View from the Web: Webcast Opened Up Debate Coverage

Debate Media Photo by Kristen NemotoMedia line the back two rows of the Pritzker Military Library room 
where the debate was livestreamed. (Photo by Kristen Nemoto) 

NATO logoEditor's note: With an overflow crowd at Pritzker Military Library, the debate was webcast over the library's website. The Red Line Project's Clayton Guse covered it from that perspective.

By Clayton Guse
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012

NATO was formed 63 years ago to unify Western Europe against a growing Soviet threat. On Thursday night, two former US officials defended the body’s existence to two protest organizers in a debate at the Pritzker Military Library.

The theme of the debate was: “Social Responsibility and National Security: Towards a New NATO.” At no point during the debate did the primary interest of the panelists turn to the upcoming NATO summit on Sunday and Monday at McCormick Place. The capacity crowd, which included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, listened closely and there were no outbursts from the audience.

The pro-NATO side of the debate consisted of DePaul Vice President former US Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel and John Williams, a Loyola University Chicago professor and retired captain in the US Naval Reserve. The opposition was "Stop NATO" organizer Rick Rozoff and Staff Sgt. (Ret.) and Iraq Veterans Against the War member Iris Feliciano.

Rozoff led the attack on NATO, claiming that the organization has “geopolitical objectives.”

“NATO is the largest military block in human history with 28 members,” Rozoff said. “NATO does not need to be reformed, it should have been dissolved when the Warsaw pact was dissolved 21 years ago, and it needs to be dissolved now.”

The pro-NATO officials defended the body for its diplomatic use.

 “[NATO] is in large extent a political organization and not just a military one,” Williams said. ”I think that the criticism of what NATO is doing might be better directed at the United States’ policies.”

Said Bindenagel, “The presence of NATO has made it possible for stability, security to be enhanced for 60 years in … Europe, and now for the European Union to develop economically.” 

Moderator Richard Friedman spent much of his part of the hour-long process pushing the argument away from the history of NATO and toward the theme.

Most of the dialogue focused on what NATO has done instead of what it ought do. Nonetheless, the debate brought several key issues to light that surround the upcoming NATO Summit and its protests.

“You don’t build the largest military alliance in human history except to either be able to wage war or threaten to wage war,” Rozoff said.

Bindenagel embraced the idea of war insofar as it is able to create peaceful and prosperous conditions.

“If you can create the climate for security,” he said, “you can create the climate for economic growth and stability.”

At the end of the debate, the panelists were at an equal impasse in which they began. Friedman closed the event through relating the topics to the upcoming NATO Summit and the nationwide protests that it promises to induce.

“If you leave here on Monday and you haven’t achieved anything, it’s feel good,” he said. “My sense is that in some way a young generation, that we’re counting on, has to organize themselves and use the political process to their advantage.” 

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