The death of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been predicted regularly over the years since its creation at the height of the Cold War and even invited by this country's hard-core isolationists. Yet NATO not only continues to exist but even to grow and flourish despite all its critics--and despite all the other doomsayers predicting its imminent demise. Or even its failure in the long run.
So does the spirit of freedom thrive when free men and women rise in its defense against all evident dangers and even some of the unseen ones always lurking out there.
As if NATO didn't have enough divisive forces gnawing away at its fabric, this country's chief executive and tweeter, Donald J. Trump, has been blasting away at American allies like Germany for not doing enough to share the costs of defending themselves. But even that troublemaker-in-chief agreed to a joint declaration that emphasized the Western alliance's strength and condemned Russia for having annexed Crimea. After all, what are allies for if not to stand together despite differences of opinion between crises?
The American president's less than unifying remarks were said to have been made behind closed doors as the leaders of the Western alliance conferred with one another during their own summit meeting.
To quote Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "During the president's remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP [Gross Domestic Product] on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent." She noted that the "president had raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year. President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations."
Physicians, heal thyselves. For the American defense budget last year equaled only 3.5 percent of its GDP last year, while only eight of the 29 countries currently in NATO are on schedule to meet its target of 2 percent more spending on defense. Yet a formal declaration by NATO's leading nations restated their "unwavering commitment" to the alliance's pledge, made in 2014, to spend 2 percent more on defense spending.
Yet NATO continues to expand both its membership and its plans to finance them. Once upon a time, a common question theme among editorialists was: Whither NATO? It was so common a theme that some wiseacre suggested that Whither NATO? be kept in type for slow days on the editorial page when copy was needed. There was a name for such pieces in the opinionating trade: thumbsuckers. For they might do to pass the time and circle around their subject warily before reaching no conclusion at all.
By now even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has joined the chorus supporting another mission in Iraq, this time with up to 250 troops, while our old friends the Brits are planning to send another 440 troops for a training mission in Afghanistan. By now our allies and friends across the pond in Great Britain continue to chip in to the worldwide fight against terrorism. Their help will be most welcome.
To quote Prime Minister Trudeau, "Those sorts of tangible elements are at the heart of what NATO stands for. You can try and be a bean counter and look at exactly how much this and how much money that, but the fundamental question is: Is what you're doing actually making a difference?"
It had better, because the fate and security of the free world, now to include Northern Macedonia, still depends on the solidarity of the Western alliance.
Paul Greenberg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Editorial on 08/01/2018
Print Headline: Long live NATO