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Trump's NATO Surrender is an Absolute Disgrace

Nearly 75 years after the United States signed the North Atlantic Treaty and pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with our North American and European allies to deter Russian aggression and to promote democracy, the likely Republican Party nominee for the presidency made it clear that he considers the treaty to be as worthless as a diploma from his defunct university. In days not long gone by, such an ignorant, irresponsible, and reckless statement would have been roundly condemned from both sides of the aisle and signal the death knell for a presidential campaign. That’s no longer the case following the Republican Party’s unconditional surrender to Donald Trump. 


Tom Brokaw wrote a book 26 years ago titled “The Greatest Generation” chronicling a generation of Americans who lived through the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, and then came home and turned America into a global economic powerhouse and a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. The Republican Party’s anti-Soviet zeal was so strong in that era that it facilitated the “Red Scare” hysteria fomented by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy who warned that Soviet subversion of America’s government and military was a national security crisis. Times have changed.


We have the former President and the likely Republican Party nominee for the 2024 presidential election enabling Russia, praising Vladimir Putin, and tearing down America’s current president and our longstanding allies. We have a Republican Speaker of the House who refuses to even let the House vote on aid for Ukraine as it fights to defeat the Russian forces that invaded their country. We have a prominent rightwing media personality doing a fawning interview with Vladimir Putin and publishing pieces touting the alleged virtues of life in Russia. I don’t often agree with North Carolina’s Republican Senator Thom Tillis, but I give him credit for speaking up when few in his party have and condemning Tucker Carlson saying, “The Soviets had a term for people like Tucker: useful idiots.”


If Tom Brokaw wrote a book about modern times, it should probably be titled “The Worst Generation.” America emerged from World War II as the world leader in efforts that led to the creation of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, and NATO. While none of these has been perfect, on the whole they’ve done far more good than harm, and they have helped to prevent a third world war for nearly 80 years. And while we’ve faltered at times, until recently America was the proud leader of a broad band of allies committed to containing the aggression of authoritarian dictators and promoting democracy and freedom around the globe. In just a few short years, many here at home abandoned the aspirations of The Greatest Generation and embraced that generation’s worst nightmares. Members of The Greatest Generation who are still alive today can probably related to the cartoon character Pogo, who said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Who could have imagined that we would go from celebrating the defeat of fascism to many in America opening their arms and embracing it.


I served in the military from 1983 to 2008. Those who served during that period remember the times we sat on alert 24/7, sweated in chemical warfare gear for hours during training exercises, and crafted war plans to defeat Russia if it ever became necessary. Disappointing is too weak a term to describe the feeling that comes with the realization that our efforts may have been in vain and that a Russian dictator could – with the help of a band of homegrown useful idiots – cause America to tear itself apart and put our alliances in harm’s way without landing a single Russian troop on American soil.


In Springfield, Illinois, on January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech on the perpetuation of America’s political institutions. Lincoln said: “At what point 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 free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” In short, Lincoln warned us 186 years ago about someone like Donald Trump who would sow chaos in pursuit of tyrannical power over the country.


The time when America was virtually an island to itself, buffered from outside dangers by the Atlantic and the Pacific, is over. The world today is interconnected, and no nation can truly go it alone. North Korea probably comes as close to going it alone as any nation, but even North Korea depends on help from Russia and China to survive. Maintaining strong ties with our allies benefits our national security and our economic prosperity, and it enhances peace and stability worldwide. President Harry Truman acknowledged that when he signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, saying that in his view, the treaty could have prevented the aggression that led to two world wars. It is utterly foolish to view NATO like it’s some mob protection racket where if you don’t pay up your country might experience a crowbar to the kneecaps in a dark alley. Instead, NATO is more like a volunteer fire department where we all vow to come together if someone sets fire to any of our houses.


At a time when we worry about China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, particularly as they tend to grow closer, the collective strength of NATO is as important now as it was during the Cold War. The only beneficiaries of an American withdrawal from NATO would be our adversaries. A weakened and fractured alliance would embolden them to pursue ambitions that are not in our national interests.


The untimely death of Alexei Navalny is the latest example of Vladimir Putin doing – as Donald Trump encouraged – “whatever the hell he wants.” And now we have Trump signaling Putin that if he returns to the White House, Putin can go from terminating people within his borders to terminating sovereign countries on his borders, and he can do it with impunity. Anyone who supports that notion might be considered a “patriot,” but he or she is clearly not an American Patriot. American Patriots know that Putin’s ass deserves to be kicked, not kissed.


Winston Churchill is credited with a quote that strays a bit from what he actually said, but it fits here. Churchill was alleged to have said that “democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the others.” You can say the same about NATO: It’s not perfect, but it’s better than any other alliance that exists to contain Putin’s aggression and protect our national interests.


Presidential candidates have never asked for my advice, and they probably never will, but if I was to offer advice on NATO to any current or future politician with presidential aspirations it would be this: Be like Truman and not like Trump.

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