Donald Trump

Trump Is Wrong About NATO

Trump can't let himself acknowledge that our problem is not American weakness but American strength.


Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Sipa U/Newscom

Ed. note: Donald Trump recently told The New York Times that U.S. military support for NATO member states should be conditional on whether those states "are paying their bills" to the bloc.

Again Trump has it backwards. According to NATO's internal logic, the U.S. should pay the members—not the other way around—for providing services to the empire and a tripwire for war. The empire doesn't protect; it provokes and endangers. Who would willingly pay for that?

As Andrew Levine, drawing on Andrew Bacevich, notes:

NATO was a particular problem. By the nineties, it had become integral to America's imperial project, but with the Warsaw Pact gone, and the Cold War over, it was hard to make a case that would appeal to anyone outside the war machine's ambit for needing it at all.

However, the empire's stewards did need NATO because they couldn't or didn't want to police the empire on their own, and because the UN could not be counted on to bend to America's will – not with all those pesky little countries with different ideas in the General Assembly, and not with Russia and China having veto rights in the Security Council.

NATO, on the other hand, was a serviceable international organization that the United States could dominate and also, not incidentally, use to keep European powers under its thumb – in the unlikely event that any of them might decide to get uppity.

On Bacevich's telling, this is what American machinations in the former Yugoslavia were about – once it became clear that the US could not remain aloof from the disintegration of that formerly socialist and multi-cultural country without ceding power to the Germans and other European upstarts.

For [Bill] Clinton – or, rather, for the Clintons and their co-thinkers — dropping bombs on Serbians was a way to make NATO relevant, and also to insure that the United States would continue to call the shots in the so-called Free World.

NATO is America's tool. The member states don't need it. America's ruling elite does. That elite got rather upset in 1966 when French President Charles de Gaulle, resenting U.S. overbearance, withdrew his country from NATO's military structure and asked for the removal of NATO troops from France. (France again became a full military member in 2009.) America has always taken the position voiced by George H.W. Bush as he prepared to send his military to war against Iraq in 1990-91: "What we say goes." That's American exceptionalism.

Trump consistently shows an inability to close the deal—ironic, no? Time and time again he's picked up on a piece of a legitimate issue, seemed uninterested in facts and arguments that would develop the point into a decent campaign issue, then botched it. I think I know why: Trump's shtick is that the U.S. is the aggrieved nation; because of weak and stupid leaders it has been taken been advantage of every which way. That's great fodder for a populist demagogue whipping up ignorant voters. Hence, he certainly can't say anything to suggest that rather than being the victim, the U.S. is the victimizer. When was the last time a demagogue harangued, "Our nation has bullied the world long enough! I intend to put a stop to this outrage!"?

Of course, the U.S. should not really pay NATO's members. Rather, the alliance ought to be disbanded. It was never just a defensive alliance, and the defensive mask fell away entirely when the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union disbanded. Since that time NATO has been openly aggressive, as it incorporated former Russian allies and Soviet satellites and moved right up to the Soviet border, violating the promise Bush 41 made to Gorbachev in 1990. Moreover, for years the U.S. has talked about bringing former Soviet Republics Ukraine (where the Obama administration facilitated a coup) and Georgia into NATO, as though that would not be seen as provocative by any sober Russian leader.

Trump, as bad as he is in so many ways, might have performed a value service by seriously putting the NATO question before the public. Too bad his demagogy takes precedence over all. He can't let himself acknowledge that America's—and the world's—problem is not American weakness but American strength.

This piece originally appeared on Richman's "Free Association" blog.

NEXT: Gary Johnson's Response to a #NeverHillary Bernie Bro Was His Best Townhall Moment Ever

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  1. Doesn’t matter.

    Trump blew it on Khan.

    He fell for the oldest trick in the book. If you’re running an unlikeable candidate, against another unlikeable candidate, get your candidate off the stage, and get a victim up on the stage, who’ll speak “truth to power”.

