Donald Trump Continues To Undermine America’s Most Important Alliance

On the eve of the NATO Summit, President Trump continues to engage in tactics that seem to serve no purpose other than to undermine America's most important and successful alliance.

With President Trump set to leave for the NATO summit at the end of the week, the editors at The New York Times endeavor to remind him, and us, of what makes the NATO alliance so valuable to the United States:

As Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, somewhat cheekily observed, the trans-Atlantic alliance was created to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” Seven decades later, those goals have largely been met (yes, the Germans have risen, but in the right ways), and many people — including, evidently, the president of the United States — wonder whether the alliance still has a purpose.

It does. It remains the most successful military alliance in history, the anchor of an American-led and American-financed peace that fostered Western prosperity and prevented new world wars. No one has proposed anything credible to improve upon it. But as the allies gather in Brussels this week for their annual meeting, many are wondering whether the American president is intent on wrecking it.

(…)

During its existence, NATO has often been strained as the security and political environment evolved. After the Cold War, it found a new purpose, defending Muslims in the Balkans, and after 9/11, helping the United States fight terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and elsewhere.

Former Communist countries swelled the alliance from 12 members to 29, with others knocking on the door even now, concerned about an aggrieved and aggressive Russia.

Across seven decades NATO has invoked its Article 5 mutual defense commitment only once: to rally to the defense of the United States after the attacks of 9/11. Even today, the armed forces of 39 countries are serving, and sometimes dying, with American troops in Afghanistan.

More than 70 (NATO and non-NATO) countries are part of the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State; two dozen countries have joined a global counterterrorism initiative.

In short, NATO remains central to major American national security initiatives in a world shaken by the rise of an increasingly assertive China, the expansion of competing power centers from India to Saudi Arabia, the surge of migration from the Middle East and Africa and the dislocations caused by globalization.

Coincidentally, this Editorial comes on the same day that the President took to Twitter once again to repeat a frequent, and false, criticism that he’s made about the alliance and our European partners in the past:

As I’ve said before, this is a criticism that the President has made before and, to be fair, it’s been one that President’s before Trump have also made. For many years after the end of the Cold War, American Presidents complained publicly and privately that the United States was bearing a disproportionate share of the financial burden when it came to defense spending among NATO members, although it was recognized that, in many cases, there were practical reasons why some NATO members were not spending more on defense. In any case, at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, it was agreed among the members that each member would seek to spend at least 2% of their respective Gross Domestic Product on defense, at least some part of which would be intended to be utilized as part of the alliance in the event that it was necessary. It’s important to recognize that this agreement was reached only four years ago and that it was understood at the time that it would take many members some time to reach the 2% goal due to domestic political and other considerations. Additionally, it was recognized that some NATO members, such as Iceland, would find it hard to meet this goal given the fact that they have no military, and thus no defense budget to speak of. In those cases, it was understood that these smaller member nations would contribute to the alliance in other ways. In Iceland’s case, for example, the island nation serves as an important mid-Atlantic location for alliance air assets and as a port for American and other naval forces. The President, however, continues to either not understand what the NATO alliance is all about and what was agreed to at the aforementioned 2014 summit meeting. Contrary to the manner in which the President continues to frame the issue, the 2% spending goal is not part of the NATO Treaty nor is it some kind of “dues” that each member owes to either the alliance or to the United States.

In addition to not understanding, or deliberately misstating, what the defense spending goal is all about, it’s also clear that the President either does not understand what the alliance is all about or the value it provides to us because of its existence. Leaving aside the fact that it has helped to keep Europe, which was the site of two of the bloodiest wars in human history over a span of just thirty-one years, at peace, the alliance and the American presence in Europe serve several important purposes for the United States and the rest of Europe. The primary purpose, of course, is the role it has played in checking Soviet and now Russian adventurism in Europe over the past seven decades, but its role goes far beyond that. The air, land, and sea bases that the United States is able to take advantage of in Europe thanks to the alliance have provided us with a significant advantage in moving both men and material during the Persian Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. This has helped to save significantly on transportation and other costs In the same respect, military hospitals in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have proven to play an important role in treating wounded American servicemen and servicewomen in all of these conflicts. Finally, as has been pointed out numerous times, it’s worth remembering that the NATO Treaty’s collective defense provisions have been invoked only once, and that was done by the United States in the wake of the September 11th attacks. In response, our NATO allies responded as they committed themselves to do, with many nations provided personnel, material, and financial support to the fight against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and their soldiers have fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere for the past seventeen years. For the President to trash them now is both short-sighted and stupid.

