Mailvox: military alliances

ST wonders about NATO:

I heard a Bush snippet on the radio this morning talking about how NATO was the greatest alliance in the history of man. Of course my BS detector went off immediately, but I was curious if off the top of your head what you would think the greatest military alliances of all time would be?

It depends on how you define greatest. If you define it as a percentage of the total military power available on the planet, I think you’d have to go with the Allies of WWII. The Soviet Union and the USA were the two greatest powers, with Britain a solid number four behind Nazi Germany.

If, on the other hand, you are thinking of the historical significance of the alliance in terms of the long term effects of the foe it defeated, it would be hard to count out NATO given the global reach of Communism from 1950 to 1989. A serious candidate, however, would be the Roman-Visigothic alliance that defeated the Attila-led Hunnish forces at Chalons in 451. Had the Huns not been defeated, the entire history of the world would likely have been very different as the West’s Greco-Roman heritage would have been swept away by the pagan Asiatic heritage of the Huns.

It is interesting to note how each of these three alliances have largely consisted of nominally Christian nations combining defensively against a violent, bloodthirsty, pagan or secular expansionary force. This points to a larger historical truth; Christianity has tended to spread by largely peaceful means while other ideologies expand by force and violence.

I don’t think NATO was the greatest alliance in the history of Man, and its lack of a signature battle or even conflict will likely reduce its stature in the eyes of future historians, but Bush’s description is certainly a reasonable one given the bounds of political rhetoric.

This assumes, of course, that the fall of the Soviet Union is not mere masquerade, a theory which is looking less and less likely as time goes by, but cannot be entirely dismissed.