Thursday, July 21, 2016

Calm down about NATO

Yes, of course, it's a little disconcerting to read Trump describe it as a sort of protection racket
CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”
And, yes, that's kind of a weird capitulation to Putin for a guy who is running on a platform of STRENGTH and WINNING and such.  At the same time, though, is it really all that out of bounds? In terms of radical things said by Republican Presidential nominees, I mean.  
In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan claimed that:
  • SALT II was illegal, even though it had been ratified by Congress;
  • the United States had “no deterrent whatsoever” against Soviet medium-range missiles targeting Europe, even though it had submarines with 400 nuclear warheads patrolling the Mediterranean and the Northeast Atlantic, not to mention the thousands of other warheads that could easily be rained down on the Soviets in a retaliatory strike;
  • the United States had “unilaterally disarmed” throughout the 1970s, even though the US had built up its nuclear stockpile from four to ten thousand warheads during that decade (actually, he said that in March 1981, two months after his inauguration, though he repeated the charge during the 1984 campaign).
In other words, it should be possible to talk about the very real and undeniable dangers of Trump without ignoring or reinventing the insanity of American history.
The Trump campaign is an entertaining and unsettling (depending on how seriously one takes its prospects) event. But it's not a wholly new phenomenon on our often entertaining and unsettling political stage. We do the most damage to ourselves when we pretend that it is.

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