Donald Trump has previously announced that NATO had outlived its usefulness. He said he intended to turn it into a protection racket instead, where our allies had to pay us – or else – if they wanted our help.
“I’d say, ‘folks, we love protecting you, we want to continue to protect you’…but they have to pay, they have to pay.”
Now he has suddenly decided that NATO needs to be turned against the Islamic State. Observers, not to mention participants, will clearly have to get used to the whiplash effect of the Trump cash-and-carry doctrine.
Speaking to ABC News’ Tom Llamas Thursday, Trump announced his new plan for NATO:
“We’re going to hit them very hard, it’s very true, it’s very possible that we should use NATO…I like the idea of using NATO and also neighbors that aren’t in NATO and take them out. You gotta take them out.”
Watch courtesy of ABC News:
This is a bit different than what he was saying in March about NATO:
“It’s going to have to be either readjusted to take care of terrorism or we’re going to have to set up a new — a new coalition, a new group of countries to handle terrorism because terrorism is out of control.”
The difference, Trump said, is that NATO “listened” to him and took his advice and “changed”:
“I was the one that said NATO is obsolete because they don’t cover terrorism properly, you remember that. That was about four months ago, I took a lot of heat. Three days later they came up and they said, ‘Trump is right.’”
Actually, that never happened: NATO forces fought in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014 to “ensure that it would never again be a safe haven for terrorists.” In other words, NATO did not ignore the threat of terrorism until Donald Trump opened his mouth.
It would be useless to try to delve into the workings of Trump’s mind, which seems to bounce from ‘yuge’ idea to ‘yuge’ idea, almost at random. If this reasoning is what gets Trump to sleep at night, we’ll have to leave him to it.
What is more critical is NATO itself. Trump seems to envision himself as a president with almost unlimited powers. He can’t simply “use” NATO for anything. There are 27 other countries in the alliance and they are not simply mindless appendages of the Trump, er, um…I mean, American empire.
NATO describes its decision-making process as consensus, a word foreign to oligarchs:
NATO provides a unique opportunity for member countries to consult and take decisions on security issues at all levels and in a variety of fields.
A “NATO decision” is the expression of the collective will of all 28 member countries since all decisions are taken by consensus.
What Trump seems to envision is NATO as an offensive alliance. But it is not. And let’s face it, the circumstances in 2003 resulted from the shock of the World Trade Center attacks. It was before opinion began to turn against Bush’s bungled foreign policy, before the economic collapse, before austerity brought Europe to its economic knees, before BREXIT put further pressure on European nations.
Admittedly, Trump is not the only one to argue that NATO is obsolete, but that view is predicated on the premise that NATO existed solely to counter the Soviet Union. This was one of its purposes, but not its only:
It is often said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This is only partially true. In fact, the Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.
Trump’s worldview encompasses a Christian West under assault from a hostile Muslim invasion (and don’t forget those pesky Mexican planes attacking Trump rallies (dropping rapists and taco salads?). Trump’s worldview is less nuanced than that of the average third-grader, and his use of the English language languishes at about the same level.
George W. Bush’s cowboy diplomacy has already exposed the weakness of a foreign policy bereft of any understanding of nuance: Two seemingly endless wars, one of them completely pointless, a destabilized Middle East (and resultant rise of ISIL) and a collapsed economy. President Obama’s foreign policy has merely supplied the exclamation point.
Bush will look like a rodeo star in comparison to Trump. Trump’s plans for NATO (whatever they end up being) will inevitably be the worst plans EVER. Sad.
Photo: Screen capture, ABC News