Hey, Anybody Using This NATO? Mind If Trump Tidies It Up?
Donald Trump has a lot of stupid, deeply held beliefs, like the idea that he's a good negotiator, his certainty that the Central Park Five were guilty (even after they were exonerated by DNA), and his suspicion that everyone is secretly laughing at him (they are, but the mockery's right out in the open). Among his highly stable beliefs is that every other country in the world is taking advantage of the USA, especially when it comes to our military alliances (our enemies he loves for their toughness). So it's really no surprise that Trump has always distrusted NATO, but the New York Times reported Monday night just how deeply -- and possibly catastrophically -- that belief goes. According to "senior administration officials," Trump repeatedly told his national security aides in 2018 he wanted to just plain pull the US out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization altogether, because he is A Idiot.
That's not just an idle preoccupation of the "president," either, according to the insiders:
Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.
In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States.
At the time, Mr. Trump's national security team, including Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, scrambled to keep American strategy on track without mention of a withdrawal that would drastically reduce Washington's influence in Europe and could embolden Russia for decades.
Now that Mattis is gone, of course, and with even warhawk dickhead Bolton frequently out of the loop, there's no telling whether Trump will just decide some morning to tweet he's decided to leave NATO because Emmanuel Macron wasn't enthusiastic enough when Trump told him about his electoral college victory for the seventieth time.
The Times hints at why the "senior officials" came forward at this particular moment:
Now, the president's repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump's efforts to keep his meetings with Mr. Putin secret from even his own aides, and an F.B.I. investigation into the administration's Russia ties.
Rachel Maddow was a lot more direct about it, speculating -- because hell, no top administration officials talked to her -- that the news that Trump had actually taken away his translator's notes was the holy shit! moment for some high-up people who decided it was time to take this "hey, let's leave NATO" idiocy to the media, because golly, haven't a whole lot of Donald Trump's policy obsessions been very convenient for Vladimir Putin?
Next thing you know, one or two of Trump's people may start asking, "Are we the baddies?" Like, why the skulls?
Just in case anyone was unsure whether dumping the alliance that has kept Europe united and not having wars all the time since the post-WWII era might be a terrible idea, the Times includes a whole bunch of perspective from people who know a thing or two about diplomacy and war stuff, like Obama undersecretary of defense Michèle A. Flournoy, who said abandoning NATO -- or hell, just talking about it, "would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to U.S. interests."
"It would destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history," Ms. Flournoy said in an interview. "And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of."
For an excellent discussion of just why leaving NATO is the "mother of all batshit crazy ideas," see also this Twitter thread about what just some of the political (and economic) consequences would likely be, by former Obama National Security Council member Dan Shapiro. Shapiro is careful to note much of what he says is guesswork, and has to be, because "literally NO ONE has ever taken such an idea seriously, or done any planning on it. You'd have been laughed out of any previous Administration for suggesting [it]."
God damn, you know, this is one more thing we hate Donald Trump for: Making us defend the goddamn Defense Establishment, which is bloated and wasteful and bellicose, and, sorry, a damn sight better than the US just abandoning Europe so a bunch of bloody-minded little Trumplets can pursue their nationalist dreams in the vacuum.
The Times piece points out Trump's desire to leave NATO is one of his default crazy obsessions, or as the Times puts it, it
appears to be a core belief, administration officials said, akin to his desire to expropriate Iraq's oil. While officials have explained multiple times why the United States cannot take Iraq's oil, Mr. Trump returns to the issue every few months.
Similarly, just when officials think the issue of NATO membership has been settled, Mr. Trump again brings up his desire to leave the alliance.
Yes, and don't get him started on aircraft carrier catapults, either. Trump prefers steampunk! Also, WaPo provides a nice look back at just how long Trump has believed other countries are ripping us off (for mere international stability). Back in 1987, he ran a full-page ad in the New York Times complaining that our allies need to pay the full cost of their own defense and stop playing the USA for suckers:
Fortunately, since the US actually signed a treaty to join NATO, leaving the alliance would actually take more than a single tweet:
Members of NATO may withdraw after a notification period of a year, under Article 13 of the Washington Treaty. Such a delay would give Congress time to try blocking any attempt by Mr. Trump to leave.
Several members of Congress are already preparing to try to stop Trump from unilaterally deciding to start that one-year countdown. The effort includes Republicans like former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's "sought to build support for the alliance in Congress, including helping to organize a bipartisan group of backers." And hell, as Rep. Jackie Speier said yesterday, a NATO pullout arguably could mean impeachment, because yeesh, national security crisis much? Hawkish Republicans might even be convinced.
To complicate matters, polling from the "Ronald Reagan Center for Peace Through Strength" (vomit) suggests support for NATO is becoming weirdly partisan. Democrats and independents are far more likely to have favorable views of NATO, while Republicans are frequently Meh or opposed:
You can see that divide in the comments on virtually any Breitbart story on NATO, where the dipwards share Trump's view that Russia's not a problem and Western Europe is full of sissy freeloaders, so screw 'em. This peace-loving definitely-an-American has thoughts on who really loves peace, and it is Russia (and Syria), not NATO aggressors:
Darned if a lot of regular Breitbarters don't agree with Tulsi Gabbardovna there, too. Like Tucker Carlson, who decided that support for NATO is just a politically correct Democrat media witch hunt gotcha. For appearances' sake, it might make sense for congressional Dems to let Republicans be the public face of opposition to Trump on NATO -- assuming any significant number are willing to risk the wrath of the Great Man or his internet flying monkey brigade. Then again, Rs overwhelmingly voted for Russian sanctions, so ... maybe?
In conclusion, we are so fucked forever, this is the worst timeline, goodbye.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.