NATO at 70

Walter A. McDougall has a superb article up at Law and Liberty, recapping the history of NATO. While it’s quite long as articles go, it is the best short form history of the alliance I’ve read, as far as I can remember, ever. So you should too.

In just a few days, delegations from the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the longest-lasting multilateral alliance in modern history.

They shall recall how NATO fostered unity, strength, and will among Western democracies for 40 years and prevailed over the Soviet bloc without a shot being fired. They shall also congratulate themselves on the subsequent 30 years during which the membership expanded from 16 to 29, the mission expanded far beyond collective security, and the area of operations expanded as far afield as Afghanistan. But unchecked inflation is often a symptom of institutional senility rather than vitality.

Perhaps the Americans who steered NATO on its present course were simply anxious to provide new raisons d’être for an alliance whose real target disappeared with the Cold War. Perhaps President Donald Trump had a point when he called NATO obsolete. Perhaps the years of its life are “three score and ten, or by reason of strength fourscore” (Psalm 90:10), in which case, this decennial may be its last.

The threat that gave birth to NATO—the communist bloc—ceased to exist 30 years ago. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed two years after that, reducing Muscovy back to its 17th century boundaries. During the 1990s Russia’s economy contracted by 45 percent and has not grown much since. The Russian defense budget today is 72 percent less than the last Soviet one. And while Vladimir Putin pretends Russia is a world power, even he admitted in his Munich address of 2007 that the Cold War’s bipolarity had been replaced by a hegemony in which the United States is the “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making,” and has “overstepped its national borders in every way.”[1] Most galling for Putin was the fact that the United States exploited Russian weakness to expand NATO up to and even into the boundaries of the defunct Soviet Union.

Nothing resembling the threat of Josef Stalin’s empire and Red Army exists today and Europeans are well aware of that, which is why only three European governments met the target—2 percent of GNP—for defense spending in 2017. Germans, French, and Italians simply do not feel threatened by Russia. Hence the “free rider” dilemma of a United States that accounts for 71.7 percent of NATO’s defense expenditures in 2017 has only become more acute, not less, since the end of Cold War.[2]

The voracious engulfment by NATO of nearly all countries west of Russia likewise risks its cohesion. The alliance motto, which looms on the wall overlooking the grand conference room in its Brussels headquarters, reads: Animus in consulendo liber (“A mind unfettered in deliberation”). But the fact is that NATO’s deliberations have always been fettered by its unanimity rule. Consensus was hard enough to achieve among the original 12, not to mention the current 29 governments each with own agenda . . . unless, of course, member states just surrender to the will of the United States.

It would appear that NATO today has become both “too big to fail” and “too big to work.” Some day, NATO’s credibility will be put to a test that its constituent states will be unable or unwilling to pass.

Empire by Invitation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, like so many initiatives identified with the United States, was a British invention.[3] In 1948, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin begged Americans to identify with the Brussels Pact, which Britain, France, and the Benelux countries had just concluded. Bevin’s premises were that Soviet obstruction had crippled the United Nations as an instrument for collective security; that Europe’s postwar democracies were too weak to defend themselves; and that the Marshall Plan could not succeed unless Europeans were assured of a U.S. military commitment.

There are lots of truths here, not least of them that, while I would not use the term empire, Europe has become an American (and to some extent, British) protectorate. Not so much because we wanted it to, as because it is certainly easier to let someone else defend you, especially if you are a believer in globalism. Most of Europe is, that’s why the European Union keeps talking about unity.

If the US hasn’t done anything else, we’ve made an intra-European war nearly impossible for the near future, they’ve all disarmed.

One of my friends is a British expat living quite happily in Siberia, I think from what we tell each other, he would agree heartily with the conclusions in this article, and I see much merit in them as well.

I can’t say that America really wishes Russia any ill, because I don’t think we, in general, do, but we often don’t think things through very well before we do stuff, often for domestic reasons, that may have adverse effects on others.

In any case, read the article linked above, and tell me what you think.

The Venezuelan Implosion

In case you missed it in the uproar over the Covington Kids (God bless them) over the last few days the situation in Venezuela has come to a head.

