One thing about President Donald Trump that almost nobody would argue about is that he leads the nation in the number of critics he has, which many say he has rightfully earned. Be they from the Left or the Right, Trump has more than his share of critics, and it is painfully obvious that the Left, especially, doesn’t like him.
Last week one of those critics, columnist Michael Gerson, opened an op-ed with this statement: “Setting aside the issue of whether the president is wittingly advancing the interests of a hostile power – a qualification that is only imaginable in the Trump era – what is happening to the direction of American foreign policy?”
He sets the stage for this perspective by citing some history, going back to “1952 when the Republican presidential frontrunner, Senator Robert Taft, expressed a lack of enthusiasm toward the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] alliance. This alarmed NATO's Supreme Commander, [Gen.] Dwight Eisenhower, enough to enter the race and beat Taft soundly.”
Gerson notes that Eisenhower’s up close and personal experience with the “disorders” European nations had experienced gave him the better understanding of how Taft’s idea of leaving them to take care of themselves could open the door to more world wars resulting in enormous death and destruction.
Eisenhower’s ideas of “Atlanticism” and collective security for all members carried the day, and became the ruling philosophy. Until, according to Gerson, Trump came along.
Along the way, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, his view of “a system of economic and political freedom that delivered better lives and fulfilled the deepest human longings” took hold.
Reagan, he said, “was firm, but not foolhardy. He was willing to negotiate. But he believed that the American creed gave our country a tremendous, practical advantage. By standing on the side of freedom fighters, dissidents and exiles, Reagan was clarifying a moral choice – not just between two political systems, but between good and evil. And this, in his view, tilted the tables of history in favor of free nations.”
Having made the strong case for the situation encountered by Eisenhower and then Reagan, Gerson then turned to the damage done to that perspective by our current commander-in-chief: “So let us take an account of what is being smashed by Donald Trump,” said he.
Gerson seems to think it is okay to evaluate the differences in the way this American President has changed the way America treats NATO since the days of Eisenhower, and then Reagan. But he but does not evaluate the way NATO countries have behaved, how they have taken advantage of the nation that is responsible for providing the strength NATO projects, and which has been and will be what discourages or defeats rogue nations from their notions about taking on NATO members. That nation is the United States of America, far and away the largest and most powerful of the 29 countries NATO claims as members.
Reagan said that “NATO is not just a military alliance, it's a voluntary political community of free men and women based on shared principles and a common history. The ties that bind us to our European allies are not the brittle ties of expediency or the weighty shackles of compulsion. They resemble what Abraham Lincoln called the 'mystic chords of memory' uniting peoples who share a common vision."
Back in 2014 each NATO member pledged to contribute a minimum of two percent of its GDP to funding the organization’s operation. But of the 29 total members, only five — or about 17 percent — have been meeting that requirement: the United States, Great Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland. And the U.S. pays approximately 3.6 percent of its GDP to NATO.
Trump, contrary to Gerson’s evaluation, is not smashing NATO and its member countries; he is exposing their dishonesty. In fact, most NATO allies rely on America’s defensive strength while not paying their share of the funding for their own defense. All the while many of them are stirring anti-American sentiment within their borders.
Trump took withering criticism for using the term “foe” to describe actions of some of our allies. If his critics were less interested in finding something to criticize and more interested in understanding and communicating what he means with his comments, they would recognize that what he means is that these countries are working against America with their high tariffs on American products, by not paying their share to NATO, and fomenting anti-American sentiment among people whose backsides the U.S. protects.
Rather than smashing NATO, Trump is strengthening it. If and when the majority of the insubordinate nations start paying their proper share, NATO will have more resources to apply to providing a proper defense against the challenges of today. Things in the world have changed since the times of Eisenhower and Reagan.
First Eisenhower, then Reagan, and now Trump have been there to act when conditions required action by an American president to maintain the NATO alliance’s noble goals. We should be thankful Trump cares.
It’s really not that difficult, once a critic climbs down from his or her high horse and actually think a little.