Constitutional Lawyer and Author
We should not be in the business of pledging to send our brave soldiers to risk that last full measure of devotion to defend Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania from Russian aggression, or Croatia or Albania from Serbian attack. Their sole duty is to defend the citizens of the United States who pay their salaries and owe allegiance to the United States, which Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Croatians, and Albanians do not. For that reason among others, the United States should invoke Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw.
Our NATO membership contradicts the Constitution’s foreign policy of billions for invincible self-defense, but not one cent for Empire or entangling alliances. NATO was established in April 1949 not in self-defense, but to provide military protection to Europe (including the French colonial appendage in Algeria) and the world generally at the beckoning of the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. That Empire objective hearkened back to President Woodrow Wilson’s starry-eyed aim to make the world safe for democracy by employing United States military force under the League of Nations auspices to defend every border on the planet. President Harry Truman, in signing the NATO treaty, echoed Wilson: “By this treaty, we are not only seeking to establish freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we are also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world.” (Truman economized on the truth. Portugal, a founding member of NATO, was then governed by dictatorial Prime Minister Antonio Salazar.)
To reiterate, self-defense did not push us into NATO. In 1949, we were the most militarily and economically dominant nation on the globe. We enjoyed an atomic bomb monopoly, and Europe was militarily unified under the 1948 Brussels Treaty Organization. No invasion from any quarter was threatened—including from the Soviet Union. Even during the depths of World War II, neither the Wehrmacht nor the Imperia Japanese Army set foot on the continental United States. We joined NATO as part of a gratuitous, preoccupation with containing Soviet power no matter how irrelevant to protecting us from attack. It was no accident that our NATO membership was soon followed by President Truman’s unconstitutional Korean War, the overthrow of democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh the overthrow of Guatemala’s President Jacobo Arbenz, executive agreements to defend Franco’s Spain, and the attempted assassination of Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These undertakings were calculated to check the Soviet Union.
Our NATO and post-NATO quest for Empire and global domination made a mockery of the bravery and sacrifices of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Our glory had previously been liberty, not world leadership whatever that means. Our march had previously been the march of the mind, not the march of the foot soldier. Our greatness had previously been a fair opportunity for every citizen to develop his faculties and to pursue his ambitions free from domestic or foreign predation. Our summum bonum had never previously been a multi-billion dollar military-industrial complex bestriding the world like a colossus chanting, “We are the chosen people.”
Suppose the Soviet Union had invaded Western Europe without NATO despite the BTO military alliance. That would not have disturbed the safety and security of the United States. Indeed, the invasion would have been a blunder which would have accelerated the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and weakened its ability to threaten us in the interim.. Conquests or occupations of hostile peoples weakens rather than strengthens the conqueror or the occupier, for example, Napoleon in Haiti or Spain, or the United States South Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. .
The point may seem counterintuitive, and requires elaboration. Colonization, conquest or foreign occupation loses money for the national treasuries of the colonizer, conqueror, or occupier, although particular individuals or companies may be enriched by state-created monopolies or crony capitalism. The military costs of occupation and control of hostile populations dwarf any offsetting expropriation of property. Thus, post-World War II decolonization in Africa and Asia lifted economic albatrosses from Britain, France, and the Netherlands, among other nations. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union were precipitated substantially by the prohibitive costs of subsidizing and militarily occupying and controlling its Eastern and Central European satellites. The USSR was required to suppress a 1953 Uprising in East Germany, the 1956 Hungarian revolt, Prague Spring in 1968, the 1970-71 Uprising in Poland, and the Polish Solidarity Movement in 1981, among other manifestations of chronic foreign restiveness or resentment.
The costs of ruling over a hostile population are staggering. Russia, for instance, spent $30 billion from 2000-2010 to prop up its rule in the Muslim North Caucasus, including Chechnya Another $80 billion will have been forthcoming by 2025 for a population of only 9 million.
The Eastern and Central Europe and North Caucasus examples demonstrate that Soviet aggression against Western Europe after World War II would have weakened it and probably failed. In 1949, Western Europe was far stronger militarily than was the mujahideen that thwarted Soviet aggression in Afghanistan in 1979 or the North Vietnamese who defeated the United States in Vietnam. At that time, Europe had already united militarily under the BTO to defend itself. If the Soviet Red Army secured temporary victories, the military resources expended in the endeavors would nevertheless have lessened its ability to attack the United States in the same way that Operation Barbarossa in World War II lessened Hitler’s threat to Great Britain by squandering Third Reich military resources in fighting the Soviet Union.
Notwithstanding these truths, our overwhelming military victories in World War II fueled a psychology of Empire that found expression in NATO membership. The chief earmark of that psychology is world domination for its own sake—even when it promises self-ruination. NATO enabled the United States to dominate Western Europe. We were NATO’s torso, while the Europeans were NATO limbs. The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe has always been an American. At present, the United States pays 75 percent of NATO’s budget, and deploys 65,000 to 70,000 troops in Europe.