As the Times editorial goes on to note, the President’s attacks on the alliance ignore the value that the alliance brings to the United States and the indespinsible role it plays for us:

NATO is not a golf club, and money, the only thing Mr. Trump prizes, is just one, narrow measure of the costs and benefits of belonging. This president has shown no understanding of the power of partnership, and the reciprocal nature of its bonds, in an alliance that stands for something far bigger than paying your dues on time.

Mr. Trump is burning up all the credit the United States has accrued with our allies across decades by attacking the basis of this alliance, if not the very idea of any alliance — thus, deliberately or not, doing the bidding of Mr. Putin in his quest to divide the West.

“NATO can withstand four years under Trump,” one former NATO ambassador said in an interview. “I don’t think we’ll withstand eight.”

Given the legacy of Republican support for national security and democratic allies, one might expect that Republican congressional leaders would speak up. But, cowering before Mr. Trump, they have been virtually silent as he has undermined America’s alliances.

The NATO meeting is expected to approve significant new steps to contain Russia, which most of the allies, and most of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers, recognize as a threat, even if the president does not. These measures include establishing two new military commands, expanding cyberwarfare and counterterrorism efforts and approving a new plan to speed the reinforcement of troops and equipment to Poland and the Baltic States to deter Russian aggression.

(…)

At this week’s gathering, the result that matters most is a firm and convincing commitment to a strong NATO, ready to contribute to stability today, and to adapt to future challenges. With no coherent vision of his own to make Americans, and democracy generally, more secure in a world without NATO, Mr. Trump would do well to make that commitment, and honor the friends we have.

Given the way the President has acted, I have no confidence that Trump will recognize this and that the odds are pretty good that this week’s summit will end up being as much of a trainwreck as the G-7 Summit meeting was last month. If that happens, the only person who will be happy is the President of Russia.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. reid says:

    “Iceland ports? Too cold, ice, dumb… another bad Obama deal. Oiiink!”

    /twit

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  2. An Interested Party says:

    Putin is certainly getting his money’s worth…

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Cui bono? Who profits from the weakening of NATO? There’s only one answer, just one: Vladimir Putin.

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  4. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Donnie should have lots of good stuff to report to his puppetmaster when they meet in private, after Donnie has totally alienated the Brits and trashed NATO.

    Donnie’s invited to a state dinner whilst he’s in the U.K. Has anyone informed him that the queen doesn’t do Big Macs and KFC?

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  5. Kathy says:

    If the Cheeto’s idea of what NATO costs were right, wouldn’t he be able to make it right by quite simply reducing the US defense budget?

    Granted said budget is as big as it is in large part due to America’s alliances and commitments all over the world, nevertheless Dennison is very keen on raising it even further.

    So what is he complaining about?

    If he keeps on playing the skunk at the picnic, he’s going to find out how people feel about skunks.

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  6. teve tory says:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Monday, July 9, 2018 at 17:03
    Cui bono? Who profits from the weakening of NATO? There’s only one answer, just one: Vladimir Putin.

    I’ve heard chemotherapy described as “Poison the whole body and hope the cancer dies first.” The way I see trump now is, he’s poisoning the entire government, I just hope the Republican Party dies first.

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  7. drj says:

    Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?

    Trump barely puts much effort into predicting a clean bill of health anymore. He acts like a man with a great deal to hide: declining to testify, dangling pardons to keep witnesses from incriminating him, publicly chastising his attorney general for not quashing the whole investigation, and endorsing Russia’s preposterous claims that it had nothing to do with the election at all. (“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” he tweeted last month, contradicting the conclusion of every U.S. intelligence agency.) Trump’s behavior toward Russia looks nothing like that of a leader of a country it attacked and exactly like that of an accessory after the fact.

