America First Vs. NATO Forever

Scott Greer Contributor
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Donald Trump fully fleshed out his foreign policy views last week while the news cycle fixated on his tawdry retweets.

The social media posts are certainly more scandalous, but the real estate mogul’s views on how America should handle the world may be the bigger shock for the Republican establishment.

In an in-depth interview with the Washington Post editorial board on March 21, Trump stated, “I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore.” He then questioned the U.S.’s present commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money,” the Republican front-runner told the Post’s editors. “Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia?”

Trump further explained his non-interventionist stance in an interview with the New York Times editorial board last weekend and doubled down on his view that America can no longer be the world’s policeman — unless other countries start “substantially reimburs[ing]” U.S. military protection.

He summarized his worldview as “not isolationist, but I am America First.”

Those kind of statements did not go over well with the editorial board of another major newspaper — The Wall Street Journal.

In WSJ’s Tuesday edition, there was not one, but three articles that were critical of Trump’s foreign policy views.

The Journal’s Washington bureau chief Gerald Seib wrote the most fair assessment of Trump’s vow to scale down NATO involvement for the paper in analyzing how it differed from Republican orthodoxy on the issue. Seib did imply it was rather troubling, nonetheless.

WSJ foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens claimed Trump’s views echo President Obama’s “retreat” from the world and insinuated it’s a reflection of the businessman’s incredible narcissism.

To drive home the point, the paper issued an editorial deploring Trump’s “ramblings” on NATO and reiterated it was an extension of Obama’s views. Namely it would “accelerate a U.S. retreat begun under Obama” and would leave Europe open to an invasion from Russia.

Clearly, the Journal doesn’t like Trump’s idea of scaling down America’s involvement in NATO and would prefer if America embraced the role as world policeman. Stephens even wrote a whole book arguing for that stance.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has long been the pillar of standard Republican thought on a variety of issues, particularly on foreign policy.

But do Republican voters share the same views?

If the two leading candidates for the party’s nomination are any indication, voters are at least open to views in opposition to the WSJ line. Ted Cruz has criticized Trump for wanting to back away from NATO, but he’s still no neoconservative. Cruz said he was for an America First foreign policy at a December debate and has also stated he’s in favor of a less interventionist agenda. (RELATED: The GOP Is Having An America First Moment)

While there was a certain point and time when opposing NATO would’ve been a death sentence for a GOP presidential candidate, that time ended with the Soviet Union.

Sure, some may think Vladimir Putin’s Russia is just as much of a threat to Europe as the USSR, but that’s a wild exaggeration. The Soviet Union was a world power with an ideology ready to export. The Russian Federation is at best a regional power with only its oil ready to export.

Regardless, contrary to Mitt Romney’s statement in the 2012 race, Russia is not America’s primary enemy in the world. Radical Islam is — and NATO seems a woefully inadequate organization to deal with it.

In the opinions of the Wall Street Journal, rarely any attention is given to how NATO will protect Europe from Islamism. In fact, the alliance’s endeavors in the Balkans inadvertently resulted in the creation of jihadi strongholds in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Additionally, there’s one member state in NATO that seems far more belligerent than Russia. Turkey shot down a Russian plane and instantly set off tensions that nearly led to war with the Federation back in December. Some thought the Middle Eastern state was right to do such a thing, but they conveniently overlooked how Turkey violated the airspace of fellow NATO member Greece’s airspace over 2000 times in 2014 — with no planes shot down.

But its action against Russia, if it had brought retaliation, could’ve led Turkey to dragging all of NATO into World War III over a single, 17-second airspace violation.

That’s on top of Turkey spending most of its effort against ISIS bombing American-backed, ISIS-fighting Kurdish rebels. This has naturally led to the possibility of all-out war with Kurds throughout the region.

Additionally, Turkey is a sham of a democracy which denies the Armenian genocide and flirts with caliphate rhetoric.

Why remain so unskeptical of an organization that allows one of its member states to undermine its very purpose? Why be so committed to a project when your country is one of the few member states that pays the required fair share? Why stay so devoted when America shoulders nearly a quarter of NATO’s financial burden and the bulk of its military personnel?

As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2011, too many NATO member states are “willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”

NATO, as it currently stands, made perfect sense in the Cold War. But we’re no longer living in that era, and most GOP voters would prefer a policy that takes care of America first.

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