But domination for the sake of domination is treasonous to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The United States was an anti-imperialist creation. The exclusive purpose of government, according to the Declaration, is to secure unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not to race abroad in search of monsters to destroy. The Constitution repudiated the global projection of force or wars not in self-defense—no matter how benignly motivated—because the results would subordinate liberty and transparency to coercion and secrecy by concentrating limitless power in the executive. The Roman Republic had been destroyed by endowing dictators with limitless power to fight wars.
The Constitution’s war powers were entrusted to Congress, not to the President, to prevent the emergence of a warfare state underwritten by a military-industrial complex. James Madison explained in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
“The constitution supposes, what the History of all Govts demonstrates, that the Ex. is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legisl.”
Abraham Lincoln echoed:
“The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.”
Then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams made the case against wars not in self-defense no
matter how glorious the immediate objective in a July 4, 1821 Address to Congress:
“[The United States] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....
She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....”
NATO marked an unprecedented break in American history. Not only was it the first peacetime alliance ever, but it was the first time promoting and preserving peace everywhere in the world became a United States objective. NATO flouted President George Washington’s Farewell Address warning against entangling alliances or dividing the world between angles and devils. The treaty tied our fate to the vicissitudes of West European politics and played favorites among nations. But the Farewell Address admonished:
“[N]othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and, that in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and interest.”
President Washington also warned that any military engagements or alliances with
Europe would impair our safety and other national interests:
“Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”
Adhering to Washington, Madison, and John Quincy Adams, the United States prospered and spread across the continent for 70 years. We uniformly refrained from foreign entanglements. Among other things, we remained aloof from the Central and South American rebellions against Spain and Portugal, the Greek War of independence against the Ottoman Empire, and Hungary’s 1848 revolutionary ambitions against Russia. As regards the latter, Senator Henry Clay explained:
“Far better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause of liberty, that, adhering to our wise, pacific system, and avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fallen or falling republics in Europe.”
The cornerstone of national security is the willingness of citizens to fight and die for their country in self-defense. We enjoy that patriotism in abundance. Moreover, we confront no existential or other threats that could arguably justify NATO or any other defense treaty. What Abraham Lincoln said in 1838 before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois is equally true today:
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?—Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
NATO is more ill-conceived at present, having expanded to 28 members, than it was in 1949. Among other things, we are committed to defending the Baltic States, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria from Russian aggression. The previous occupation or domination of these nations by the Soviet Union during the Cold War weakened it financially and militarily. Why should we seek to prevent Russia from repeating that blunder? We are also absurdly committed to defending Slovenia, Albania, Greece, and Croatia—none of which have relevance to our self-defense.
NATO advocates argue that the spread of democracy makes the United States safer; that we know how to spread democracy; and, that tyranny anywhere is a threat to our security. They substantially echo President George W. Bush’s counterfactual Second Inaugural gospel:
“Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”
The NATO-Bush doctrine is unconvincing. The United States was born and has flourished amidst tyrannies. They include the French Empire, the Romanoff Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Chinese Empire, and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Today, tyranny in Belarus or Zimbabwe, among other nations, is no danger to the United States. Our peaceful co-existence with tyrannies has been the rule, not the exception.
Additionally, we can no more create democracies from cultures and institutions with no democratic DNA hostile than we can build a perpetual motion machine. We have failed spectacularly attempting the impossible in South Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen despite a staggering investment of resources. South Sudan is conclusive proof of our impotence to give birth to democratic dispensations. We midwifed its 2011 independence from Sudan, but It quickly succumbed to a grisly ethnic civil war between President Salva Kiir and the Dinka against Rick Machar and the Nuer featuring tens of thousands killed and millions displaced. South Sudan was a failed state on arrival, and remains so today. Our efforts to collaborate with its leaders and people to steer a democratic course were predictably futile.
The evidence is mixed as to whether democracies are inherently less threatening to the United States than are authoritarian or tyrannical nations. Hamas was popularly elected in the Gaza Strip, but is listed as an international terrorist organization by the United States. Egypt’s former President Mohammad Morsi was a greater danger to United States interests than is his less democratically elected successor Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The United States has refrained from clamor for free elections in Saudi Arabia for fear of the results, i.e., victory for Wahhabism. Tyranny by the majority is tyranny nonetheless. In any event, the evidence is far too inconclusive to assert that wars against non-democratic nations are, ipso facto, justifiable wars of self-defense.
In leaving NATO, the United States would dramatically lessen tensions or conflicts with Russia and strengthen our security against external aggression. Among other things, the stage would be set for a new treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two countries. Russia would probably claim a sphere of influence over its neighbors, but that would be unalarming. The United States has acted in the same way for more than two centuries, including the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, and military ventures in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Nicaragua. To maintain that all nations are equal, but that the United States is more equal than others is to encourage war.
To make the nation more secure in its safety, wealth, and liberty, NATO should be made a museum piece along with other artifacts of the American Empire.
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Original: Huffington Post