    It would be like the Republicans finding some kid who lost his dad in Libya to put on the stage, saying, “Gee, Hillary. I lost my dad for Libya. Why did you kill my daddy? Why do you want to kill more daddies?”

    And, of course, Hillary would handle it well, saying “collateral damage mumble mumble acceptable losses mumble mumble security stability mumble mumble omelette eggs grumble.” And the media would agree, because, of course, policy has to be above and beyond emotion, and we all have to break eggs to make omelettes, now, don’t we?

    Not Trump. Trump falls for the bait and goes full retard, trash talking someone with absolutely no power. You can trash talk politicians (they deserve it), you can insult the appearance of a mediaette (she got her job looking & sounding smart, not being smart despite ugliness), so people think it’s fair play. You can’t pull that shit with the victim display. He might as well try to go eminent domain on an elderly lady while on camera.

    He could have so easily made it about “securitah imigration, avoid dumb wars like Hillary so kids don’t die”, but, fuck that, he said. Let’s go after little guy.

    He’s trying to see how far his dick can take him before it stops. He probably found out.

    1. Or he’s actually working for Hillary.

      *adjusts tinfoil hat*

      1. Or they’re both working for Johnson.

        *** adjusts tinfoil hat’s tinfoil hat ***

    2. The more info that comes out about Kahn the less sympathetic he seems. Of course it will be interesting to see how much of this info makes it past the wall the media have erected.

      1. What info?

        1. He’s a Shari’a law advocate, registered agent of the Saudi government, has extensive ties to the Clinton Crime network.

    3. Most normal people are going to forget about this Gold Star guy pretty quickly, now that another psychotic Islamonazi from Somalia just knifed some American woman to death in London.

    4. All he had to do was tweet “you’re supporting a woman who voted to send your son to his death,” and this issue dies on the vine and the Khan family joins Cindy Sheehan under the bus.

      1. If only Trump or his handlers were that savvy.


    5. I am surprised by you people. Smh


    6. I don’t buy this. Trump is just being the same Trump we already know and people who hate him over that already hate him and people who love him over that already love him. People are intentionally working themselves up and trying to manipulate others into outrage about any particular case they can get traction on because of their agendas, be it political or financial (ratings). The actual question of whether they can get any traction in the voting public and polls depends completely on emergent tipping-point shit that I don’t believe anyone can predict.

    7. wtf are you talking about

      no one cares about @(#$*@ “khan”

      …. except CNN (and all the other media)

      They just wont shut up about what a huge disaster epic meltdown OMG shitshow it is because they a) don’t want to talk about DNC scandal or anything that would allow Dem base to fragment. and b) its the summer, and no one gives a shit about anything unless its hysterically advertised.

      take a pill and call me back in september.

    8. I maybe wrong but it seems Trump didn’t say anything about khan until a news reporter asked him during an interview and Trumps answer was fine its just that a sentence out of context which is usual for the media?

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  2. Actually with Russia and China expanding global military presence and becoming a greater threat to the EU, now is the perfect time to get more money from the EU. The EU is considering building its own military which would be another way for the EU to carry its own weight in global security so the US could save cash in that scenario too. But if EU doesn’t build its own army and continues to ask the US to protect them, then they need to ante up. Time to pressure the EU.

    1. Except I would trust the EU to build a functional outhouse. Their combined military will obviously be co-ed and trans-friendly, have long maternity benefits, use gender-neutral language, and it will be completely unable to fight a single battle, much less win a war.

      1. The Finns don’t have gendered pronouns, and they held the Soviets at bay in the Winter War.

        1. Well, the Finns did have Simo H?yh?, which was kind of an unfair advantage.

        2. “The Finns don’t have gendered pronouns, and they held the Soviets at bay in the Winter War.”

          After Stalin had cashiered his general staff, and before he called them back from the gulag.

