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Tell NATO 'No Thanks'

Last time Europeans came to our defense, America was more a dream than a country.  Casimir Pulaski, a Polish soldier found in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, won the title “Father of the American Cavalry” after saving the Continental Army at Brandywine.  Thaddeus Kosciusko, another Pole, masterminded the battle of Saratoga and engineered the installations around West Point.  Prussian Baron von Steuben drilled the fledgling Army into a fighting machine through the winter at Valley Forge, and the Frenchman, Marquis de Lafayette fought alongside us in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

But these were individuals – not nations.  And like Lafayette, who took U.S. soil for his burial plot back in France, they were not mercenaries but shareholders in the American endeavor.

Fast forward two centuries and a score.  America has come of age fighting around the world – sometimes beside allies, sometimes alone.  But never have we officially enlisted foreign help to defend the homefront.  Until now.

Late last week, five NATO AWACs – one-third of its global force – left an air base in Geilenkirchen, Germany to take up surveillance of the American skies. Similar U.S. aircraft have been sent to Afghanistan.

President Bush welcomed the NATO deployment saying, “In an unprecedented display of friendship, NATO air surveillance aircraft are on their way to the United States to help keep our country safe.  This has never happened before, that NATO has come to help defend our country.  But it happened in this time of need, and for that, we’re grateful.”

Rep. Ron Paul argues the contrary:  “National security is the most basic sovereign duty of the federal government in our constitutional republic,” he said upon being told of the NATO deployment.  “Neither Congress nor the president can cede that duty to a foreign nation or body.”

Too true.  While we draw coalitions for global fights, defense of our own shores should be the sole prerogative of our own government – and its first priority. There is little Leviathan does that actually falls within Constitutional bounds.  But when it comes to “provid[ing] for the common defense,” Congress must plead dereliction of duty.

Since the dawn of the Clinton era, the Navy has lost one-third of its ships, and Army modernization funding has dropped 41%.  Only 65% of all combat units in the Air Force are rated war ready, and since 1995, the Marine Corps’ mission-capable rate has decreased 9.4%.  While we’ve increased missions to far-flung corners by some 300% over the last decade, overall spending and resources have been slashed by 40%.  Not a portrait of a nation fortified to defend herself.

Comes the counter.  Supporters of the NATO deployment will contend that the U.S. military, though bled by a million cuts, isn’t stressed by battering a defenseless country the size of Texas.  They tell us NATO’s gesture is supportive, not essential.  A show of unity rather than necessity.  But if this is the case, is symbolism all a member state can expect from NATO’s invocation of Article V – “An attack on one is an attack on all”?  Is this the grand future our tax dollars have bought?

If America is unwilling to prioritize her own security, then we must delegate our defense to international organizations.  But we are no more ready to put our eggs in NATO’s basket than they are to assume the responsibility.  Thus, the AWAC deployment exposes a dangerous truth.  America does not expect reciprocity or even efficacy from our global alliances.  Yet for the facade of partnership, we pay disproportionate dues – while our soldiers apply for food stamps. 

When last a foreign defender came to our aid, Lafayette said of the American cause, “my heart was enrolled in it.”  But NATO cannot pledge that allegiance.  No international organization can – and for that very reason America must fast awake from the fatal delusion that we can indefinitely defend a host of other nations to the detriment of our own. 

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