In the wake of President Trump’s first overseas trip, many are wondering whether the President’s campaign trail rhetoric questioning our commitment to NATO is now starting to manifest itself as policy.
Amid the President’s omitting to mention Article Five’s defense mechanisms in his speech to NATO and subsequently Germany’s Chancellor Merkel’s statement that Europe must “truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” the future of NATO is starting to look uncertain for the first time its long history.
Whatever the case, the fact remains that NATO is a prime example of an extraordinarily successful American foreign policy maneuver that remains as important as ever in ensuring the stability of the international system and, consequently, America’s own security.
It is exceedingly rare nowadays that a democracy or republic engages in military conflict with another such democracy. However, much of the world remains in the grips of authoritarian or oligarchic governments, whether Putin’s Russia or Communist China, that still readily engage in conflicts contrary to the ideals of human freedom, dignity, and independence.
NATO, strung together by moral commitments, military cooperation, and most importantly its Article Five deterrence and activation mechanism, prevents authoritarian aggressors such as Putin’s Russia from engaging in a slow divide-and-conquer conquest of Europe.
Furthermore, NATO’s stability gives confidence to America’s other allies outside of Europe that America is indeed committed to partaking in aiding in their protection and security.
Undoubtedly America’s commitment to NATO is both costly and risky. However, the costs and risks of not keeping our commitment to NATO are far greater in the long run. Were Europe to become destabilized and fall into the grips of authoritarians, it would only be a matter of time before conflict arrived on America’s shores as well.
America learned that firsthand in the World War 2 era, when a decade of American neutrality in the 1930’s, while authoritarians slowly conquered territory by territory, was not able to stop the country from being targeted come the early 1940’s.
When Putin’s Russia invaded Crimea, much of America fiercely condemned it because, despite it being a relatively small-scale action, it was precisely the kind of brinkmanship that threatened to test America’s commitment to European security.
Furthermore, were America’s commitments to be questioned, then our allies may seek new alliances and blocs to ensure their security. We may find some of these blocs eventually are no longer our friends but suddenly competitors or even outright hostile. This would be a disastrous weakening of America’s influence and security.
Despite the costs and risks, America is deeply intertwined in the world’s and must engage. If we don’t, we will soon enough face the dire consequences of those who are opposed to interests slowly gaining power and a better position.
There undoubtedly is always room for us to examine our foreign policy commitments and strategy and reevaluate their efficiency and positioning. Yet the fundamentals that have guided much of American foreign policy since the end of World War 2 remain as proven and important as ever.
Europe is no longer the central focus of attention in world affairs as it was throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, as other regions of the world have modernized and entered the international arena as well.
Nonetheless modern Europe remains a cultural and economic hub with deep ties to the United States. Furthermore, the fact that America no longer has to engage in major conflicts in Europe alleviates a lot of the resources and sacrifice we would otherwise have to make when we are inevitably dragged into various disputes and events.
While those working in our defense, diplomatic, and intelligence communities are on the frontlines of developing and implementing our national security and foreign policy strategies, the American people remain the ultimate arbitrators of the direction of such policies.
The world is presenting ever new and chaotic challenges. Americans should continue to support our national security grand strategy and apparatus that has kept us from disaster over the course of what has been a very dangerous past half-century. While we always ought to seek to adapt to new playing fields, the fundamentals of our strategy remain as firm and proven as ever.
America will always remain a target by those who oppose our ideals of human freedom. Only by supporting a secure international system can we protect ourselves.