“Neither can the U.S. be expected to sustain an expensive role in an alliance [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO] whose chief role is to diminish European fear of a resurgent Germany.”
These may be the sentiments, though not the words of President-elect Donald Trump, who has called NATO “obsolete.” The words are those of the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who served as ambassador to the United Nations for President Ronald Reagan. In an article she wrote for the National Interest in the fall of 1990, it would appear that Kirkpatrick would have agreed with Trump’s bold assertion: “I said a long time ago — that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago.”
In her National Interest article, Kirkpatrck stated almost the same thing: “Many of the international military obligations that we assumed were once important are now outdated,” she observed, adding that it was “time to give up the dubious benefits of superpower status and become again an usually successful, open American republic.”
NATO was formed in a different era, in the aftermath of World War I, as the Stalin-led Soviet Union brought many countries in eastern Europe behind the tyranny of the “Iron Curtain” — nations such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. The Russian war machine appeared to many in the West poised to sweep across western Europe as well, taking over the western part of Germany, France, and perhaps even Great Britain.
Certainly, that was the stated reason given that this extraordinary NATO alliance was necessary: that an attack upon one of its members was an attack upon all of its members, thus telling Stalin that he would face the military might of the United States should he attempt to expand the Soviet Empire westward.
It is vitally important to understand, however, that NATO also had a deeper purpose, which was to end forever America’s traditional non-interventionist foreign policy and tie us to Europe. And as long as the Russian Bear was a military threat, Europeans could count on the United States being heavily involved in Europe’s affairs — and wars.
After World War I, most Americans wanted nothing more to do with Europe, or international “obligations.” In 1920, they went to the polls and elected by a nearly two-to-one margin a candidate who vowed that the United States would not join the League of Nations, as was desired by the global elites of the day. Because of this rejection, the elites formed various internationalist-supporting organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and went to work changing the anti-war psyche of the American public. It took the threat of Adolf Hitler, imperial Japan, and finally, the Cold War against Soviet communism to move Americans from their traditional non-interventionist foreign policy to one that embraced a new global “mission,” of which NATO was an integral part.
But as Kirkpatrick explained in 1990, “There is no mystical American ‘mission,’ or purpose to be ‘found’ independently of the U.S. Constitution,” which was only to “provide for the common defense.”
After the break-up of the old Soviet Union, one would think that NATO was indeed “outdated,” in the words of Kirkpatrick, or “obsolete,” in the words of Trump. But when one realizes that NATO had a second purpose (perhaps the greater purpose, at least in the view of the globalist elites who presently have so much clout in Europe and America), they do not agree that it is obsolete.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the point for these elites who favor a continued American membership in NATO. “We Europeans have our fate in our own hands,” she told reporters in Berlin, adding, “I am personally waiting for the inauguration of the U.S. president. Then of course we will work with him on all levels.”
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, asserted that Trump’s comments had caused much anguish in Europe. “The interview statements of the American president-elect … caused, indeed here in Brussels, astonishment and agitation.”
France's top diplomat Jean-Marc Arault insisted that “the best response” to Trump was “the unity of Europeans.”
“A strong NATO is good for the United States, just as it is for Europe,” declared NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.
When Dwight Eisenhower took over command of NATO in 1950, he said he foresaw an alliance that would include American troops in Europe for about 10 years. In 1961, Eisenhower reportedly urged incoming President John Kennedy to begin the withdrawal of American troops from the continent. According to Richard Reeves, in his book President Kennedy: Profile of Power, Eisenhower told Kennedy that it was time to start bringing the troops home from Europe.
“America is carrying far more than her share of the free world defense,” Eisenhower pointed out, adding that it was time for the other nations of NATO to take on more of the costs for their own defense. Again, this statement is amazingly similar to remarks made recently by Trump, who asserted, “Number two — the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
In his book A Republic, Not an Empire, Pat Buchanan expressed the danger of a NATO alliance, as it is presently constituted. “With the expansion of NATO, we have undertaken the defense of Eastern Europe, forever, as well as Central Europe, from Norway to Turkey," he noted.… "U.S. war guarantees to Poland today, and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Rumania tomorrow, may seem costless, painless, and popular. But so did England’s guarantee of Belgium’s neutrality in 1839, which dragged Britain into the Great War, cost it hundreds of thousands of dead, and inflicted on the empire a wound from which it would never recover.”
NATO — when viewed less as a military defense alliance, and more as a means of reducing the national sovereignty of its member nations — is understandably not considered obsolete. On the contrary, NATO’s expansion to include many of the nations of eastern Europe is extremely relevant to the goal of creating a multinational super-state on the continent of Europe that would also include the United States and Canada.
That is why the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU) — Brexit — was such a blow to the aspirations of these global elites. When America’s incoming president praises Britain’s leaving the EU as “so smart,” and insists, “I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing,” all the efforts of these global elites to build an international governing structure are threatened.
As Kirkpatrick stated in her 1990 essay, Americans should be concerned about an “internationalism” that “looks at the world and asks what needs to be done — with little explicit concern for the national interest.” She pointed out, “Foreign policy becomes a major aspect of a society only if its government is expansionist, imperial, aggressive, or when it is threatened by aggression.”
No wonder that non-interventionist commentator Patrick Buchanan lauded Kirkpatrick in 2007, in an article in The American Conservative, as “the good Neocon.” And it should not be surprising that President George H.W. Bush found no place for her in his administration.
Indeed, it is possible to believe that the words of Kirkpatrick, written in 1990, could be repeated by Trump in 2017 (although certainly in a different style and tone than the scholarly Kirkpatrick), when she observed, “The United States performed heroically in a time when heroism was required,” but “the time when America should bear such unusual burdens is past. With the return of ‘normal’ times we can again become a normal nation.”
It will not be easy, however, because a goal of being a “normal nation” again (a nation running its own affairs), is one which is already being challenged by powerful forces inside our nation, and in Europe.