There would probably not exist something we call “conservatism” if
God had not created so many pack rats. Who today would be talking of
venerable institutions (marriage, family, nation, constitution, the
Super Bowl) were it not for our attachment to the old and the familiar?
Even progressives cannot bear to toss out the delusion of human perfectibility.
NATO turned 60 on April 4. If strategic minds are still mulling its
future in 2069, it will be due only to this ingrained conservative
inclination. The organization is already a relic.
Worldwide military spending has increased by almost half in the past
10 years, reaching, in adjusted dollars, Cold War levels at the end
of 2007. The United States by itself accounts for more than half of
the world’s military spending, with other NATO members ratcheting
that figure up to 70 percent. NATO’s membership has grown to
28 countries, 11 of them carved out of the former Soviet empire. The
recent return of France to the treaty’s military command, while
retaining its independent force de frappe, was purely symbolic.
Much the same can be said of NATO’s history. Although NATOphiles
will credit the organization’s deterrent effect for the fact
that no wars broke out among Cold War contestants, a more compelling
explanation can be found in the mere existence of nuclear weapons.
Apart from Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 (much to the
chagrin of fellow NATO member Greece) and the in-search-of-a-mission
undertakings in Kosovo and Afghanistan, NATO has been an extended tea
party, annoyingly boring to its chroniclers. Its principal achievements
have been marginal and political.
It helped create, for instance, the Warsaw Pact, which the Soviet
Union — miffed that its application for NATO membership was rebuffed
in 1954 — strong-armed its East European “allies” into
joining in 1955. It gave de Gaulle a pretext for restoring French pride
by expelling the alliance. It facilitated the reunification of the
Germanys with the promise (according to Mikhail Gorbachev) that NATO,
in exchange for Soviet complaisance, would not extend itself beyond
NATO’s chief effect was to induce the transformation of Europe’s
armies into Potemkin fighting machines. Who needs expensive military
establishments when the American umbrella shades the continent? Worse,
those feminized, hollowed-out armies are now held up as role models
for ours in the future.
I was a cog for a year in what was arguably the finest military force
in human history, the army deployed to Vietnam, supported by unparalleled
air and naval resources. I learned that year that political realities
always trump military fantasies. It will be useful, therefore, to reflect
on present political and economic realities before we decide what to
do with NATO.
These are the realities:
1. European “powers” do not have the ability to defend
themselves if hostilities break out. It will be our blood and our
treasure at stake. This reality will be at once truer and costlier
if we find ourselves treaty-bound to defend states like Croatia,
Latvia, or Georgia (which was probably trying to draw us into a NATO-like
arrangement last summer with its pitiable pas de deux with the Russians).
2. The Russians have interests to which they are committed. No Russian
leader can stay in power without trying to protect those interests.
Russians have historic interests in the Balkans, and they are very
much irritated by developments in Kosovo and Serbia. They certainly
do not appreciate being surrounded, contrary to the assurance they
thought they had at the time of German reunification, by NATO’s
3. Most important, military power without underlying economic strength
is unsustainable. The Cold War ended because the Soviets came face-to-face
with this reality. Our first priority has to be to put our economic
house back in order. An essential part of this task, in turn, is to
gain control over our military spending, which entails a radical scaling
back of the missions we assign our professional military.
NATO should have been laid to rest in 1991 when the Warsaw Pact was
disbanded. Diplomatically, our efforts should now be directed toward
globalization of the Monroe Doctrine, extending to others the privileges
we assumed for ourselves in 1823 and letting the Europeans, Russians,
Chinese, Japanese, and other emerging “powers” tend to
the peace of their own neighborhoods without outside interference.
The Wilson-Bush dream of a democratic march through history was just
that — a dream. As even Bush in his heart of hearts must now acknowledge,
there is only one world to deal with. The real one.
Dreams, else, turn into nightmares, cakewalks become quagmires, empires
end in ashes. We would be fools thus to make a reality of Al-Qaeda’s
The Unrepentant Traditionalist is copyright (c) 2009 by Frank
Creel and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
All rights reserved.
Frank Creel, Ph.D., has been a columnist for the Potomac
Virginia. His op-ed articles have been published in the Northern
Virginia Journal, the Washington Examiner,
Times, and the New York City Tribune. In 1992, his A
Trilogy of Sonnets was published pseudonymously by Christendom
See a complete biographical sketch.
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