Trump is right about NATO

What good is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, anyway?

President Trump at the NATO summit.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Jasper Juinen/Getty Images, Tatomm/iStock)

Our commander in chief is a crude man. Being outraged at whatever he says or does has become an obsession for millions of Americans. But as impolitic as his delivery of the message may be, President Trump is absolutely right when he says the American people are getting a raw deal from NATO, and equally right to insist that, from now on, fellow members of this supposed alliance start paying their fair share "IMMEDIATELY."

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Why is this week's NATO summit even happening in the first place? Didn't all of these people — the ones who matter anyway, I mean; sorry to the deputy commander of the Slovenian Air Force: I'm sure you're a very capable fellow — at the G7 just a few weeks ago? What could they possibly have to discuss? And why is the default attitude of journalists towards these ludicrous photo-op-filled non-meetings one of unquestioning reverence, as if it were the Paris Peace Conference instead of the latest stop on a never-ending vacation for a certain kind of sleazy Eurocrat huckster whose job is to drink Perrier on airplanes and wear an expensive blue suit sans tie? When Scott Pruitt did this stuff, we rightly hounded him out of office; when it's some EU or U.N. apparatchik, we pretend that they are cultured beautiful people rather than layabouts and gleefully quote their cowardly gibes about our leaders in newspapers.

Speaking of vacations, in the European Union employees are guaranteed at least four work weeks of paid vacation a year. In the United States, even mothers who have just given birth are entitled to exactly zero paid days away from their vital mission of contributing to GDP. Europe's humane approach to what sociologists call work-life balance is one of only dozens of metrics according to which the French and Germans and Italians live better lives than Americans. Western Europeans have better and cheaper health care than we have. They get paid more for working less. They have better roads, better schools, better food and much better drink, better houses and furniture. They breathe cleaner air. They worship God in more attractive buildings. They live much longer. They even get away with ignoring their own daft smoking bans.

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One could argue, perhaps plausibly, that it would be perfectly simple for the United States to give at least some of these things to her own citizens tomorrow if only we had a different president and a different Congress and a different Supreme Court and, doubtless, different voters and different billionaires funding our elections. But this is beside the point. What is absolutely clear is that if all the members of the NATO alliance were forced to abide by the actual terms of the treaty to which they are party, they would not be able to provide their citizens with the standard of living to which they are accustomed.

I am a keen supporter of foreign aid; indeed, I think it is a moral requirement for any wealthy nation. But there is all the difference in the world between providing basic medical care to children in Sudan and subsidizing Jean-Pierre's third week catching sun on the Riviera while American women go without their Walmart paychecks to be with their babies.

Forgive me for being a xenophobic reactionary jerk, but watching some Burgundy-sniffing dork snootily explain that Americans are simultaneously morons who are too greedy to take care of one another and also omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent super-beings who exist solely for the purpose of ensuring that the Western world is safe from noted international meanie Vladimir Putin makes me see red — and white and blue. I say this not least because in Italy and Britain and increasingly even Germany their own spoiled populations are ready to rip apart their sham supra-national constitution because they feel that their numerous privileges are threatened by the presence of migrants in numbers that, both in themselves and considered as a percentage of total population, pale in comparison to the number of immigrants accepted by the United States annually for decades.

The existence of NATO rests upon a ludicrous fiction in which we pretend that countries like Bulgaria or Croatia are allies of the United States in any meaningful sense. If war with China or Russia were to come tomorrow, does anyone really think the balance would be tipped in our favor by the brave and experienced fighting men and women of Montenegro, an allegedly sovereign republic with a population slightly higher than that of Louisville, Kentucky?

Which is why I am trying to think of a single good argument to be made in favor of the NATO status quo. The only one that I can come up with involves admitting that the United States is an imperial power with a bunch of vassal states in Europe, who naturally cannot be expected to provide for their own defense out of their meager resources. If this is actually the case, perhaps they could be a bit more grateful to their emperor.

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