Donald to NATO: Shape Up and Do Right - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Donald to NATO: Shape Up and Do Right


President Trump’s criticism of NATO and NATO nations (which the Left exaggerates and distorts) is on point. He is not “against” NATO, and never has been. He’s just against NATO nations refusing to pay their fair share for their own defense, fobbing both the job and the bill off on American service members and taxpayers. He reiterated his point Monday in a speech before troops of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

“We strongly support NATO; we only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper contributions to the NATO alliance, which many of them have not been doing — many of them have not been even close,” Trump said.

Trump is right. NATO countries don’t pay their fair share and never have. Most of their “armies” have about half the fire power of the Tampa Police Department. (If you have a taste for the surreal, allow me to remind you that the Dutch army is unionized.) Europeans would rather spend their money elsewhere, usually on extensive and expensive welfare programs, than on their own defense. They have lost their taste for liberty, if they ever had much. Besides, why spend all that money to defend yourself when Uncle Sucker will do it for you?

This is nothing new. America obliged Larry Thornberry and (fill in the name here of your favorite 70ish fellow who has a DD214, an honorable discharge, and a draft card in his file cabinet), along with countless millions like them, to spend time in uniform to see to it, among other things, that the commie hordes to the east did not overrun Western Europe. While America was drafting its young men in the millions, hardly any European countries troubled theirs with national service. The Brits had national service for a while after The War but ended it in 1960. Germany had it between 1956 and 2011, though it was for just six months and was easy to get out of. Turkey requires a year from its young men. America has truck stops bigger than the other European countries that require military service. As for the Dutch army, which I gather cannot fire its weapons (when its soldiers have them) without permission from their shop stewards, I wouldn’t bet on it with any comfort if it was up against the River City Volunteer Fire Department.

By 1966, when I was going on liberty in various European cities (Malmo, Copenhagen, Gibraltar, Vigo, Genoa, Palma), Europe had been rebuilt and was nearly as prosperous as the U.S. By then it could afford to attend to its own defense, but chose not to use its resources in that way. (See above re: Uncle Sucker.) I watched young European men my age, not in uniform, wearing clothes I could not afford and patronizing restaurants that were beyond my reach on the $164 dollars a month I was pulling in as a third class petty officer (along with, to be fair, all the creamed chipped beef on toast I could eat). I reasonably asked myself then, why am I having to interrupt my life to haul water for these layabouts? (Serving to help defend America I had no problem with.) It grated then. Still does a half century later when nothing has changed. These parasites are still looking the other way when the check arrives at the table. Most European countries spend less on their own defense than Imelda Marcos spent on shoes.

Perhaps the Donald will change this. I’m not optimistic. Europeans officials who would dare attempt to make their countries responsible in this area would doubtless be voted out of office. Europeans are satisfied with allowing Americans to put their backsides on the line so Europeans don’t have to get off theirs.

In the summer of 1966, the destroyer I was on was part of a NATO North Atlantic carrier battle group for a couple of months. This was when some European countries still had remnants of their WWII fleets. We operated with the British carrier HMS Ark Royal and a Dutch cruiser, the name of which I would never try to pronounce, let alone spell. Both of these ships have since been made into razor blades (as has the ship I served on) and have not been, and will not be, replaced. Neither country now has a carrier or a cruiser. Now the Royal Navy is little more than the Royal Coast Guard. As of today the Queen’s entire fleet of combatants is made up of six guided missile destroyers, 13 frigates, and 11 submarines (seven attack subs and four boomers). The Royal Navy has more admirals than it has warships. Britannia no longer rules the waves, unless you count the ripples in Elizabeth II’s bath water.

It’s a sorry state of affairs. But let’s get it straight. Donald Trump is not telling NATO to buzz off. He’s telling them to shape up, and to do the honorable thing.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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