Enough with Defending Europe

Donald Trump gets what John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and a bevy of hidebound American elites -- Republicans and Democrats -- refuse to get. America's relationship to, and military involvement in, Europe is long overdue for a big overhaul.

World War II ended in 1945. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Yet nearly a generation after the USSR went away, the U.S. is still, broadly, non-Russian Europe's principal defender.


The nations of Western Europe, primarily, affluent for decades, have benefited from American protection at American taxpayers' expense. All this time, Western Europe's progressive leaders enjoyed the luxury of diverting untold treasure into their social welfare systems. Cradle to grave, they call it. Americans provide a disproportionate share of NATO's hardware and soldiers, while the French, for instance, practically give workers every August at the beach. Lose your job? No worries. In Denmark, you can live off the public teat for up to 104 weeks at 90% your previous salary.

The USSR had global ambitions. It was meddlesome and scheming, aiding and abetting bad players across the planet. Russia was then infected with communism, which dovetailed smartly with the historic Russian desire to expand its empire. Communist Russia posed multiple threats to the U.S.

But Putin and the Russians no longer promote or even speak off world revolution and domination. Putin is attempting to reclaim some turf, namely in the Ukraine and Georgia. He has a covetous eye on the Baltic States.

Yes, Putin's in Syria angling to gain a lasting foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean. But that's thanks to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, who in the name of promoting "democratic reform" succeeded in destabilizing much of the Middle East, engendering chaos and bloody conflict. And lest we forget the president’s appeasement of Iran, which is a real enemy of the U.S. 

Why, though, are Putin's machinations and gambits in Europe a U.S. concern? Democrats are using Putin and Russia as convenient fall guys for their election debacle, but what real threat is Putin posing to vital U.S. interests?

Europe needs to be Europe's concern. That's not to excuse Putin's aggression in the Ukraine or any designs he may have on the Baltic States. It's to say that there’s no fundamental American stake in outcomes. That's realpolitik. Its respect for George Washington's warning: avoid entangling -- and harmful -- alliances. Europe's angst about Russia's aims, it's determination to pushback and punish Putin, is happening with the U.S. sharing the risk -- a risk minus hard benefits to itself. Of course, it’s hoped that among Europeans, differences and disputes can be settled peaceably. 

NATO is a relic. It shouldn't be transformed into a roving globalist military machine, as seems the intent, in the quest for a new mission. The U.S. needs to sunset its NATO membership. NATO needs to become the "European Union Treaty Organization" or some such. It's high time for Europeans to reorder their priorities. Or not. Europe's fate belongs to Europeans. No more free rides compliments of the U.S.

Not only should President-elect Trump serve notice that the U.S. will transition out of NATO, but he needs to discard the Wilsonian notion that America's role is to make the world safe for democracy.

America's role is to make the world safe for itself. America isn't the world’s nanny-cop. 

There's a heaping spoonful of folly in the proposition that the U.S. is somehow charged with remaking miscreant governments and societies into benign democratic neighbors. George W. Bush and the neo-cons were very much about democratizing Iraq. This effort, well intended though it was, was doomed to fail. 

Iraq wasn’t post-war Germany, which was a success story in nation-transformation. Germany isn't Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, or any number of places that are dramatically different in many critical aspects. Even if nation-transforming has a ghost of a chance to succeed, it means decades of involvement in the target nations. That's militarily and economically. How many 19-year-old American soldiers would die, and isn't a $19.5 trillion national debt -- and growing -- enough? If others can reform their countries into peaceful, law-abiding, democratic bastions, wonderful, but not at great American expense.

The U.S. is unexceptional in this regard: it’s a nation with practical interests that need to be clearly defined and prioritized, and national security concerns that require a robust defense; that's diplomatic, economic, and military action (conventional and non) against hostiles when they menace critical U.S. interests aboard and/or the homeland. The PRC’s increasing militarization of the South and East China Seas (international waters) are moving toward a threat to U.S. vital interests. 

The U.S. has coexisted with nondemocratic countries since its founding. Bad players there have been and always will be in the world. Americans don't need to like or trust Putin. Realpolitik mandates no blinkers. Putin is, after all, a thug and murderer, and, first and foremost, he’s cold-bloodedly about advancing Russian interests and his (the two are very much entwined). But Russia's czars were a bloody lot; yet Americans had no beef with them as long as they left the U.S. alone.

President Trump will be steely in advancing American interests. Where U.S. interests coincide by cooperating with Putin, so be it. Certainly, a rapprochement that permits the Russians and Americans to defeat Islamic insurgencies (jihads) that threaten both homelands is very good. This will entail tradeoffs. Agreements between or among nations do.

A guy like Trump, who gets The Art of the Deal, appreciates that successful deals are about securing advantages, but, finally, need to be win-wins. How many good deals are a zero-sum games? Putin will require advantages, too. For instance, in dealing with growing and, perhaps, restive Muslim populations within Russia’s borders.

American interests take precedent. Trump shouldn’t let NATO get in the way of a smart deal with Putin.

Back to John McCain, poster boy for the barnacled-encrusted Cold War and Wilsonian mindsets. Regarding Russia, McCain’s doing the very thing a military man shouldn’t: fight the last war.

This from McCain via Reuters:

"I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength," McCain told reporters in the Estonian capital.

"And the best way to prevent Russian misbehaviour by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance."

This isn’t the 1980s. No longer is the world bipolar, split roughly between U.S. and Soviet spheres. The PRC is the coming military power in Asia. Its desire is to supplant the U.S. as the world’s preeminent power. Militant Islam is a ideological-religious and practical threat to nations and worldviews across the globe. Refugee crises are burgeoning in the Old and New Worlds.

NATO members (sans the U.S.) have the wealth to attend their own collective security. What Europeans may lack is the will to contain the Russians, relying on the U.S. to furnish that as well. We don’t need any more American military cemeteries in Europe.   

What Trump needs to say to McCain and Europe: “Enough done. No more.”