I was struck by something Donald Trump said on CNN this [Sunday] morning:
“Until I got involved in this most people didn’t know we were defending Japan and Germany."
Of course they didn’t, and don’t – they’re too busy paying their mortgages, raising their children, and living their lives. They don’t have the time or inclination to educate themselves in the many ways their government is ripping them off, meddling in concerns that are none of America’s business, and otherwise projecting the monumental conceit of the political class overseas.
Direct payments to NATO in fiscal year 2010 were $711.8 million, but this underestimates the real costs by several orders of magnitude. The US deployment of troops to Europe, the continuing expense of basing them in Germany, Spain, Italy, and elsewhere, easily equals that amount – and if we add up all the years we’ve been NATO’s mainstay, the total represents an enormous drain on the American economy. Of course, not everybody pays: some profit from this, notably the big military contractors, who rake in billions. So when Trump says our allies are “ripping us off,” he’s only half right: the real thieves are the American war profiteers and their political Praetorian Guard in Congress, who make this grand larceny possible.
And the costs aren’t just calculated in terms of dollars and cents. The NATO alliance, and the web of treaties that has us entangled in Asia, has created a mesh of tripwires that could put us on a war footing the moment some disputed border somewhere in Outer Slobbovia is crossed.
Do Americans want their young people to die so that the boundary between Moldova and Romania remains forever sacrosanct? Of course they don’t. But our political class disagrees, and they are ready, willing, and able to sacrifice any number of American lives, not to mention what’s left of our financial heft, to ensure it.
Aside from the entertainment value of Trump’s candidacy – and even his worst enemies have to admit it is considerable – the educational value of his rise is something I can appreciate. For the past twenty years, I’ve been writing about the costs of our interventionist foreign policy, the dangers of entangling alliances, and the utter cluelessness of our bipartisan foreign policy Establishment, which has led us from disaster to catastrophe. And now, suddenly, everybody is talking about these issues – because Trump is raising them.
For once foreign policy is an issue in a presidential election. I can’t remember the last time that was the case. And it’s a wonderful opportunity to expose the utter bankruptcy of the “conventional wisdom.”
For example, here’s Clinton shill Jake Tapper interviewing Trump on his idea that we have to make the Japanese, the Koreans and the Saudis start paying for their own defense: Trump insists that they have to pay 100 percent of the costs. When Tapper comes back at him by saying “We have bases there” – as if this is some benefit to us – Trump points out that we’re actually paying rent on those bases. We’re paying them so they don’t have to defend themselves against threats real and imagined. So we have to be ready to “walk away,” says Trump, if our “allies” won’t fork up the cash. Tapper then borrows from the Clinton arsenal and plays the nuclear card: “That’s where the nukes come out. If they don’t pay –“
This is the same line handed out by Mrs. Clinton in her “foreign policy” speech, which wasn’t about foreign policy at all but merely a string of epithets aimed at Trump. Yet what do Trump’s critics on this issue think the Japanese will do with their nukes, if they decide to acquire them –bomb Pearl Harbor again? Will the Koreans take out Washington, D.C.?
We hear much about how our allies are horrified by the prospect of Trump in the White House, and this isn’t hard to understand: after all, he’s saying their free ride will come to an end if he has anything to say about it. But in going after Trump, Mrs. Clinton and her journalistic camarilla are sending a rather odd message to Tokyo, Seoul, and Riyadh: they’re telling them that they are irresponsible children and aren’t to be trusted with nuclear weapons, and that only the adults in Washington can possess such fearsome weaponry.
And of course saying this to the Japanese is not only insulting, it is brazenly hypocritical: it was the evil Harry Truman who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents against the advice of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Truman advisor Paul Nitze, and a whole platoon of military heavyweights.
And Trump raises the issue I raised above: this isn’t just about the monetary costs of defending the “free world.” When Tapper asserts that Japan pays half of the costs of their defense, but “you want 100 percent,” Trump replies:
“Of course they should pay 100 percent. You’re talking about billions and billions of dollars, and you’re talking about worse than that. You’re talking about World War III. Somebody attacks Japan and we end up in World War III?”
All in favor of World War III, raise your hands!
While I’m not supporting Trump, and didn’t vote for him, he is making my job – educating the American people about the costs, both monetary and moral, of our interventionist foreign policy – much easier. And for that I am grateful indeed.
Gary Johnson, too, is waking Americans up to the folly of our foreign policy: recently nominated as the Libertarian candidate for President, he’s registered as high as 10 percent in the polls, and in spite of his support for some “humanitarian” interventions – something Trump would disagree with him on – his is another skeptical voice raised against the overweening conceit of our rulers, who think they can “lead” the world.
The political turmoil we are witnessing this election year is in large part due to the “blowback” from decades of meddling in the affairs of other nations: our economy is faltering because we have “led” the world without attending to America first. And the American people are beginning to realize that an empire is a burden, not a benefit: all the vaunting about America’s duty to take on the task of “global leadership” is meant to flatter our preening elites, who think they have the wisdom and foresight to rule the world.
It’s been a very educational election year, so far – but it’s important to realize that this alone isn’t going to change our foreign policy. What’s needed is a sustained effort to bring the truth to the American people – and that’s what Antiwar.com is all about.
For over 20 years, we’ve been educating the American people – and mobilizing them against the War Party. It’s been a long, hard haul, but finally we’re making some progress – and yet we can’t take advantage of this sudden upsurge in consciousness without your help. We need your financial help in order to keep this web site going.
It’s always been that way. We don’t depend on eccentric billionaires, or big foundations, to give us the resources we need: neither contributes a penny to this little operation. The average contribution is a little under $50 – and it takes a whole lot of them to keep us afloat.
That’s why I’m appealing to you, the readers, once again: we’re now going into the third week of our fundraising campaign and we’re still some ways away from our goal. This can’t go on much longer. We have matching funds, provided by our most generous donors, to the tune of $29,000 – but we have limited time in which to match those funds. And if we don’t, we lose the money. That’s a disaster I’m trying to avoid.
Public opinion is swinging in our direction, and now is the time to take full advantage of the shift. Now is the time for Antiwar.com to spread its wings and have a real effect – but if we don’t get your tax-deductible donations in much faster than they’ve been coming, that won’t happen.
We can win. We are winning. But we need your help before we can grasp the prize. Please make your donation today – before it’s too late.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.