With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Europe’s Dependence on the U.S. Was All Part of the Plan

As feared, the president of the United States arrived at last week’s NATO summit in a mood of preposterous spleen, profound contempt and shocking rudeness. He insisted on sharing before the cameras imaginary facts that hadn’t a thing to do with the summit agenda, and he refused to listen to anyone who tried, however gently, to correct him. In the words of Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “These are not negotiating tactics. They are the tactics of someone who does not want a deal.” In a private meeting, Donald Trump reportedly threatened that unless the allies boosted their military spending beyond previous agreements by January, the United States would “go it alone.” Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, implored Americans not to “normalize” this. “He is the first American president since Harry Truman,” Burns noted, “to not believe that NATO is central to American national security interests.” And Burns is a Republican.

Trump’s NATO-bashing surprised no one. He has repeatedly suggested the United States’ postwar security architecture is a “bad deal,” one negotiated by weak and foolish “incompetents.” Foreign policy, in his view, is a zero-sum game; any benefit to another nation must of necessity be a loss for the United States. “NATO countries,” he declared on Twitter, “must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

Unfair? A world that revolves around American military, economic and cultural power, and uses the U.S. dollar as its reserve currency? 

What Trump fails to understand is that the disparity in spending, with the U.S. paying more than its allies, is not a bug of the system. It is a feature. This is how the great postwar statesmen designed it, and this immensely foresighted strategy has ensured the absence of great power conflict—and nuclear war—for three-quarters of a century.

The open, liberal world order we know today was built in the wake of World War II and expanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By design, it is led by the United States; by design, it ensures permanent U.S. military hegemony over Eurasia while uniting Europe under the U.S.’ protection. The goal of this American grand strategy is to prevent any single power from dominating the region and turning on the United States and its allies. American hegemony serves, too, to quell previously intractable regional rivalries, preventing further world wars. Dean Acheson, George Marshall and the other great statesmen of their generation pursued this strategy because they had learned, at unimaginable cost, that the eternal American fantasy of forever being free of Europe—isolationism, or America Firstism, in other words—was just that: a fantasy. Four hundred thousand American men lost their lives in the European theaters of the First and Second World Wars. (American fatalities in all of the other 20th-century conflicts—including Vietnam, Korea and the Persian Gulf—do not total one-quarter of that number.) Our postwar statesmen were neither weak nor incompetent. They were the architects of the greatest foreign policy triumph in U.S. history. ...

Read entire article at Politico