    “After” could be optimistic. The logic of Russia’s role in helping Trump has not changed since the election. If Trump’s campaign hired hackers to penetrate his opponent’s communications or voting machines, they would risk arrest. But Putin can hire hackers with impunity. Mueller can indict Russians, and he has, but he can’t arrest them unless they decide to leave Russia. Outsourcing Trump’s hacking work to Putin made perfect sense for both men in 2016, and still does.

    And if you’re Putin, embarking upon a coveted summit with the most Russophilic president since World War II, who is taking a crowbar to the alliance of your enemies, why wouldn’t you help him in 2018 and 2020? Ever since the fall of 2016, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately turned downan Obama-administration proposal for a bipartisan warning to Russia not to interfere in the election, the underlying dynamic has been set: Most Republicans would rather win an election with Putin’s help than lose one without it. The Democrats, brimming with rage, threaten to investigate Russian activity if they win a chamber of Congress this November. For Putin to redouble his attack — by hacking into voting machines or some other method — would be both strategic and in keeping with his personality. Why stop now?

    Meanwhile, the White House has eliminated its top cybersecurity position. That might simply reflect a Republican bias against bureaucratic expertise. But it might also be just what it looks like: The cop on the beat is being fired because his boss is in cahoots with the crooks.

    Trump being a Russian asset is the simplest explanation for what we are witnessing.

    Sometimes things are what they seem.

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  8. Mister Bluster says:

    …Counterpart — Or His Handler?

    “He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from Da Nang to Hanoi in Vietnam. Trump spoke to Putin three times on the sidelines of summit here, where the Russia meddling issue arose.
    “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ ” Trump said. “And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.

    Lap Dog comes to mind.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @drj: You beat me. Every word of that long Jonathan Chait piece is a must read. An excellent summary of the state of the case as best he can with public information.

    No one in NATO has kompromat on Trump. Putin likely does. And it seems like every action by Trump confirms it. As Paul Campos at LGM notes in his post on Chait’s article,

    But we know this can’t be true because that would be very disturbing, and we don’t like to be disturbed (hi Maggie).

    This needs to be taken seriously. I’ve commented before that Mueller has to stay on the case until we know why Trump is doing this. Pray gawd he gets there soon.

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  10. grumpy realist says:

    i wouldn’t be surprised if the EU, China, and Japan (plus assorted South American countries as they recover from silly economics) decided “oh, the heck with it” and decided to do a TTP all by themselves and stopped bothering about Trump completely.

    Brazil’s already becoming that alternative source of soybeans for the Chinese, for example. We decide to continue in our huffy sulk stance for multiple years–chances are that by the time we decide to get out of our snit and rejoin the world it will have already passed on.

    Usually empires collapse due to loss of power. In this case it’s blind stupidity.

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  11. MBunge says:

    The air, land, and sea bases that the United States is able to take advantage of in Europe thanks to the alliance have provided us with a significant advantage in moving both men and material during the Persian Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War.

    I know this is pointless but just so I can say I tried…

    The Iraq War is one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes ever made by the United States of America. It got thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed for no good reason and created or exacerbated problems we’ll be dealing with for decades. If you think NATO’s role in enabling that horrific mistake is an argument in favor of its existence, you are not an intelligent, civilized person. You are are a grunting savage and NATO is a forest god made out of twigs and your great-grandfather’s excrement.

    Oh, and one more time…

    The gross domestic product of the Russian Federation in 2017 was 1.577 trillion dollars.
    The gross domestic product of Australia in 2017 was 1.323 trillion dollars.

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

    Think China lies awake at night worrying about how it’s going to contain the awesome dynamo that is Australia?

    Mike

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  12. Kathy says:

    @drj:

    Trump being a Russian asset is the simplest explanation for what we are witnessing.

    A very interesting read. Thanks for the link.

    But I hope it’s wrong. As satisfying as it would be to find the super-patriotic GOP elected and supported a traitor, I hope it’s wrong.

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  13. Brooklyn Dave says:

    @MBunge: Why do you always have to argue in bad faith, huh? Are you claiming that because the Iraq war was a bad idea we shouldn’t have the ability to move troops and material quickly around the world? Are you sure we’ll never have the legitimate need to move troops? There are a number of reasons we might want to send troops and they aren’t just forms invasion. You might also note that our allies aren’t asking us to remove our men and women. Commons sense dictates not to throw away a massive advantage just because of a policy mistake, no matter how bad it was. As to the size of the Russian economy, that’s just one factor – Russia has shown a real talent for destabilizing other countries, or haven’t you been paying attention. They also have a large army they’re willing to use, just ask a Crimean or Ukrainian, plus nuclear weapons. I don’t think anyone takes your “concerns” seriously, not even you.