          1. The Finns did seize Soviet territory during the Continuation War but ended their attacks and withdrew from Soviet territory under Allied political pressure.

      2. Don’t forget the military union rules will limit their hours of available fighting to 9-5 with an hour for lunch and mandatory smoke breaks.

        1. Oh yeah.

          Back in my day we were moving around some Iraqi prisoners in ’91. They were Iran-Iraq War vets and were bitching to the interpreter that we were rude attacking them at night. During the Iran-Iraq War, they really did fight 9-5 then shut it down for the evening.

          1. Yeah when both sides are filled with rank amateurs and have almost no night vision gear they tend to avoid night fights.

      3. The Dutch Home Army is unionized.

        1. The sham shield is pretty equal to a union card.

  3. NATO has served its propose and should be disbanded, I’ll give you that, but neither of the major party candidates is remotely considering that. If we’re going to remain a member we ought to try our best to make our various allies live up to their financial obligations which add up to a metric shit ton of money. How in the fuck is that controversial?

    1. Because when their country gets invaded, we get to defend it on our dime. It’s in the article, clear as crystal! You lose Sir! Good day!

    2. Not remotely? Trump seems very close to suggesting that we disband NATO.

      1. That is the expected consequence of his proposal to make members “pay their share”.

    3. Even Obama has complained about Europeans failing to fulfill their obligations under the NATO treaty.

      “Five Reasons Why NATO Nations Don’t Always Pay Their Fair Share”:

      Donald Trump’s suggestion that as president of the United States he wouldn’t defend new NATO nations that haven’t fulfilled their financial obligations to the military alliance may have set off alarm bells internationally ? but he isn’t the first politician to make such statements.

      While the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a political-military alliance comprised of 28 member countries throughout North America and Europe, has been a key force in assisting in the fight against terror, even President Obama, has criticized allies that don’t pay their “fair share.”

      In fact, the US has been complaining about this since 1954 when John Foster Dulles first complained about it.

  4. Good thing Richman pointed out Trump’s a warmonger who wants to expand America’s international bullying. He doesn’t mention Hilarity, but of course she’s the opposite. She is all about peace and love. She would never bomb innocents. Riiiiiight.

    I wonder how much the Hitlery campaign is paying you per article. Hope it’s near what Goldman Sachs or the Saudis pay her, though I doubt it.

    1. I’m fairly certain Richman’s stupid enough to write these articles for free.

    2. Yeah, Hillary really wants to disband NATO.

      1. She wants to increase the numbers of countries that can trip the wire. When these countries know an 800 lb gorilla has their back they will act accordingly in their dealings with Russia, with bluster and bravo that would not exist if they were on their own.

    3. Every article which criticizes Trump must also criticise Hillary? I’ll be sure to check in with you on the next anti-Hillary article which doesn’t mention Trump.

      1. I mean I agree with the thrust of your argument, but I don’t think I’ve seen a anti-Hillary article that doesn’t mention Trump uncritically.

      2. If you hate Trump but don’t mention Hillary, you’re a Hillbot.

        If you hate Hillary but don’t mention Trump, you’re a Trumpelo.

        It is the way of the world.

        1. If you hate Trump but don’t mention Hillary, you’re a Hillbot

          Weird that ‘Trumpelo’, ‘Trumpkin’, ‘Bernie Bro’, and ‘Bernie Babe’ turn up legitimate hits in Reasons search engine but ‘Hillbot’ finds nothing.

          Does Reason have a nom de geurre for the legion of Hill-muppets that undoubtedly exist or is the term ‘Hillary Supporter’ occasionally used sarcastically and we’re just supposed to know the difference?

          I’m open to the idea that there’s a term they frequently used and that I’ve missed it. Much like I’m open to the idea that I even if I’m certain Trumpelos will screech that the system is rigged, it’s little different than Hillary’s Hacks screaming that it’s rigged, bigoted, and sexist.

