All heck broke loose. Neocons are rending their clothing again. I'd like to meet their tailor.
However, the idea is not so far-fetched. In fact, Trump does not go far enough.
First, this was the exchange between The Donald and Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor.
DIEHL: Back to foreign policy a little bit, can you talk a little bit about what you see as the future of NATO? Should it expand in any way?
TRUMP: Look, I see NATO as a good thing to have — I look at the Ukraine situation and I say, so Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they’re not doing anything. And I say, why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of the Ukraine not dealing with — why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war, okay, with Russia? Why are we always the ones that are doing it? And I think the concept of NATO is good, but I do think the United States has to have some help. We are not helped. I’ll give you a better example than that. I mean, we pay billions — hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are.
DIEHL: Hundreds of billions?
TRUMP: Billions. Well if you look at Germany, if you look at Saudi Arabia, if you look at Japan, if you look at South Korea — I mean we spend billions of dollars on Saudi Arabia, and they have nothing but money. And I say, why? Now I would go in and I would structure a much different deal with them, and it would be a much better deal. When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore.Before rolling your eyes, answer these questions: What did NATO do to stop the attack in Brussels this week? Paris? Charlie Hebdo?
The answer is: Nothing. NATO was set up to stop the Soviet Union (which no longer exists) not the Islamic State (which does exist).
NATO allows most members to sponge off U.S. taxpayers to pay for their military. We agreed to defend them, they agreed to let us. (Harry Truman sucked at international negotiations.) The world's average for a nation is to expend 2.1 percent of its GDP (economy) on its military.
We spend 3.3 percent -- or 50 percent above average.
Saudi Arabia spends 12.9 percent, Israel 6.2 percent, South Korea 2.4 percent, and Britain 2.0 percent. So those allies are doing their part.
But Japan? Germany? Italy? Spain? They spend 0.9 percent to 1.1 percent,
The Soviet Union died a quarter-century ago. Keeping such an organization for the common defense of Europe is fine, except, what does that have to do with us? Why should we bankroll the defense of Europe?
David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, agrees with Trump. According to Stockman, Russia is a third world country: "Its entire expenditure for national defense amounts to just $50 billion, but during the current year only $35 billion of that will actually go to the Russian Armed Forces. On an apples-to-apples basis, that’s about three weeks of Pentagon spending!"
Naturally, Trump’s GOP rivals crawled out of their time warps to calamity-howl the very idea of getting realistic about NATO. Not surprisingly, Governor Kasich said Trump was “dead wrong”, and then unleashed another barrage of his patented beltway stupid-speak:
"We clearly have to make sure we strengthen NATO, we have to make sure that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understands we will arm the Ukrainians so they fight for freedom,” Kasich told Anderson Cooper. “We need NATO. NATO is important; we all wish they would do more.”
The man is still campaigning for the Lithuanian vote in Youngstown — so maybe he has no particular reason to think about the matter. But at least someone should disabuse him of the fairy tale that the nationalist politicians, crypto-Nazi thugs and thieving oligarchs who seized the Ukrainian government are some kind of latter day “freedom fighters.”
But Ted Cruz is another matter. When it comes to foreign policy, the guy is just plain whacko. He has been so pumped full of neocon ideology that he fairly oozes jingoistic bile:
“It has been Russia’s objective, it has been Putin’s objective, for decades to break NATO. What Donald Trump is saying that he would unilaterally surrender to Russia and Putin, give Putin a massive foreign policy victory by breaking NATO and abandoning Europe.”
Needless to say, there is not a single accurate point in that statement. The truth is more nearly the opposite. And that begins with George H.W. Bush’s 1989 promise to Gorbachev that in return for his acquiescence to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not be expanded by “a single inch.”
NATO should have declared victory and been disbanded. The defense budget should have been drastically reduced to a homeland defense force because there were no industrial state enemies left in the world.
As it happened, the Elder Bush’s sensible promise was torn-up and dropped into the White House waste basket by Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. It seems that his re-election was threatened by charges from the GOP right-wing that he was soft on defense. So his solution was to invite Poland, the Baltic states and most of the remainder of the now disbanded Warsaw Pact to join NATO.
What should have been a vestigial alliance of 15 nations slated for zero was transformed into a menacing “Gang of 28” that virtually surrounds Russia. Yet aside from the now 25-month old conflict over the Ukrainian coup and the 2008 inter-mural fight over the borders of Stalin’s home country of Georgia between Moscow and a local crook, there was never any conflict at all.
During 15 years in power from 1999 through February 2014, Putin had demonstrated no desire whatsoever to swallow non-Russian peoples. And he has made it clear since then through the Minsk agreement that he supports an independent government in the Ukraine — so long as the legitimate demands of the Russian-speaking Donbas region for a measure of autonomy and safeguards are implemented.Forget Russia. The enemy now is the Islamic State. NATO is useless. Less than useless. Turkey is a member, which would be like having East Germany as a member back in the Cold War. In fact, we would be better off dumping Turkey in favor of Russia. We have a common enemy. Putin does not bother me. Hell, we would not have won World War II without Stalin. The two-year Battle of Stalingrad chewed up the Wehrmacht (and the Soviet Army).
NATO did its job. Time to move on. Trump would renegotiate with them. I would walk away.
We have free trade agreements with all these nations. On the other hand, we are covering their defense costs. They say generals prepare for the last war. Neocons prepare for World War II, over and over and over again. By questioning the need to continue subsidizing NATO and similar defense pacts, Trump is engaging in critical thinking. By repeating "NATO is important" and such, Kasich and Cruz reveal themselves to be as intellectually shallow as liberals who say abortion good (ugh), affirmative action good (ugh), military bad (ugh). Kasich and Cruz might as well be community organizers for all the thought they put into NATO.
Trump thinks outside the box, adapts to the situation, and turned his millions into billions along the way. He is a chief executive officer, which is what the job of president really is. He also has the military training required to be commander-in-chief, but that is a different matter. For now, NATO is an expense we can no longer afford. Time to bring our troops home. World War II ended 70 years ago, the Cold War 25.