A few days ago there was what looked like an attempted military coup which was put down. Only two days later the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate. He has been recognized as the legitimate head of the government by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and others. Mexico and Bolivia have not. Maduro has severed diplomatic relations with the US and given US diplomats 72 hours to leave. The State Department has replied that Maduro is no longer head of Venezuela’s government and we are not leaving, quite brave on Pompeo’s part, or foolhardy, depending on how things turn out.

And so that is the situation now in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, and with a government that Bernie Sanders would be proud of, as people fight over rats to eat and haven’t seen toilet paper in years.

Now what?

The big powers in the western hemisphere are the US, Brazil, and Colombia. Brazil has a pretty new, right-wing populist government under Jair Bolsonaro, and yes, there are many parallels and comparisons to Trump. There were also reports that the refugees from Venezuela played a part in his election, after years of a left-wing rule of their own.

So Brazil is somewhat weaker than it has been but it is still the neighborhood leader and an ally of the US. Colombia tends to follow Brazil.

Maduro is backed by Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In other words, the usual suspects. Solve this correctly, and we not only save many, many Venezuelan lives but we also damage terrorism in the western hemisphere quite a lot. Both matter.

It’s probably (according to most analysts) a bad idea for the US to get directly involved militarily, but it would also be very unwise to sit by idly.

I think Brandon J. Weichert has it reasonably close to right in The Spectator when he says this.

From its perch in North America, the United States can do much to support a humanitarian aid mission into Venezuela (air dropping supplies, for instance) while lending covert assistance to Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuelan dissidents. Yet, the most powerful punch that the United States could pack would not be through overt military force, but rather through covert action and diplomacy.

For instance, Cuba is key regional problem in this scenario. Cuba has been the conduit through which Iranian, Russian, and Chinese support for the Maduro regime has flowed. America must impose harsh sanctions against Havana until it ceases its illicit involvement with Maduro. I never understood why the Obama Administration attempted to normalize relations with Cuba. It only empowered Havana to misbehave more in Latin America.

Also, the United States Southern Command must be given greater resources. At present, USSOUTHCOM is woefully underfunded and has few military assets that it could deploy to help buttress American allies in the region. Some U.S. Navy warships should be diverted from other theaters and sent to operate under the command of USSOUTHCOM.

The essential element in this scenario would be American leadership as opposed to direct American military intervention. While this method may take longer and, therefore, prolong human suffering in Venezuela, this is the only viable option. After all, freedom isn’t free, and the United States has had ample evidence over the last several decades that it cannot fight for other peoples’ independence.

The locals must do the heavy-lifting here and the United States being a global power must put pressure on the outside forces (namely Cuba) that are empowering the Maduro regime’s disgusting reign.

That sounds pretty sensible to me. There’s always resentment when US troops are involved, but something needs to be done, and Brazil (and perhaps Colombia) is likely the best one to do it, with US backing and support. Both have borders with Venezuela. Nor would it hurt to have a USN presence to hold the ring.

And as the local superpower, and acting in accordance with long tradition, going back to President Monroe, it is the American role to let our South American neighbors figure out their own problems, without other powers sticking their noses in.

I also note that the hospital ship USNS Comfort is close to wrapping up a mission to various South American countries. It probably should be extended if necessary in the area.

Selling Out the British

This is quite remarkable, not to mention rather horrifying. What Theresa May’s government is doing in their negotiations is nothing less than selling the UK’s sovereignty to Brussels (and you can easily see Berlin’s hand running the puppet that is the EU.

Britain is, of course, the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world, depending on how you measure, and many believe it is the second most powerful country in the world, second only to the United States, and the only other one able to intervene anywhere around the world.

Amazing, isn’t it? The people voted clearly to leave the EU, and the government has used that as cover to give them a worse deal, a similar influence on how they do things, but without even the (mostly sham) vote. One could call it selling their sovereignty, but one would be wrong – they aren’t getting paid, well probably May and the Civil Service have some golden prospects for their treachery, but we don’t know that yet.

There is, of course, a backstory, of how it got that way. Peter Hitchens lays it out as clearly as I have seen.

Amazing story, isn’t it? I’m pretty much convinced that the overall point is true. I don’t agree with every point, although some of that may be my prejudices speaking, of course. Specifically, I do believe in the special relationship between the US and the UK, although I’m not sure the British really do. Still, overall, he makes an excellent case.