          1. They’re called Nick.

  5. Aaahhh, America the evil empire.

    Never stop sheldoning Sheldon.

    I’m starting to feel like Regan did about the democrats.

    I didn’t leave the libertarians the libertarians left me.

    Reason, Johnson, the libertarian stance is looking mighty progressive these days….

    1. No one here has ever thought Richman was a libertarian. He’s a poor man’s Chomsky, minus about 100 IQ points.

      1. “Poor Man’s Chomsky’

        Dang, that one stings!

        1. Oooh I concur. That’s a good one.

      2. Clearly the online editor does. Same with Chapman.

    2. It’s funny how so many “libertarians” can see how evil government is when it wants to take your money or kick your ass for possessing a plant, but not when it goes off dropping bombs all around the world.

      1. Your comment might make sense on any of a number of Sheldon’s other moronic opinions about war, foreign policy, and the military, but not this one.

        NATO is America’s tool. The member states don’t need it. America’s ruling elite does.

        Then why don’t they fucking leave? Nobody is forced into joining or staying in NATO. Sheldon even notes that France left the military command but then came back. Nobody bombed France or imposed economic sanctions on the country during the time they were out of NATO command.

        The reality is that NATO members want the juicy intel that Americans collect and like the idea that if one of their non-NATO neighbors gets pushy, a US carrier group can stroll through the area and calm that shit down.

        Nothing that the military is just as much an arm of the government as every other branch has nothing to do with Richman’s idiotic “OMG American Empire is crushing the poor, hapless little countries” argument.

        1. Noting* that the military…

        2. Also, if you read his inane blog, apparently we’ve been mean to Russia, because of some whispers in Gorbachev’s ear.

          1. NATO is illuminati CONFIRMED. Must be run by jews too.

  6. I stopped reading after first paragraph. US should withdrawl from NATO. There is no reason for us to be in it.

  7. The whole article just felt forced. It’s like he pulled scraps of paper from a hat with the words “NATO”, “AMERICA” AND “TRUMP” written on them and then had 5 minutes to write an article including them.

  8. As soon as I saw ‘Sheldon Richman’ in the lead-in I stopped reading.

    I am sure today we will get at least one article of blistering criticism about this –…..t-kraychik

    I remember when Obumbles announced that he intended to fuck us to death and now she is…to thunderous applause.

    1. Good lord I hate Buffett, that rent-seeking piece of shit.

        1. *stares into mirror*




          *turns around, faints*

    2. A “slip of the tongue” on Hillary’s part, or an intentional statement that she can point to when she raises taxes on the middle class after she’s elected?

      * borrow’s Rich’s tin foil hat *

      1. an apostrophe catastrophe!

    3. I would love to speak to anyone in the audience who cheered that line. Clearly they weren’t paying attention, just fawning and feigning understanding. But to actively cheer… Political parties as sports teams at its finest.

    4. I am sure today we will get at least one article of blistering criticism about this –….

      Raising taxes on the middle class is the only way of paying for the welfare state. Top tax brackets in Europe are generally lower than in the US, but progressivity means that the middle class already pays near the top tax brackets.

      If Hillary is going to do that, I’m all for it.

  9. The member states don’t need it. America’s ruling elite does.

    Wrong. They do need it or else they be forced to divert money away from the welfare state to pay for defense.

  10. Does this article have a point? Trump voices a complaint I’ve been hearing since before the Cold War even ended – some of the shitty socialist countries in Europe don’t pull their weight in NATO. Maybe they ought to booted out or the whole thing disbanded and let the Europeans defend themselves.

    Then Richman goes off on Trump while agreeing with him.

    1. It’s weird. Trump lines up on so many issues but because he says things in such a way that makes people have the bad feels we are supposed to toss that aside.

    2. I think it was Richman who excreted the steaming pile saying ‘sure Cankles is evil but we don’t k now what Trump will do so vote Cankles’.

