A New NATO We Can Afford

Donald Trump is right.

There, I said it. In a limited way, and from a backward perspective, he is correct. America’s NATO allies have been riding on their big sister’s coattails for years and never manage to contribute their share.

Two Solutions.

However, Trump’s contention that the rest of us should contribute more misses the other possibility. Maybe the US should contribute less.

The American Military

A look at worldwide military spending is instructive. America spends a whopping 54% of its GDP on its military. The next largest is Russia, at 3.9%, Britain and France just over 2%, and Canada and China lower than that. When any statistic is that far out of whack, alarm bells ought to be ringing.

Another POV

Looking at it from another angle, the US has only 2 million in its civil service. However, it has 1.3 million in the military and 2.3 million in its prison population, which totals 5.6 million employees dependent on the public purse. It reminds one of the legitimate question to ask the leaders of any military empire. Are all those soldiers to control the enemy or are they there to control the population?

Recent Events

Over the past 70 years, and increasing in the past 20, America has funded most of NATO’s armaments and used that fact as an excuse to use NATO as a convenient arm of American foreign policy. The big change came when George Bush used NATO as the excuse for invading Iraq. NATO is a defensive alliance, and the only thing we defended in Iraq was US oil interests.

It leads one to speculate whether the rest of the NATO members are backing the schoolyard bully as the only way to be sure he doesn’t turn on us. But attitudes are changing.

Note the pattern of the last international crisis. Irresponsible action by the United States has caused a tragedy for a NATO ally. That ally has reached out to the other members of NATO for help, neatly cutting the Americans out of the loop, as they deserve. Canada and Ukraine have demonstrated the ability to deal with the Iranians and get honest answers from them without any help from America at all. Guess who the next new member of NATO will be?

This could very well be the pattern for the future. As Andrew Coyne pointed out in At Issue on Thursday night, America’s leadership in NATO is based on responsible leadership in the White House. If that responsible leadership is not present, Americans can hardly expect to keep their position, no matter how many troops they can provide.

A Not-so-Brave New World

We are approaching a time in world politics where the diplomatic use of huge numbers of troops and weapons is falling into disrepute. Perhaps a more intelligent and less belligerent form of diplomacy will become the norm. Then NATO allies will be able to contribute their share drawn from their reasonable 2 or 3 percent of GDP spent on arms.

But maybe we shouldn’t be so free with this advice. I wouldn’t be the first commentator to note what a world power the United States would be if they moved that huge effort from their military to, say, their space program.

The Bottom Line

As international events of the past two weeks (and American domestic events of the past few years) have demonstrated, if you live by the sword, there’s a good chance you can defend yourself. It’s your friends and family that are likely to die by the sword that you started swinging.


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