Russia, Russia, Russia, and Will Rogers

Bored yet with “Russia, Russia, Russia, and yes, some more Russia”? Yeah, me too. I’m not convinced it even matters much for Europe, let alone America. And that is pretty much what America thinks, too. From Bre Payton at The Federalist.

An overwhelming majority of Americans don’t think the ongoing probe into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton is that important, according to a new Gallup poll. 

A record-breaking number of Americans (22 percent) think immigration is the most important problem facing the United States, while 19 percent say dissatisfaction with the U.S. government is the biggest problem and 7 percent think racism is the most important issue.

A combined total of 16 percent of Americans list unifying the country, lack of respect for one another, and the economy in general as the most important issues. The other issues that make it to the top of the list are health care (according to 3 percent of Americans), and ethics and morality (according to another 3 percent of those surveyed).

That’s about what I’d expect, sitting out here in flyover country. Nothing we’re hearing on the news (other than immigration, and that is slanted one way or another) really matters a damn to America and Americans. Here are the charts that Bre brought us.

And broken down by party:

 

In other words, not even 1% of us think its important, and yet, that is all the media and politicians (BIRM) have been bleating about for a week.

Well, Will Rogers wrote that

This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.

In any case, a good deal of what we are seeing is that the political, military, industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about, needs an enemy. But it doesn’t want one too big, that it might end up in a real war, you know like China, and Montenegro is obviously too small, but Russia is the Goldilocks of enemies, everybody knows who it is, and it is just the right size, and besides it used to be a fearsome enemy, until we defeated it, and left so many experts without anything to expert about.

Will Rogers was an excellent observer, so why don’t we take a look at a few more of his observations, such as:

[A] comedian can only last till he either takes himself serious or his audience takes him serious

Seems very appropriate these days, doesn’t it?

Or:

No party is as bad as its state and national leaders.

Or even:

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.

Words to live by, all of those observations.

A Summit, Hysteria, and Bovine Excrement

Well, Putin and Trump had a meeting yesterday in Helsinki. Afterwards, Trump said some things that bothered the left. In other words, it was a day ending in Y. I wasn’t all that fond of them, either, really. But then, I never thought Trump was God and never made mistakes. Hannity is as good as anybody on it.

Frankly, I can’t decide whether the left’s goal is to destroy Trump at any cost whatsoever. Or maybe it is to destroy Russia for throwing the communists out, and the United States for winning the cold war. Or both. Apparently, they think a nuclear war is just the way to do that.

I can’t see any particular reason to trust the US Intelligence Community, all my life they’ve always been wrong, from Vietnam to the cold war (whose end they failed to see coming) to Iraq and Afghanistan. And that doesn’t even mention the crap they got up to in the last few years. Now they seem to be in bed with a faction that is at best committing sedition, coming very close to treason itself. On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason to trust the Russians.

So put your earplugs in, it ain’t gonna get much better. Personally, I think we need more streetlights on Constitution Ave, and a whole lot of ¾ in manila rope, yes, some assembly required. Not that anybody asked me. So take an even strain, the adults are in charge but keep your powder dry in any case.

In the meantime, Scott Adams and Dave Rubin.

And VDH on the FBI, Trump, and Russia.

Through a Glass Darkly

One of the most reliably astute observers of the world is Victor Davis Hanson, one of those rare people known by their initials: VDH, nearly universally. But even he varies some in the quality of his observations, from excellent to outstanding. This may be as good as anything I’ve read from anyone, anywhere.

The Post-War Order Is Over

Empirically speaking, neo-Ottoman Turkey is a NATO ally in name only. By any standard of behavior — Ankara just withdrew its ambassador from the U.S. — Turkey is a de facto enemy of the United States. It supports radical Islamic movements, is increasingly hostile to U.S. allies such as Greece, the Kurds, and Israel, and opposes almost every foreign-policy initiative that Washington has adopted over the last decade. At some point, some child is going to scream that the emperor has no clothes: Just because Turkey says it is a NATO ally does not mean that it is, much less that it will be one in the future.

Instead, Turkey is analogous to Pakistan, a country whose occasional usefulness to the U.S. does not suggest that it is either an ally or even usually friendly.

And, perhaps, as a new sense of realism invades Washington, the actions of the US may begin to match that reality.

