

We can marvel at the abilities of our technology, but do we fully understand the idea that we are essentially placing all of our eggs in one basket? Whether that is the development of a $13.1 billion-dollar carrier, the growing industrial influence of social media, or the vulnerability of our digital infrastructure in real-world operations, we have gone from simple truths to complex realities…

…But aren’t they cute?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Article 5

  1. Don’t get me started on citations!

    Liked by 1 person

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