Friday, July 13, 2018

Against Whom? Against What?

     I have a ton of things to write about this morning, and it’s impossible for me to address all of them, so I think I’ll just pick the top card off the stack, write about that, and call it a day. Here we go. Let’s see, now...ah, NATO!

     President Trump’s upbraiding of the underperforming members of the Atlantic Alliance has been very much in the news for several reasons. Not the least of those is Trump’s forthrightness about their parsimony on defense: something no other president has properly addressed. But to be candid, the “alliance” has been on my mind for other reasons, anyway.

     The North Atlantic Treaty was ratified in 1949 by its original twelve member nations: roughly, the ones we normally mean when we refer to “Western Europe,” plus the United States. That treaty committed its signatories to regarding an armed attack upon any one of them as an attack upon all of them, and to rendering appropriate assistance to the attacked nation(s). The principal motivating force was the Soviet Union, which in subjugating and garrisoning ten Eastern European nations (which the Soviets would later weld into the Warsaw Pact) had created an immediate and menacing threat to the security of the Western European nations. As the nations of Europe were still in a condition of military and economic exhaustion from World War II, the Truman Administration deemed it reasonable to “guarantee” their security by pledging America’s forces, especially its nuclear deterrent, to their defense.

     Owing to the persistent representation that only NATO kept the Soviets at bay, the U.S. poured tens of thousands of men, thousands of tons of war materiel, and trillions of dollars of expenditure into NATO over the forty years that followed. The consequences were many. Three were notable above all others:

  1. The swelling of American expenditures on our military, emphatically including our forces positioned in Europe;
  2. The eventual severing of the dollar from its backing by gold in August, 1971, which gave rise to the rapid inflations of the succeeding years;
  3. The rapid expansion of Western Europe’s “welfare states,” as the militaries of those nations were starved of funds and gradually declined to effective nullities.

     In 1989, one by one the Soviet satellites rebelled against their overseer and overthrew the Communist regimes that had hagridden them. The Warsaw pact was no more. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union dissolved as well. But NATO continued, as did the decay of Western Europe’s self-defense capabilities and the deterioration of the dollar.

     Questions immediately arose about the significance of NATO in a post-Soviet / Warsaw Pact world. What threat was the alliance directed against now? No answers were forthcoming. Today, nearly thirty years later, we still don’t have any.

     The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities ... it is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. – George Washington, Farewell Address.
     Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide. – Abraham Lincoln, the Lyceum Address.

     Massive reluctance to involve itself in the quarrels of other nations and other continents had marked American foreign policy from our founding up to our entrance into World War I. For 125 years the U.S. forged no alliances with other nations. Indeed, even upon entering the Great War, we formed none; we fought alongside the forces of the Triple Entente but remained formally outside it as an “associated power.” It took our involvement in World War II – Say, remember FDR saying “Your boys are not going to be sent to any foreign wars” -- ? Charming, wasn’t it? – to bring about the reversal of that attitude.

     America felt secure, divided from the quarrelsome Old World by two immense oceans. She was secure. Excepting an attack by ICBMs, she still is. To form an enduring alliance with European states, immediately after having shed the blood of thousands of young American men to liberate them from Hitler’s regime with the assistance of the Soviet Union, seemed questionable even at the time. The rationale provided for the alliance was largely charitable: exhausted Europe simply couldn’t “go it alone” in the face of the huge Soviet military, especially given its forward positioning along the western borders of the satellite nations. The devastated nations of Western Europe needed defensive help, and only the United States, with its vast manpower, intact economy, and nuclear forces, could provide it.

     It was plain at that time that NATO was a one-way commitment. Should we be attacked, the European members of NATO could (and would) contribute nothing to America’s defense. Indeed, the matter is even plainer today.

     A military alliance between (or among) nations unequal in size and power will always be represented to the common citizen as something other than it really is. The plain words of the North Atlantic Treaty make it sound like a mutual commitment among equals. Yet anyone looking at the conditions of the signatories would immediately have known better.

     The alliance did provide certain advantages to the U.S. federal government. First, the “need” to keep large forces in Europe provided a rationale for the maintenance of wartime levels of defense spending, which Washington used to prop up employment in that economic sector. Second, the presence of heavily armed American forces in Europe gave the U.S. massive influence over the governments of the European members, especially as regards relations with the member nations of the Warsaw Pact. Third, for a time the American military presence in Europe helped to bolster European confidence in the terms of the Bretton Woods agreement, whose signatories had accepted the American dollar as the world’s reserve currency in place of an explicitly commodity-based standard.

     As long as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact persisted, NATO could be rationalized to some degree. Yet its shortcomings were plainly visible from early on. The European members refused to meet their treaty commitment to maintaining their defenses, and the U.S. could not chivvy them into doing so. The cost of our forces in Europe rose steadily. The impediment to our capacity to meet military challenges elsewhere became visible over time. American military spending put immense inflationary pressure on the dollar. In combination with the Johnson Administration’s expansion of the American welfare state, federal expenditures became ever more of a threat to the American economy and the soundness of the dollar.