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  14. CSK says:

    It’s Kavanaugh.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Does it matter which Federalist Society Stepford judge it is?

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @MBunge: And the only reason we worry much about Russia is Trump.

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  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Brooklyn Dave:
    @Bunge is not capable of making an honest argument. The Cult members all tell Trump’s lies. It’s all they have in their little heads. You have to stop thinking of them as fully human – cult members are not normal people.

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  18. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    There’s some wailing from the fundies that Kavanaugh isn’t sufficiently strong on religious rights.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    @MBunge: What a disingenuous fluffer you are…you constantly bring up Russia’s GDP as if that dismisses anything that Putin does…there is plenty of evidence to show that he wants to wreck the Western Alliance…you are a useful idiot condoning the treasonous actions of your crush in the White House…you should polish that knob more and write bullshit less…

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  20. michilines says:

    @CSK: First!

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  21. Kathy says:

    @Brooklyn Dave:

    Are you claiming that because the Iraq war was a bad idea we shouldn’t have the ability to move troops and material quickly around the world?

    He seems to be blaming NATO for the 2003 war in Iraq.

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  22. Mikey says:

    A relevant, interesting, and scary Tweet thread from former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1016435137708544001.html

    1. I don’t think we are fully grappling with the possibility that we could be on the on the cusp of a completely new era, a fundamental reshaping of the international order. And I don’t mean over the course of the Trump Administration. I mean by next week.

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  23. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: it’s the Federalist Society Stepford Judge who previously worked for Ken Starr, and now says a President cannot be indicted or criminally investigated until the end of his term.

    Trump made the choice that is best for him, and which will be the hardest for his Republican Senate to conform without intellectual and moral contortions.

    I expect him to be sworn in in mid August with every Republican Senator voting to confirm, and a handful of Democrats up for election in risky seats (if the Republicans can line up the votes, there is no reason our team should make politically risky votes that have no useful consequences)

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  24. Gustopher says:

    Eep. I’m in a moderation queue. Is it the bar’s WiFi network? Let’s turn to another network.

    (If this also ends up in the moderation queue, don’t bother releasing it… unless you just happen to like it, I guess)

    From a children’s book I am writing:

    I regret to inform you about Jesus Christ’s demise,
    But in three days time he is scheduled to rise.

    There’s nothing to do but wait for our Lord,
    We have chocolate bunnies and eggs in case you get bored.

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  25. Kathy says:

    The other thing Benito the Cheeto doesn’t seem to understand is the meaning of “global power.” America is the only country that can project power on a global scale, and deploy forces in more than one major theater of war at a time.

    Russia, China, Britain and France might send forces far away for a while, but they couldn’t invade a whole country on the other side of the world, nor maintain deterrent forces in several continents.

    That’s what drives up the US defense budget, which to reiterate Dennison wants to increase, not the contributions of NATO allies.

    Also one BIG reason america can project power so far is the system of alliances built up over the years. This allows for bases for ground, sea and air forces, hospitals, transportation networks, etc.

    Given his job, you’d think he should know this.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: “America First!” is going to make America something other than the Superpower it has been for the past seventy years.

    We will be a regional power, with ambitions beyond our borders, and nuclear weapons — basically a Russia in the Western Hemisphere.

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  27. Richard Gardner says:

    @reid:

    As a former resident of Iceland (Ísland) the naval port issue is negligible these days and pretty much obsolete by 1980 (former site of a SOSUS station was a big deal and its existence classified at the time), but the airport (Keflavikurflugvollur) is major even today. But Iceland is such an outlier (and tiny, under 350k) that mentioning it is just a distraction.

    Meanwhile, except for the former-Soviet Balkins, no wars in Europe since 1945 = success to me.

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  28. teve tory says:

    I had to get offline too early last night, but lots of DC-connected tweets happened yesterday from 6ish on that read like “Just saw Kavanaugh. Perfect hair.” “Kavanaugh just left here in towncar with 3 black SUVs around him.” etc.

