My guest today is David N. Gibbs, a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona who has written extensively on NATO.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, David. Many of us tend to disregard most of what Donald Trump says on virtually any subject. You have a different point of view, at least regarding NATO. Tell us more, please.
DG: Well, let me start out by saying that most of Donald Trump's positions are classic demagoguery and are quite dangerous. But on some foreign policy issues he does occasionally make sense, especially with regard to the issue of NATO. He has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO to US security, as an overly expensive extravagance, and this is a very legitimate issue to raise. To my knowledge no other candidate in recent years, not even Bernie Sanders has been willing to address this issue.
JB: You've studied NATO and written about it extensively. Can you flesh this out for us? What value, if any, does NATO bring to Europe, the US, the world at large?
DG: NATO was officially created in 1949 to defend Western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion. With the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the value of NATO was essentially ended, and there was a widespread belief that NATO would simply dissolve as its former adversary bloc, the Warsaw Pact had done. However, there was a bloc of vested interests on both sides of the Atlantic that benefitted from NATO and wished to continue the organization, even though there was no enemy to defend against. There was then a clear emphasis on finding a new function for NATO, and over time the mission became humanitarian interventions and fighting terrorism. However these new missions seem more like excuses to justify the organization rather than real necessities. The main effect of NATO has been to start a new Cold War with post-communist Russia, which is a real tragedy and also very dangerous, given the large number of nuclear weapons on both sides. It is very difficult to see how any of this enhances global or US security. Mostly, NATO seems like an expensive extravagance, a military alliance in search of a justification. Candidates for president should be debating NATO's value. So far, only Trump is willing to engage the issue.
JB: What's candidate Clinton's take on NATO?
DG: Hillary Clinton has long been a supporter of NATO and America's interventionist "mission" in the world. She was of course one of the main figures in the Obama administration favoring NATO intervention in Libya, which led to the overthrow of Gaddafi and also the rise of the present day chaos in that country. She comes from an element of the establishment that views any calls for nonintervention as forms of isolationism, to be rejected out of hand. While Hillary Clinton has been on the hawkish side of the spectrum, the mainstream of both parties has been strongly supportive of NATO, and has favored efforts to find new enemies and new missions to justify the alliance. Until Trump's recent statements on the issue, there has been almost no criticism of the alliance, and no real debate. Hopefully that will change. It is a pity though that this criticism of NATO has emanated from such an unsavory figure as Trump. It is regrettable that the political left in the United States has been reluctant to take on this issue, and has instead, given it over to the political right.
JB: You bring up an interesting conundrum. How can people explore a position only espoused by Trump who may have many fans but is considered an intellectual lightweight? The fact that Trump thinks this way about NATO so taints the whole subject as far as many citizens are concerned. Which further marginalizes the topic altogether.