      1. I don’t think so. Richman is absolutely anti-war. Clinton doesn’t fit that bill and he’s been very critical of her. He’s not a fan of Trump either.

        He’s probably never going to live the Adam Lanza/Chris Kyle thing down though.

  11. If I carry a gun on my hip, apparently, that’s a provocation for the thug to rob me.

    1. Exactly. It’s an indication you have something worth protecting.

  12. Reason is having a pants-shitting contest with regards to Trump, and dumb fuck Richman wasn’t going to let it pass without getting in on the action.

  13. By the way, is Reason going to say anything at all about Mofo’s hundreds of millions of dollars for hostages swap with Iran, or are they just going to pretend that didn’t even happen?

  14. Florida man fatally injures ‘Pinky’ the dancing flamingo…

  15. It is the most ridiculous article.

    NATO is the most important institution of Europe and does its job adequately. While Russia serially invades countries in Eastern Europe (see Moldova, Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine) – there is no war in Europe covered by NATO. Countries in Central Europe need NATO a lot, and joined NATO very enthusiastically. Russia changed its name in the nineties – but its imperialism and aggression stayed the same and NATO is as relevant as ever.

    1. Europe is more than capable of defending themselves against the economic basket case that is Russia. They have more than enough money, manpower, and technological prowess and can take care of themselves. They don’t because they don’t have to because we foot the bill.

      1. I don’t think they are. They couldn’t even handle Libya without our help. But the fact that europeans can’t find the will to defend themselves isn’t our problem.

        1. You’re right but part of the reason they’re such a shambles is their reliance on us. They would be capable of defending themselves if they put appropriate resources behind defense but won’t bother so long as Uncle “Moneybags” Sam is paying the tab.

    2. The Soviet Union is gone. If Western Europe can’t handle today’s Russia without the US, then that just goes to show how fucking pathetic they’ve become.

      1. The Soviet Union is gone, we’re now 70+ yrs. away from the end of WWII, and 25+ yrs. past the fall of the Soviet Union.

        Just like sending doctors and medicine to Haiti (or any other foreign aid), it’s not a question of if you’ll displace local doctors and medical infrastructure, but rather, how dependent will the host nation become before things get unbearable for one or both parties. If anything, NATO should’ve been dissolved sooner.

        1. Russia started bunch of new wars after the dissolution of USSR. End of USSR did not end Russia’s imperial conquests.

          1. Russia started bunch of new wars after the dissolution of USSR. End of USSR did not end Russia’s imperial conquests.

            Nobody’s arguing that point. The question is, how is this more of a problem for the US than for Europe?

          2. All of the wars were against (the poorest) independent parts of the former Soviet Union (not an endorsement of those actions!). The Imperial desire may be there, but this isn’t Post-WWII Europe, attempting to seize nations like Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, or even Afghanistan are completely different propositions now then they were then. If Germany somehow imploded tomorrow and all the winds suddenly started blowing in Putin’s favor it would be at least a decade before he controlled half of Germany the way the USSR did throughout the Cold War.

      2. Western Europe has been fucking pathetic for a long time. And they can’t handle either Russia or the Middle East, both of which they are very dependent on for raw materials and energy.

        1. At least part of the reason they’re so pathetic, at least militarily, is that we pretty much handle the defense duties. If they were forced to stand on their feet they would do so. I’d like to think they would, anyway, unless they’re too far gone.

  16. One deck:

    The libertarian case for aggressive war with Russia.

    1. Richman’s all over the place, but I don’t think he’s calling for war with Russia. In fact, he seems to be inviting everyone to roll over and cuddle up to Russia, instead.

  17. Russian aggression is greatly overblown, especially when compared to American aggression.

  18. So why didn’t Richman explain how it is that the NATO arrangement defies a basic principle of economics – that people don’t provide services for free (absent a charitable motivation, which seems unlikely in the case of the word’s largest economic power)? If the members are providing a service to the US, and geting nothing in return, why do they pay their share of direct NATO costs every year? (not sure what Trump means by members not paying their bills. They DO pay their bills for direct NATO costs).