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  29. teve tory says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The Cult members all tell Trump’s lies. It’s all they have in their little heads. You have to stop thinking of them as fully human – cult members are not normal people.

    I grew up in the redneck (strike one) part of Florida (strike two). Trumpers seem like perfectly normal humans to me. Below average, racist, white, arrogant nitwits who are also super-insecure and prone to fear. The county i live in went 70/30 Trump/Clinton, and the 30% was only because the county’s 20% african american. literally 85-90% of the white people here voted for Trump.

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  30. Kathy says:

    @teve tory:

    I grew up in the redneck (strike one) part of Florida (strike two).

    Disney, EPCOT and Kennedy Space Center, so strike one-and-a-half.

    The county i live in went 70/30 Trump/Clinton,

    (strike three)? 😉

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  31. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    “America First!” is going to make America something other than the Superpower it has been for the past seventy years.

    That ought to make Master Vlad very happy.

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  32. teve tory says:

    @Kathy: Disney, Epcot, kennedy are all below what we call the Bubba Belt. If you look at I-4 on a map it bisects florida. Those things you mentioned are at or below that line. Anything significantly above that line is White Trash Florida.

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  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @teve tory: @Kathy:
    I grew up (well, for a couple years) in a trailer, by a bayou, in Niceville, Florida. Niceville is next to Fort Walton Beach.

    Trailer
    Bayou
    Panhandle
    In the early ’60’s.

    I will not be out-trashed.

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  34. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I spent the first part of my USAF career living in a trailer in Mary Esther.

    Airmen didn’t get paid much back then.

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  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MBunge: GDP for Mexico is only a trillion and change and yet you and Trump spend a lot of time worrying about Mexico. It’s almost as though economics is only part of the whole story. Hmmmm…

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  36. teve tory says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Having Eglin nearby bumps up the Trashiness. 😛

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  37. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    @teve tory:

    My hometown. Population: 5,000. Poverty rate: 40%. Stoplights: 2.

    Prominent white nationalist leader sleeping with his father in law’s (and other white nationalist leader) wife. Fight breaks out in trailer park. One white nationalist skedaddles to the town’s wal-mart, where the fight continues.

    No one, but no one, out trashes me.

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  38. Neil Hudelson says:

    Please de-moderate my comment.

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  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    I actually attended Mary Esther elementary after we moved from Niceville to Hurlburt Arms apartments. I remember it as the first school where I ever noticed a teacher was ‘hot.’ Ah, puberty.

    @Neil Hudelson:
    OK, you win. I only spent a couple of years in the panhandle. I was born in Los Angeles (albeit to a 16 year-old mother and absent father) which has quite a few stop lights. And my previous residence before Niceville happened to be in France, which does rather dent my white trash origin story.

    @teve tory:
    My father was at that point a sergeant skippering a landing craft which was used in part to train Rangers at Eglin. He used to pick the guys up after their wilderness training. He talked about guys being physically hauled aboard just to sprawl on the deck, wet and filthy, and fall so deeply asleep they could only be left where they dropped.

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  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    Please de-moderate my comment as well, thanks.

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  41. al Ameda says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Prominent white nationalist leader sleeping with his father in law’s (and other white nationalist leader) wife. Fight breaks out in trailer park. One white nationalist skedaddles to the town’s wal-mart, where the fight continues.

    No one, but no one, out trashes me.

    Wait, wasn’t this story this recounted by Boomhauer to Hank Hill on “King of the Hill”?

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  42. JohnSF says:

    I’m late, so this may not be read, but anyway:
    Both NATO, and the US-Japan security arrangement, had an underlying rationale determined by the Truman administration, and maintained by every successor to the present, that the security of the United States required that no hostile Power dominate or become capable of dominating multiple primary centres of industrial/technological capacity i.e. military power potential.
    Those primary centres being: the US itself, UK, W Europe, Japan, USSR.
    Today you’d have to add China and arguably India to the list, combine UK with Europe to be viable, and relegate Russia to secondary rank.
    BUT MBunge the economic eclipse of Russia arguably makes it even more dangerous, because their obvious strategic play, if they are unwilling to accept a rule-based order which would relegate them to irrelevance as a global Power, and expose the Putin regime to the risks of normalcy (unless they want to play mini-Me to Beijing) is to split the alliance, divert the US to isolation or at least Pacific-and-Americas-only orientation, and coerce a divided Europe into becoming their economic servitor.

