By Jason Taylor
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, it was necessary for the US to maintain a wartime footing to defend a devastated Europe against the threat of the Soviet Union, which led to the formation of NATO. When the threat from the USSR diminished during the 1970s and 1980s, most of our allies reduced their investment in the military.
True democracies put a priority on meeting the needs of their citizens, including education, health care, and subsidies for the poor. True democracies wisely invest just enough in the military to deter and combat external enemies, and no more. By contrast, autocracies put a low priority on meeting the needs of their citizens, and invest heavily in the military, which makes the leaders feel powerful, and protects them against their own citizens. Because Donald Trump has both the emotional maturity and the governing style of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un expect him to continue to complain about the need for military expansion in both the US and NATO.
Trump is devoid of finesse and grace. He is comfortable with decisive bullies and dictators. He is not comfortable with groups who make baby-steps towards collegiality. He grossly misrepresents the issue of payments “to NATO.” The issue is how much military build-up NATO countries are willing to finance. Some of us have for long regretted the domination of NATO and Europe by the USA. We pointed out that the security umbrella provided by the USA was funded by the US taxpayer, and that this allowed European countries to spend their own tax francs, marks, and pounds other than on armaments. But that’s what America wanted.
No American government wanted Germany to build a new army. Ditto France. French and German armies devastated Europe for centuries and drew America into two world wars. Nor did Uncle Sam want the Brits to arm themselves to the teeth: U.S. preferred that the UK remain a dependent and somewhat willing aircraft-carrier and missile-silo. NATO members know all that. Trump’s crude electioneering in Europe and the Middle East may play well in Harrisburg but in European capitals, he’s one ugly American.
Pushing a world leader aside so he could be at the front when the photograph was taken? It still shocks me that this human has no shame, no filter, no conscience and is completely oblivious to the basic lessons we all learned by the time we were in kindergarten.
The video of Trump pushing the leader of Montenegro aside so he could be in front for a NATO photo, and then haughtily adjusting his jacket in a manner that reminded me of footage of Mussolini, says it all. Small gestures speak volumes about a person. He is a would-be dictator upon whom the only checks are the courts and the press, both of which are under attack by the right. I truly fear for our country, especially as I read quotes from the right attacking the journalist assaulted by Gianforte for simply doing his job.
For the U.S and our Western allies, Donald Trump is an ignorant loose cannon whose trip will have left only a trail of hypocrisy, anxiety, and bewilderment in its wake. In his meeting with NATO heads, Trump was not a statesman but a political candidate playing to his “America First” electoral base in a way that endangers all of us.
NATO is about a shared commitment to risk both lives and treasure in war with some common adversary, not about paying dues to maintain membership in some exclusive club. If Russia invades Western Europe through Poland and Germany, those countries will suffer tremendous damage and loss of life as they did in World War II. Their commerce and regular life will be disrupted for a very long time and their recovery will take years. To stand and fight with the U.S. is the pledge of the NATO countries and to not understand how important it is to assure the members that the U.S. will do so, even if members fail to meet the investment in defense figures is crucial to assuring that NATO will remain a strong and viable alliance.
Clearly, Trump does not share American values, let alone the basic human values we all learn in pre-school. The question is, when will his base care? The answer is that they see nothing wrong with his tilt toward autocrats. He could explicitly abandon Article 5 and sign a mutual defense pact with Russia and he wouldn’t lose a single one of his base supporters. He could join Duterte on a murder mission in Manila to kill drug dealers and his supporters would love him even more.
But things will change, maybe, when he manages to kill or maim Obamacare to the point that Trump voters feel the effects of his policies in their wallets. Until his base begins to crack the spineless Quislings of the Republican Party will continue to aid and abet him.
Trump is doing exactly what his fans elected him to do – throw his weight around on the world stage and act the swaggering bully who intimidates and threatens expecting fearful adulation in return. Theirs seems to be a world where might is right; where having others fear and disdain you is mistaken for respect; where intimidation replaces partnership and only those held very, very close (in Trump’s own case, family) can ever be trusted.
Donald Trump is the perfect example of a person who knows the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.
‘Look At Their Faces’ President Trump Slams NATO Leaders, Declines To Support Collective Defense
Dear NATO, our sincerest apologies for subjecting you to The Buffoon. Working on a fix.