On May 25th in Brussels, President Donald Trump addressed his fellow heads of state leading the now Sixty-Eight year old North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance forged in the wake of World War II to counter the common threat presented by the Soviet Union’s expansion into Eastern Europe following the devastating conflict which launched the Cold War.
During his remarks, President Trump created international headlines and many very uncomfortable world leaders by stating:
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders. These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO Members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and tax payers of the United States.”
Allow me to be as blunt as humanly possible: He is absolutely right.
For the Sixty-Eight years of its existence, NATO has relied almost completely on the military might and economic brute force of the United States to act as a shield against the aggressions and predations of not only Russia, but also Iran after 1979, Iraq in 1991 & 2001, as well as global Islamic-Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State up to today.
A brief history lesson:
For over half of a century the taxpayers of the United States have shouldered the devastating economic burden of ensuring the security of the world, a burden we can carry no-longer. Since 1949 when the alliance was founded, we have experienced the post-war booms of the 50s and 60s, suffered the economic stagnation of the 1970s, the collapse of the American manufacturing sector, the high times of “Reaganomics,” the internet boom of the 90s, and the subsequent bust and slide into global recession in 2008. Through it all, the American people have continued to write the checks that purchase the weapons and pay the soldiers that defend the West. We have never faltered, wavered, or largely objected to the pre-eminent duty of the United States to do so.
In the 21st century, America has changed; we are more polarized than we have been in over 150 years, and in our disunity, many of us have come to resent the role that we inherited from the British following the two World Wars that sundered the Empire.
In fact, according to Pew Research:
Just 49% of Americans had a favorable view of NATO in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in spring 2015, and those views have not changed much from previous years. Support includes 56% of Democrats but just 43% of the GOP. Notably, U.S.. backing for the security alliance is the second lowest among eight NATO nations surveyed.
From 1815 to 1914, the British Empire was far and wide considered the most powerful nation in the world. By the end of World War II, with her army and navy depleted by war and ravaged by the Spanish Flu, anti-colonial independence movements rose around the world causing the post-war British government to make the sensible decision to rebuild Britain itself over attempting to maintain the Empire.
In today’s context, the United States has maintained the peace for approaching a century just as the British Empire did before us. This “Trump Doctrine” is proper and correct, in that to “Make America Great Again,” we must divest the responsibility for Europe’s security back to Europe. Indeed, a large part of making America great again will be making NATO an equal alliance and relieving the exhausted and somewhat resentful American public of footing the bill.