Unlike many libertarians, I love presidential election season, because that’s when generally ignored foreign policy issues are discussed beyond the small circle of Washington wonks. And that’s why I’m having such fun with Donald Trump – much to the annoyance of some of my readers, both libertarians and liberals alike: because he’s provoking a much-needed discussion about who benefits (and loses) from “American leadership” on the world stage. Most useful is his recent assertion that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is “obsolete.”
So it is. When the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union dissolved, the rationale for NATO disintegrated along with it. However, as libertarians know all too well, government programs (especially those that benefit the corporate sector) never die, nor do they fade away: they just keep growing to the degree that their constituency wields political clout. In NATO’s case, this clout is considerable.
When the citizens of Berlin did what Ronald Reagan urged Gorbachev to do – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” – the Soviet leader tried to negotiate with the West. And, to his mind, he succeeded: an understanding was reached with Washington that the Russians would allow German reunification on the condition that the NATO alliance would not expand eastward.
That promise was not kept. Instead, the lobbyists, both foreign and domestic, went into overdrive in a campaign to extend NATO to the very gates of Moscow. It was a lucrative business for the Washington set, as the Wall Street Journal documented: cushy fees for lobbyists, influence-buying by US corporations, as well as political tradeoffs for the administration of George W. Bush, which garnered support for the Iraq war from Eastern Europe’s former Warsaw Pact states in exchange for favorable treatment of their NATO applications.
Read the entire article