Donald Trump’s Short History With Obsolete NATO
On March 23, 2016 – less than a year and one month ago – Donald Trump slammed NATO as an “obsolete” organization that does nothing for the United States of America. He said, “I think NATO may be obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago — many, many years ago when things were different. Things are different now. We were a rich nation then. We had nothing but money. We had nothing but power. And you know, far more than we have today, in a true sense. And I think NATO — you have to really examine NATO. And it doesn’t really help us, it’s helping other countries. And I don’t think those other countries appreciate what we’re doing.”
So, Donald Trump thinks NATO is obsolete, right?
Wrong! As of yesterday, Donald Trump declared that NATO is no longer obsolete. Trump met with the Secretary General of NATO, and said, “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
What’s changed at NATO since that statement Trump made “a long time ago”?
First of all, it’s a stretch to claim that last year was a long time ago. Second, nothing much at NATO has really changed. NATO has gone along, just being NATO. It’s Donald Trump who has adjusted his position.
In the abstract adjusting a position isn’t bad. Political leaders should be willing to change their positions when they learn relevant information that suggests they were wrong.
Donald Trump’s rationale for changing his position on NATO yesterday doesn’t make any sense, though.
Last year, Trump said he thinks NATO is obsolete because 1) NATO costs a lot of money, and 2) NATO doesn’t help the USA.
NATO still costs a lot of money. The price tag of NATO hasn’t gone down. What’s more, Donald Trump is proposing extreme increases in military spending. So, Trump’s first reason for concluding that NATO is obsolete hasn’t changed.
NATO isn’t doing anything for the USA that it wasn’t doing last year. Trump says that NATO is now fighting terrorism, when it wasn’t before, but it’s not true to say that this has changed since March of last year.
What’s more, terrorism isn’t a big issue for the United States. It’s true that most politicians make a lot of noise about terrorism, but actually, terrorism isn’t a part of everyday life in the United States. Far more people in the United States die from neglected dental infections than die from terrorist attacks. 2017 is now just about 1/4 over with, and there has still not been a single terrorist in the USA this year.
So, a new focus on protecting America from terrorism, if it existed, wouldn’t be a logical reason for regarding NATO as no longer obsolete.
These details matter, because every time Donald Trump shoots his mouth off, making statements that are divorced from reason and factual reality, he creates space for dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un to make their own outrageous claims. If the President of the United States is allowed to concoct bizarre narratives about alternative realities, we have little room to object when other leaders justify their erratic actions with obvious lies.
The truth is not obsolete. Keeping in alignment with the truth is one of the best ways that we have to keep unhinged executive leaders from sending the world into chaos.