There is nothing much left of the old canard that only by appeasing China’s mercantilism can there be a new affluent Chinese middle class that will then inevitably adopt democracy and then will partner with the West and become a model global nation. China is by design a chronic international trade cheater. Trade violations have been its road to affluence. And it seeks to use its cash as leverage to re-create something like the old imperial Japanese Greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere. U.S. trade appeasement of Beijing over the last decades no more brought stability to Asia than did nodding to Tokyo in the 1930s.

There is also nothing sacred about the European Union. It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization — any more than Bonaparte’s rigged “continental system” (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents). The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos. The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense. The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony).

Interesting to watch the EU, isn’t it? The original conception was indeed a United States of Europe, consisting mostly of (The New) Germany and France, with England fully allied to the United States (not a vassal state by any means, a partner). If I understand what I read, that was Churchill’s conception. But!

As for Germany, it is no longer the “new” model West Germany of the post-war order, but a familiar old Germany that now pushes around its neighbors on matters of illegal immigration, financial bailouts, Brexit, Russian energy, and NATO contributions, much as it used to seek to expand Prussia and the Sudetenland. German unification now channels more the spirit of 1871 than of 1989. Call the new German attitude “Prussian postmodernism” — a sort of green and politically correct intimidation. Likewise, in terms of the treatment of German Jews, Germany seems more back in the pre-war than in the post-war world.

As far as the U.S., Germany has redefined its post-war relationship with the America on something like the following three assumptions: 1) Germany’ right to renege on its promise to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense in order to meet its NATO promises is not negotiable; 2) its annual $65 billion surplus with the U.S. is not negotiable; 3) its world-record-busting account surplus of $280 billion is not negotiable. Corollaries to the above assumptions are Germany’s insistence that NATO in its traditional form is immutable and that the present “free” trade system is inviolable.

Soon, some naïf is going to reexamine German–American relations and exclaim “there is no there.”

I think some naif just did, and in his exclamation was the words, It is unfair for the United States to subsidize the welfare state of these Prussians, and so tariffs to export to the United States will increase until they are equitable.

And that’s important, the Germans need to export that steel, and be defended by the US (and British) Army far more than either country needs to import Mercedes. There is only one outcome for Europe, the only declining market in the world, in a trade war with the United States: They lose, probably badly.

The West Bank’s rich Arab patrons now fear Iran more than they do Israel. The next Middle East war will be between Israel and Iran, not the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors and Tel Aviv — and the Sunni Arab world will be rooting for Israel to defeat Islamic Iran.

And I notice that in the last week, Russia is starting to tell Iran to pull back from the Israeli border, before Russia gets engulfed as well. Iran’s economy is essentially as bad as Venezuela’s, and sanctions haven’t even been reapplied yet. The Iranian truckers, taxi drivers, teachers and probably others are on strikes, the nationwide protest continues, and calls for a revolution have started.

Finally, we’re seeing the end of the old truism that the U.S. was either psychologically or economically so strong that it could easily take on the burdens of global leadership — taking trade hits for newly ascendant capitalist nations that ignored trade rules, subsidizing the Continental defense of an affluent Europe, rubber-stamping international institutions on the premise that they adhered to Western liberalism and tolerance, and opening its borders either to assuage guilt or to recalibrate a supposedly culpable demography.

Historic forces have made post-war thinking obsolete and thereby left many reactionary “experts” wedded to the past and in denial about the often-dangerous reality before their eyes. Worse is the autopilot railing for the nth time that Donald Trump threatens the post-war order, undermines NATO, is clueless about the EU, or ignores the sophisticated institutions that hold the world together.

About the only metaphor that works is that Trump threw a pebble at a global glass house. But that is not a morality tale about the power of pebbles, but rather about the easy shattering of cracked glass.

There’s quite a lot more at the link above, you should read it.

That is pretty much what I see as well. All is in flux as it hasn’t been since 1940, where it ends is hard to see, maybe impossible. But you know, I’m inclined to think that the American people, in electing Trump, have found the leader who sees a way to lead his people into the next epoch, whatever it brings, successfully.

If I’m right, it’s a good time to be a friend of America, if I’m wrong, there is likely a new dark age approaching. Yeah, its a time for Churchillian terms.

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