    For the USA this would risk a monumental strategic failure; even today the EU is the only region that can stand comparison to the USA and China in power potential, and is still arguably ahead of China in leading edge technology and industrial/technical integration.

    It’s also a really daft play from the Russian P.O.V. in the longer term IMHO; if the key European alignment (Germany-France plus Benelux and Italy as a bonus) hold then Russian coercion could backfire bigly.
    You want to see German/French defence spending at 4%?
    That would be c. $240 billion, half US spending, roughly double China; if the rest of core EU pitched in at same levels you’re knocking on the door of US levels.
    Money enough for, ooh, let’s see, multiple carrier fleets and support, full spectrum global basing (location options including but not limited to Azores, Fr. Guiana, Reunion, Polynesia, New Caledonia), globally deployable corps level air mobile/amphibious forces and multi-year capable logistic support, full spectrum air forces including inter-continental range bombers and local air supremacy capability, full range of variants of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, SSBN’s into double figures, SSN into high double figures, global satellite nets for GPS/recon/com, capacity for corps to army scale full on armoured/artillery expeditionary logistics, etc, et bloody cetera.

    Be careful what you (for arbitrary value of “you”) wish for, because you may receive it.

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  43. teve tory says:

    You want to see German/French defence spending at 4%?
    That would be c. $240 billion, half US spending, roughly double China; if the rest of core EU pitched in at same levels you’re knocking on the door of US levels.

    I’m trying to imagine how long german and french governments would last after telling their citizens they were cutting way, way back on medical care in order to buy a bunch of guns and bombers and destroyers.

    Does anyone know how long a snowball can last in hell if you give it sunglasses and a little hat?

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  44. JohnSF says:

    @teve tory:
    Well, it’ would NOT be politically easy at present. I would prioritise health spending over military myself, by preference.

    BUT countries can change priorities surprisingly fast if security environments go bad to the extent that a Trumpian disengagement from NATO plus a pushy Russia would entail.

    Going direct to 4% would probably be wasteful in any case, you’d want to get there in stages if you wanted to get there at all. And in practice I’d wouldn’t expect some of the items on my imaginary shopping list to be bought anyway. For instance, why bother with CVN-centric fleets if you’re primary concern is N & E Europe, or even the Med & Near East?
    Europe hardly needs fleets in the Pacific Ocean, after all.
    Around 2.5% to 3% should suffice for forces required to deter Russia and key goals in neighbouring regions.

    France already spends at about 2.2% IIRC, and has a pretty good welfare system, so getting Germany and other EU/NATO core from 1.2% to matching levels is surely doable.

    It’s easy to forget that Germany was at 2.5% + (and France at about 3.5) as recently as the early 90’s with health spending still pretty ..umm… healthy 🙂
    Going further back, in the 60’s 70’s and early 80’s defence spends often were over 4% and up to 6.5% for France.
    And still health and welfare spends were good enough.
    And part of the reason for the taper down is that a lower percentage of a growing economy gives similar real money, especially if you’re not blowing vast sums on global rather than theatre requirements, and gold plating projects that enrich contractors.

    The whole defence vs social spending as an absolute choice is not, IMHO, as stark as sometimes thought.
    In fact, I’ve noticed a tendency on the rightish side of American commentary over past couple of decades at least, to use this as an excuse for NOT funding health and social provision properly: “The Europeans can only afford their welfare states because they’ve been free riding on the USA since World War 2”. At best this is misleading.

    Anyway my fundamental argument is, when it comes to security arrangements, hitting it with a sledgehammer is not a good way to fix a surface crack.

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  45. teve tory says:

    Trump wants to be the center of attention and he wants to destroy anything that Barack Obama built. Obama worked hard on the NATO alliance and built a strong relationship with Angela Merkel, so Trump is tearing down NATO and howling about Merkel. There’s nothing more to this, and no one should bother pretending otherwise.

    -kevin drum

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