By Scott Taylor
At last week’s NATO summit meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump surprised no one with his bombastic comments on defence spending.
The Donald has long railed against those NATO member states that do not spend the target goal of 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on the military.
Yes, with Canada spending barely 1% of GDP on defence, we would be lumped in with the group Trump refers to as ‘laggards’. We are certainly not short of company in the laggard club as only five NATO countries currently spend that magical 2% of GDP while the other 23 fall short.
In Trump’s opinion, those of us who have failed to meet this defence-spending goal are a burden on the U.S. taxpayers. As we are all responsible for the collective defence and sovereignty of the 28 member states, Trump believes those not pulling their 2% of GDP weight actually owe a debt to the U.S.
That line of reasoning might make sense if NATO was actually at war, or if there was even a tangible threat to the alliance. That the U.S. chooses to spend a whopping 3.6% of their GDP on defence, which amounts to more than double the collective dollar figure of the other 27 NATO countries combined, is purely out of America’s quest to remain a superpower, rather than defending the sovereignty of places like Latvia and Montenegro.
Trump himself described NATO as “obsolete” and the U.S. has shown in recent history that it has no hesitation in wielding its military force without either consent or consultation with the alliance.
To wit, in 2003 U.S. President George W. Bush falsified claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify illegally invading Iraq. That ill-fated campaign quickly toppled Saddam, but it failed to secure the country. Instead, the U.S. invasion triggered a fanatical insurgency and wholesale inter-factional bloodletting that continues to this day.
The war in Iraq cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars and, given the violent anarchy that resulted and has since spilled over into Syria, the Middle East remains engulfed in the bloodiest conflicts since the Crusades.
Has that vast expenditure of U.S. tax money helped to protect America’s NATO allies? Hell no. Instead, the protracted violence and instability has led to the current migrant crisis, which our European NATO allies are all struggling to cope with.
The U.S. similarly took a lead role in toppling Moammar Gadhafi in Libya in 2011.
Technically, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi from using his air force to punish rebellious civilians.
However, simply keeping the Libyan air force on the ground was never America’s goal. From the outset it was regime change, and the minute they had a UN no-fly zone authorization, the U.S. exceeded its mandate and began bombing Gadhafi loyalists. Gadhafi was prevented from bombing rebels; but the U.S.-led NATO air armada had virtual unrestricted authority to bomb Libyans.
Of course, no one planned for the aftermath of Gadhafi’s removal, and as a result the Libyan rebels immediately began battling among themselves once he was executed. To this day, Libya remains a failed state gripped by violent anarchy. It is also a principal conduit for the masses of African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe.
Instead of buckling under to Trump’s demands to spend more, NATO leaders should take the bullyboy to task for America’s reckless role in all of these unresolved conflicts.
Thanks to the U.S. track record of illegal invasions and regime changes, the world is less safe now than at any point since the end of the Second World War. Maybe the answer is not for the laggards to spend more, but for the U.S. to spend less, and to refrain from kicking over political hornet’s nests around the globe.