The case against NATO

What once was a defensive alliance dedicated to European security now has little to do with either defense or Europe

Daniel Larison

The goal of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization used to be, as its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, phrased it, "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." Today, the only reason to keep NATO going seems to be to give Americans a reason to be "in" Europe when there is no longer any need for American military involvement in European affairs. Putting the alarmism of the past few years aside, Europe is under no threat from Russia, which the Europeans seem to understand far better than Americans do. And since its reunification, Germany has become the economic and political heart of a peaceful project of European union. Sixty years since its founding and nearly 20 years since the end of the Cold War, it is well past time to dismantle NATO.

In the end, the main argument for perpetuating the NATO relic is that it provides the support structure for projecting power into remote parts of the globe where American interests are even less clearly defined. In other words, what once was a purely defensive alliance dedicated to European security now has little to do with either defense or Europe. The Alliance is not only outdated for America’s European allies, who increasingly see no reason to participate in "out-of-area" missions, but also functions as a potential enabler of American involvement in parts of Asia and Africa where no vital American interests are at stake. By keeping NATO in existence, Washington leaves itself open to the temptation to meddle in far-flung parts of the globe, even as it provides the superficial "multilateral" cover to make U.S. military intervention overseas more politically palatable.

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