Thursday, July 21, 2016
I've never been good at finding titles for my writing. Today I'm trying to be clever. Hastings Ismay was the first Secretary-General of NATO and he's often given credit for being the first to quip that NATO's purpose was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."
Now for the dismay: An article from the New York Times summarizing Mr. Trump's attitudes regarding America's alliance commitments.
Here's my summary: He'll treat our alliance partners the way he would a piece of real estate.
The article I reference above isn't the lame-stream media or the New York Slimes maligning a candidate or misconstruing his words. It's an interview he provided to this major news source. This is what he means to do as commander-in-chief. And to me, it's utter, sheer madness. Collective security, found in agreements like NATO, have been the underpinning of global security now for more than half of a century. Trump's first resort (pun intended) is a sane policy-maker's last resort: treating a nuclear-brimmed U.S. as a platform from which we launch a retaliatory nuclear strike.
Though NATO was created during the Truman administration, the embrace of collective security was an enormous part of Dwight Eisenhower's foreign policy. It's also true that Ike leaned heavily on the nuclear deterrent to combat Soviet aggression, but in some ways he came to regret that by the end of his presidency. I know it's fashionable to bash the foreign policy legacy of President Obama and Secretary Clinton (and I'm certainly not a champion of how our President has conducted foreign policy in his eight years) but I can't help but see extraordinary value in adhering to the perspective of a man like Eisenhower who had much greater perspective and understanding on foreign policy than Mr. Trump.
The logic of trying to keep the Russians out, Americans in, and the Germans down still has some credence in the 21st century. In fact, keeping the Russians out of Europe remains a compelling national interest for us. (Perhaps I've been watching too much of Occupied on Netflix . . . No, wait, this is really important.)
Interestingly, Trump (if elected) will prove to be the third U.S. president to underestimate President Putin. After all, George W. Bush misread Putin's eyes. Obama delivered the famous putdown to Governor Romney back in 2012 that the 1980s was calling to get its foreign policy back. Mr. Trump, it would seem, looks at Putin as just some rival real estate mogul. Mrs. Clinton doesn't escape blame here: she's infamous for the "reset" with Russia that didn't reset much at all. But . . .
Now she has a chance to learn from her miscalculation, something I'm sure Bush and Obama both had. I'm getting closer to seeing the positives of a Hillary Clinton presidency rather than just the negatives of a Trump administration.
One final observation . . . Oh, wait, that'll take a little bit too long. I'll return to this later.