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NATO is a hollow shell. It’s capabilities are being reduced on every front

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NATO is a hollow shell. It’s capabilities are being reduced on every front.

Carpenter 8 (Ted Galen- vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the CATO Institute and has written five books on NATO, NATO at 60: A Hollow Alliance, CATO Institute,

Some American policy experts insist that only by spending even more than the vast sums it already spends on the military will Washington have enough meaningful influence to get the European countries to increase their paltry efforts. Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for

International Peace, denounces the possibility that the Obama administration might slow the surge in U.S. military spending that has taken place since 9/11. Such a move, he contends, “would make it harder to press allies to do more. The Obama administration rightly plans to encourage European allies to increase defense capabilities so they can more equitably share the burden of global commitments. This will be a tough sell if the United States is cutting

its own defense budget.” The notion that the European members of NATO are interested in boosting their anemic military budgets—especially to help the United States handle global burdens, most of which would be outside Europe—is naive.55 Moreover, Kagan’s argument is a classic case of the triumph of hope over experience. Washington has been encouraging (indeed, often badgering or even begging) the European allies to engage in greater burden-sharing since NATO’s inception in 1949—without much success.56 That was true even during the height of the Cold War when the United States

and the European powers faced a dangerous common adversary, the Soviet Union. Alan Tonelson, a senior fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council Education Foundation and a long-time analyst of NATO issues, provides a depressing summary of Washington’s frustrations: America’s Cold War burden-sharing efforts failed for many reasons. But the main explanation is that U.S. leaders never gave the Europeans sufficient incentive to assume greater military responsibilities. The incentive was lacking, in turn, because Washington never believed it could afford to walk away from NATO, or even reduce its role, if the allies stood firm. Worse, U.S. leaders repeatedly telegraphed that message to the Europeans—often in the midst of burden-sharing controversies.57 That historical record suggests that Kagan’s thesis turns the role of incentives on its head. The more likely scenario is that if the United States continues to overspend on the military and implicitly subsidize the security of the European allies, they will be perfectly content

to continue that arrangement. Indeed, that is what they have done for nearly six decades. The current economic circumstances may actually increase the tendency to free ride. Given the scope of the European safety nets, domestic political constituencies are likely to pressure their governments to divert even more revenues to welfare programs. There certainly will be few constituencies clamoring to boost military spending—especially when the United

States is obligingly taking care of the continent’s security needs, with American taxpayers footing the bill. If Washington wants to maximize the

prospects that the NATO members will increase their military spending, U.S. officials need to adopt the opposite course: significantly cut spending and implement a phased withdrawal of American troops from Europe. That alters the incentive structure. Especially with Russia beginning to flex its muscles, prudence would dictate that the European powers take security issues more seriously and create at least respectable military capabilities as basic insurance. To do otherwise would be to risk being vulnerable to escalating pressure from Moscow on a variety of issues. Kagan himself implicitly conceded the role

of incentives in 2003, noting that the Europeans “could easily spend twice as much as they are currently spending on defense if they believed it was necessary to do so.” He viewed with skepticism the European arguments that there are certain “structural realities” in their national budgets, “built-in limitations to any increases in defense spending.” If Europe were about to be invaded, Kagan asked, “would its politicians insist that defense budgets could not be raised because this would violate the terms of the EU’s growth and stability pact? If Germans truly felt threatened, would they insist nevertheless that their social welfare programs be left untouched?” But threat perception is only one component of the incentive picture. Equally important is whether the countries in question can free ride on an outside protector, or whether they must instead rely on their own military resources for protection. It is that calculation that existing U.S. defense policy, to say nothing of the smothering policy that Kagan and other supporters of U.S. hegemony advocate,

distorts in an especially corrosive fashion. Washington’s oversized role in NATO short circuits a crucial incentive for the European powers to do more for their own defense. NATO in Its Dotage All of these developments—the growing policy divisions (especially with regard to Russia), the addition of small, weak, and vulnerable new members, the alliance’s inept performance in Afghanistan, and the erosion of the military capabilities of Washington’s traditional European partners—confirm that NATO is fast becoming a parody of its former self. It is increasingly little more than a political fraternity rather than a credible security alliance. That is sad, because the alliance was once a serious and capable military association with an important purpose. That is no longer the case, and there is little prospect that the process of decay can be reversed. Today’s NATO is a hollow shell. The outward appearance is one of an impressive organization—with an abundance of perks for the military brass of member states and a generator of conferences, papers, and studies for a vast network of policymakers and outside experts who benefit from the perpetuation of its venerable bureaucracy. But as Gertrude Stein famously said of Oakland, “there is no there, there.” NATO is no longer an effective or, inmost instances, even a credible security alliance. Certainly, NATO in its current form does not advance the security and well-being of the American republic. It is time to terminate this increasingly dysfunctional alliance—or at the very least extricate the United States from it.

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