Thursday, June 13, 2019

Relevance of NATO for those Damned Millennials

I was on a panel yesterday about NATO, and the discussion turned to support for NATO in Canada especially among the millennials.  I pushed back a smidge as I tend to think of millennials as not being responsible for the mess we are in--they are more progressive than Gen X, which is more progressive than the boomers (who deserve damn near all the blame).  But it got me thinking, and, more helpfully, it got Melissa, the CDSN-RCDS comms person thinking, so we chatted about this as we drove back from Kingston. 

First, why should NATO be relevant for Canadians under thirty?  When an audience member pondered whether NATO does anything for humanitarian efforts, I didn't trot out Libya because even though it was seen as stopping potential massacres in Benghazi, it didn't turn out that great.  What I did point out is that NATO stopped genocide in Bosnia after the UN failed to do so, and that NATO, not the UN, intervened in Kosovo to stop the massacres of Kosovars.  While that might have annoyed Russia (Russia, of course, had been violating the sovereignty of countries in its near abroad for less than humanitarian purposes, but whatevs), it was mostly motivated to stop Serbia and Milosevic from killing more non-Serbs.  But both of those events occurred when younger folks were either not politically aware or not born yet ... or both.  The questioner also asked about climate change, but NATO as a military alliance ain't the organization to look to for that. 

Second, younger Canadians are less tied to Europe because their ancestors come from elsewhere.  While Ukrainian Canadians may be huge fans of NATO, Chinese-Canadians, Indian-Canadians, Filipino-Canadians, and other newer Canadians have few ties to Europe.  They may be wondering what Canada is doing in Asia and the Pacific.  For these folks and for the rest of Canada, friends of NATO need to make the case that European security is, dare I say it, vital for Canadian national interests.  The generation that last paid a huge price for European security is passing from the scene.  So, the case has to be made.  We cannot take it for granted.

Third, we probably have to make it clear that we can care about NATO AND care about other stuff.  Spending money, time, and military assets on NATO does not really mean Canada can't do stuff elsewhere.  The greater obstacle to Canadian involvement in Asia-Pacific is the lack of an institution like NATO.  Where does Canada fit in Asia-Pacific?  What can/should Canada do?  What is its role?  Damned if I know.  Certainly more, but more what?  Where?

Finally, I will save my take on blaming millennials for the Steve's Peeves segment of the second episode of Battle Rhythm, the podcast of the CDSN-RCDS. First episode is June 25th and the second episode will be two weeks later, as every other Tuesday will be, yes, I will say it, our battle rhythm.

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