I promise some anti-Hillary posts this season. Honest.
But first, some more fodder for the #nevertrump crowd and a quick education in the post World War era.
Donald J Trump has gotten a lot of applause from his followers and it's a popular stump line that NATO is obsolete and our allies should be paying us for their "protection."
Once you get past the irony of a New York tough guy asking Koreans and Japanese to pony up protection money, doesn't Trump have a good point?
I'll grant him this much - our allies do benefit greatly from US protection in the post WW2 world. In Europe, because of the presence of the US military and the Article 5 provisions in the NATO Charter, all NATO members are bound together, but the primary provider of military power is clearly the United States. It's basically been that way since the war ended, with Britain providing some additional credible capability.
And have the Europeans benefitted? Greatly. It has enabled them to build those vaunted social democracies that Bernie Sanders and American liberals are so enamored of. If these guys had to pay for their own military, they could not afford the generous welfare states they have built. No doubt on that one.
The same is also true in the Far East with Japan and Korea, so when we consider this protection racket, they're in on it.
But, isn't there something in this game for us?
We could have pulled out of these arrangements at any time in the last 60 to 70 years. None of these countries are holding a gun to our head, demanding that we play this role. We played this role willingly, in fact, we found being the leader of the free world, being the protector of the order after WW2 to be in our national interest. It was in our interest, immediately after WW2 to ensure neither Germany nor Japan returned to militarism, and particularly that Germany's desire to conquer Europe was quenched, as that quickly turned to the Soviets and containment of them. Surely for the 50 years that the Cold War raged, it was in our national interest to remain engaged in the protection of Europe to keep the Soviets at bay. And it was.
Of course, Trump argues that those times have passed, and since 1992, our troop levels have massively declined across Europe and in Japan and South Korea. We have largely pulled back as the Russian threat diminished, and at times, NATO has pushed for more European involvement in Europe's defense needs, and at times, they have responded.
The US's portion of NATO's military spending is relatively small, compared to our overall defense spending, at less than $500 million dollars.
The US spends less than $7B (this is US defense money) on defense of Japan and South Korea, so we're looking at a relatively small percentage of the overall defense budget going toward direct costs for these countries, and this money doesn't even mean it's totally for their defense. These countries provide forward operating bases so that we can more quickly respond to global powers, like China and Russia, so these aren't just costs in defense of the host countries.
This is a complicated subject, and Trump tries to boil it down to simplicity, because it's a good sound bite. We get something that enhances our overall security from these arrangements. We're not there to engage in a protection racket, we're in these countries because it enhances our national security, because it gives us control over the command and control structure, and because it's the right thing to do for the global hegemon.
Just imagine a world where we are not in control in these places, where we had to work with multiple armies, multiple large navies, multiple air forces of sizes suitable for their defense. It would be a difficult world indeed for our military, so this arrangement has practical value as well.
Things are never as simple as Donald Trump wishes they were, and the questions are hard and the answers complex. I wish he'd engage in a little more intellectual curiosity rather than always taking the politically easy way out.