     When the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989 and 1990, it was time to breathe a sigh of relief and schedule the dissolution of the alliance. We didn’t. While arguments still persist about whether an alliance without a specific threat to actuate it is ever reasonable, the disadvantages of NATO to the United States – to say nothing of those to the long-term health of the European members – have loomed ever larger.

     “You don’t remove someone from an alliance,” General Barcena said. “It’s simply...not done. Everyone needs allies.”
     “We’re sort of down to bedrock,” Admiral Duvall said, sighing. “This isn’t about establishing and maintaining international relations. This is about the survival of Terra.”

     [John Ringo, The Hot Gate]

     The interstellar warfare at issue in John Ringo’s Troy Rising series is a matter of planetary survival. Everyone in the stories is aware of that. It tends to clarify issues pertinent to defense and “alliances.” Yet even under such terrible threats, “diplomats” will routinely attempt to sell black as white: to represent their participation in an asymmetrical alliance as something other than it really is. Men whose lives are on the line don’t allow such representations to pass unchallenged.

     When lives are not on the line other than in extreme theory, the diplomats whose nations benefit from such an alliance will redouble their efforts. The diplomats from nations that suffer from the alliance will demonstrate in whose interests they really labor: are they those of the State Department, or those of the United States?

     We have reached a point in international affairs where that question should be put to every member of the political class who favors the perpetuation of the NATO alliance, and to every member of the command structure of the American military who feels the same. They must be compelled to give their reasons...and We the People must be allowed to hear them, undecorated. American military protection has been guaranteed, at Americans’ expense, to far too much of the world. The greatest beneficiary of our generosity is a massive continental federation whose wealth and population renders it entirely capable of defending itself. For three decades the threat that would invoke such defense has gone unnamed. It’s time that changed, as well.


Col. B. Bunny said...

An outstanding post, Fran. Our facilitating the expansion of the European welfare states is galling as is, especially, seeing Europeans importing millions of third world primitives and parasites. GIs who fought in Europe never dreamed that the Germans they pushed out would be replaced by the said imports, who would be enthusiastically invited in and welcomed by government and people as well. UFB!

We are killing ourselves with our own malevolent invitation to the third world so the disease is a Western one. Still, our own surrender is all the more galling when we have had tens of thousands of troops in Europe on the NATO boondoggle but not a single troop on our own borders. It's true they would not have been stationed on our border even if there were no U.S. troops in Europe, Easter Island, Zanzibar, and the North Pole. I realize that but the optical lesson is there in any event. Massive, massive military expenditure but not one bleeding, mother trucking troop to defend America.

It's gratifying in a certain way to see the Eurotwerps be made to squirm as their 50 years of shucking and jiving are plastered all over their faces by Trump. But it raises the question on your mind, Why? So everyone ponies up another pittance under extreme duress and the Bundeswehr tank inventory rockets from 20 to 40 to defend against . . . the Russians? It's just a given that Putin's a "thug" as the fool LTC Peters liked to say. They'll pony up to do "something" but it's never clear what that "something" is. "Russian expansionism"? It is to laugh. It's like Bigfoot. I hear a lot about it but have yet to lay eyes on that bad boy. Any enlargement of a Russian military presence (slight by any measure you want to use) has been due to extreme Western provocation, too-clever-by-half State Dept. tinkering with others' lives, or host government invitation.

And Assad's "brutality"? I hear a lot about it too. "Everybody knows" y'all but could someone please FedEx me the Bill of Particulars? I know of the 500,000+ civilian and military deaths in Syria and the total devastation of that country that are the direct result of our efforts and alliances in the region. Were Assad's "depredations" worse than that?

It's like hearing ghosts in my basement all the time. I go investigate but nothing's there. Maybe if I spray fluorescent paint everywhere I can get a better idea of what I'm up against. Is there something like that we can use to find out why we still spend trillions on "defense"? Does "North Atlantic" now include Afghanistan and Iran? Not an idle question.

RM said...

The currently in progress demographic death of formerly Christian Europe coupled with the deliberate importation of the Islamic horde will result in a European Caliphate during our grandchildren's lifetimes. Why are we still defending something that is disappearing before our eyes and won't defend itself?

Linda Fox said...

One unnamed factor in our involvement in WWII was that many in America - resident aliens, as well as citizens, had strong ties to Europe. We weren't just helping those European countries, we were helping Uncle Gus, and former school friends and other acquaintances. The then-immigrants got their news from foreign-language papers, and those news sources begged for help from the USA.

We haven't a major stake in assisting Europe at this point. The immediate danger is over, the dangers they face, THEY allowed to happen (unleashed invasion from other continents).

Let's put some money in shoring up our Asian/South Pacific allies. And, building up our OWN defense.

Seneca III said...

The enemies in the UK and Europe today are internal. Their names are Islam and the governments promoting and supporting its establishment.