by Richard Hall (Born 1919, USMC 1941-46)
Written on Memorial Day, 1998
"Sold on NATO: The Case for Expansion" by John O'Sullivan (The American Spectator, June 1998) is a long, involved and tedious attempt to justify both the existence and expansion of NATO, following on the U.S. Senate's endorsement of the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. But, no sale. The article has a lot to say in four full pages, but there are several very important facts that were somehow overlooked.
The article does not tell us about the very grim commitment in the North Atlantic Treaty creating a huge U.S. obligation. It says things like: Any enemy of my ally becomes my enemy, and, an attack on any NATO country is an attack on all. Do they really mean this? Does every member country take this seriously? Or is there a Euro-translation: "If any country in Europe gets in a bind, the U.S. will bail them out." It's ridiculous and so typical of many diplomatic agreements. Renounce or re-write!
The article proceeds on the premise that the Treaty was perfect at its inception. But it was not created by some all-knowing deity, but by garden-variety government employees, just like we have today. True, it all worked out OK. The USSR collapsed and we were not sucked into another European war. But is it in the best interests of the U.S. to have risked the threat of war for lo these fifty years, remembering that the risks include American lives and treasure, versus the temporary settlement of one or more of the numerous tribal disputes in Europe? I haven't heard any expressions of gratitude from our north Atlantic allies, so the answer must be in the negative. Moreover, it is not realistic to give NATO any more than moderate credit for cold war results. The crucial factor was the inevitable failure of Communism, brought on by its own inherent weaknesses. NATO had nothing to do with the collapse of Communism because it had nothing to do with the economics or politics within the USSR.
The article acquires an attitude that the Treaty is entitled to eternal life. Mr. O'Sullivan incorrectly states: "NATO has lost its traditional role as the main defense against Communism." He probably meant: "....against communist countries," which would be correct. Assuming this, he then attempts to justify the retention of NATO by reference to an "unstable Russia" and "a number of potential wars and civil wars lurking" throughout Europe. Not mentioned were the various wars now simmering between the three Senate-approved nations and/or their neighbors. So if NATO is to remain in existence until most of these differences are cleared up, as Mr. O'Sullivan apparently advocates, then the NATO agreement is indeed for eternity.
If NATO ever had any post-WWII justification, a doubtful initial premise when based on U.S. interests, it has no justification for the 21st century. Change it to the ETO, the European Treaty Organization. Then the leading countries in Europe will be forced to take the lead, like it or not, as the U.S. "butts out."
And finally, the U.S. must bring all American troops back to America where they belong, and stop looking under every foreign rock for a war. Too many of us, in my generation and the next, have already seen more of war (and its tragic results) than we care to, in Europe, in the Pacific, in Asia and elsewhere. It would be nice if our grandchildren drew a "bye."
"If you like war, stay in NATO. If you love war, expand NATO"
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