Human Events Blog

Gates: The Future Of NATO Is Dim

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job and telling your lazy, good-for-nothing, pain-in-the-butt co-workers exactly what you think of them, on your way out the door?  Well, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates just did that.

In his farewell policy speech, Gates pronounced the future of NATO to be “dim, if not dismal.”  I think he means even more dim and dismal.  It hasn’t really been a happy alliance since its nominal reason for existing, the Soviet Union, ceased to exist.

The United States invests a great deal of time, money, and prestige in two big international organizations, the United Nations and NATO.  The U.N. is filled with squalid dictatorships that use its rules to thwart American interests.  NATO is filled with less unpleasant fellows who use its rules to make America serve their military interests.  If NATO is the Justice League, then we’re Superman.  Wonder Woman keeps calling in sick, Batman improbably claims he’s broke, and while Aquaman is always game to help… hey, he’s just Aquaman.

Gates was looking right at Batman and Wonder Woman when he talked about the difference between NATO members “willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership… but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.” 

He described this situation as “unacceptable” and said “nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense.”  He denounced allies who are “willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”  Only 5 of our 28 NATO allies are spending the recommended 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defense.  Europe has cut 15% percent of their paltry defense spending since 9/11.  Why not?  The big Soviet menace is gone, military force isn’t going to help them against the insurgent Muslim population they insist on importing – turning significant areas of England and France into “no-go” areas for the native population – and if anything else comes up, they know Uncle Superman will take care of it.

A bankrupt America can hardly afford to foot the bill for European defense any longer.  “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” Gates warned.  “Future U.S. political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”

NATO’s performance in Libya did not make a good impression on Gates.  “The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” he grumbled.  Noting that “fewer than a third” of the NATO members who voted for the Libyan operation have been willing to participate in strike missions, he said, “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”

 But the American Left says we can gut the U.S. defense budget without really compromising our fighting ability!  It’s funny how the people who sneer that talk of “American exceptionalism” is mindless sloganeering by ignorant bigots think we can adopt European economic and defense policies without sinking into European irrelevance, just because we’re Americans. 

Gates singled out some alliance partners for their contributions to the Afghanistan campaign, where he thinks the Administration’s planned draw-down is a mistake.  However, he judged the overall NATO contribution to Afghanistan as lacking.  He thinks the problem is that too many of the allies thought it would be a cakewalk.  This conclusively proves foreign leaders don’t pay much attention to the American media, which was shrieking about Vietnam quagmires, invincible Pashtun warriors, and the brutal Afghan winter at the beginning of the campaign.

“I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance, more akin to the Balkans,” Gates ventured.  “Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan.” 

What good is a “military alliance” that falls apart when confronted with a “tough fight?” 


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