    And why is Reason publishing such drivel? If Richman wrote an article theorizing that Reason should pay its subscribers because Reason is the only beneficiary of the relationship, would Reason think it has merit?

    1. “not sure what Trump means by members not paying their bills. They DO pay their bills for direct NATO costs”

      He meant fighting men and machines, which you knew, but felt the need to defend the Euros, so you ignored.

  19. The empire doesn’t protect; it provokes and endangers. […] NATO is America’s tool. The member states don’t need it. America’s ruling elite does.

    Richman is full of shit. Europe faces serious threats from Russia and the Middle East, and has proven time and again that it is incapable of defending against them. It also faces serious internal instability and tensions; the US military presence in Europe is probably one of the major reasons Europe hasn’t fallen apart completely since WWII.

    The reason the US “provokes and endangers” is because European nations haven’t just outsourced unpleasant military tasks to the US, but also unpleasant diplomatic tasks; it’s of course extremely convenient for European elites to avoid military spending by shifting the burden on the US and pretending that they are “civilized” and “peaceful” at the same time.

    The one thing Richman is correct about is that US “elites” accept these tasks because it servers their interests. But their interests aren’t empire building, they are simple vanity, self-importance, and domestic political power. If the US actually were an empire, we’d have far more say about what happens in Europe, and those nations would pay us a lot of money in taxes.

    In any case, the remedy is the same: the US should unilaterally cut its military spending and withdraw troops from Europe.

    1. Well, in all fairness it also has been a source of instability (see Operation Gladio A and B)

  20. “America’s ruling elite does”

    THAT right there tells it all.

  21. Wait, I’m confused. Where’s the part where it’s all Israel’s fault? Did Richman forget to put it in? Or do I need to RTFA more carefully? Because that’s not happening.

  22. Turkey, NATO, and the US-backed Funding of ISIS | Fire Breathing Christian


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  24. Trump’s shtick is that the U.S. is the aggrieved nation; because of weak and stupid leaders it has been taken been advantage of every which way.


    His shtick is that the average citizen of this nation is aggrieved because of corrupt leaders that bow our own citizens’ interests to the interests of foreign powers… because it is politically/financially/powerfully advantageous for them to do so.

    Our leaders’ soft and “politically correct” imperialism is paying them big time while the average citizen is left floundering in the morass of their negligence.

  25. “NATO is America’s tool. The member states don’t need it”.

    Perhaps, the author has never heard of Poland and the Baltic States. Rest assured these members certainly do value the NATO alliance, especially now that Russia is trying to make up for its declining power by exploiting lesser states. Forcing them to install a Quisling, like the Ukraine’s Victor Yanukovych , economic blackmail, making military threatening moves or even outright invasion.

    The members of eastern Europe have been sold out before. France in 1939 was supposed to come to Poland’s aid in 24 hours if the Nazis attacked. Where was the French army?

    NATO was meant to keep the US involved in Europe and bind them all together into a stable relationship and avoid the centuries of constant wars and invasions that inevitably brought in the United States. Now, we start to see the return of Fascism to Europe, the Russian Bear reasserting its awful self and the rise of the Chinese who are determined to become the worlds preeminent power, by hook or crook. It’s still good for like minded western democracies to be bound up in a defensive alliance and not repeating the lessons of the 30s.

    I am not going to listen to the “This time its different crowd”, whether they are trying to sell me Latin American Bonds, or pretending the vast oceans will protect us from the the problems in Europe and the rest of the world.

    There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them. – WC

  26. More absurd neo- isolationist babble from the Paulist of the Libertarians. The belief that we can simply withdraw from the world is a mark of a truly jejune mindset. Time to grow up and recognize that we live in a very dangerous world. If we’re an empire, then we’re really bad at it.

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