Thursday, January 26, 2017

45 And NATO

45's core strategic argument is that the United States is overextended. The core reason for this overextension is that the United States has substituted a system of multilateral relationships for a careful analysis of the national interest. In this reading, Washington is entangled in complex relationships that place risks and burdens on the United States to come to the aid of some countries. However, its commitments are not matched by those countries in capability, nor in intent.

Is it Overextension by Alliance?

NATO is the obvious case. The United States has been involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. NATO has not provided decisive strategic support to these efforts. Many have provided what support they could or what support they wanted, but that level of support was far below the abilities of NATO members.

The members of the European Union have roughly the same collective gross domestic product as the United States, and a larger population. They also have a substantial industrial base. Europe is well beyond where it was when NATO was founded, when it was incapable of collective defense without the United States. NATO members have taken for granted that Washington will bear the primary burden for defense, measured not only in terms of dollars spent, but also in the development of military capabilities. 

As important, the primary strategic activity of the United States for the past 15 years has been in the Islamic world. Many in NATO objected to the U.S. operation in Iraq, and except for the United Kingdom they provided little or no significant support. Alliance members have no obligation to join in conflicts initiated by the United States outside the area of NATO’s focus. 45 accepts that principle but points out that the organization has been irrelevant to U.S. strategic needs.

Where the alliance engaged, it did so with far too little force to constitute a strategic force. Their reasonable argument that the 28-member alliance makes no commitment to out-of-area engagements not undertaken under Article 5 raises the question of what, then, NATO’s value is to the United States. In sum, NATO lacks significant strategic capabilities, and the alliance is defined in such a way that its members can and do elect to avoid those conflicts that matter most to America.

It is therefore not clear that NATO as currently constituted is of value to the United States. The United States is liable for the defense of Europe. Europe is not liable for defending American interests, which today lie outside of Europe. 45 believes this relationship must be mutually renegotiated.

If the Europeans are unwilling to renegotiate, the United States should exit NATO and develop bilateral relations with countries that are capable and are prepared to work with the United States in areas of its national interest in return for guarantees from Washington.

Similar re-examination of our relationships ought to be carried out globally in regard to allies such as Japan and South Korea to assure that such relationships remain of value to both parties, and that the level of effort and risk reflects that value.