Trump is right about NATO

Greg Nash

The time has come to listen closely to tycoon and Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFighting for affordable energy could remake presidential race Trump claims Democrats are making up polls Hanks: Trump's 'suspense' comment a 'gift' for 'SNL' MORE on every item, if for no other reason than we live here and he could well be our next president. Very much of what he has to say is beyond the pale, but we should not discard all of his opinions outright. We should give every of his offerings the most careful consideration and scrutiny as his opinions do come from a different path and in some instances may offer a fresh start.

On NATO, for instance: Trump is right about NATO.

"We certainly can't afford to do this anymore," Trump said. "NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we're protecting Europe with NATO, but we're spending a lot of money."

Incomprehensible. Ask anybody. As Fortune commented, "he became the first mainstream candidate to ever suggest that the United States withdraw from NATO."

Is anyone at all in the professional realm with him on this? Possibly Dwight Eisenhower would have been, who might be considered the greatest general since Julius Caesar. In 1951, he became the supreme commander of NATO, the intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty signed on April 4, 1949. He had this to say about it: "If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed."

Why does it still then exist, 70 years later? Because both political parties have thought of little else but expanding NATO from then to now.

Trump might also have found a friend in George Kennan, the post-war father of containment, the notorious "Mr. X" and America's most important diplomat since Benjamin Franklin.

As Eugene Carroll Jr., then-deputy director of the Center for Defense Information, wrote in The Los Angeles Times in July 1997:

One can only wonder at [Eisenhower's] reaction today if he learned that 46 years later, the United States was the dominant force in a plan not just to continue our powerful military presence there but to enlarge NATO's responsibilities and increase U.S. costs and risks in Europe. If his granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, is any guide to his reaction, he would not be pleased. She gathered an impressive group of 49 military, political and academic leaders who joined her in signing an open letter to President Clinton on June 26 that terms the plan to expand NATO 'a policy error of historic proportions.'"

Why would so many knowledgeable and responsible authorities raise such powerful objections to NATO expansion?

As Carroll wrote:

Diplomat-historian George F. Kennan perhaps said it most clearly when he wrote earlier this year in a newspaper commentary: "Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected ... to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking."

Trump might even have had the support of my venerable old anti-communist senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, who had not long before befriended the Dalai Lama. He signed a letter to President Clinton with 19 other Senate colleagues, asking him to clarify his position on his proposal to expand the NATO alliance to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

"Is a border dispute involving one or several of the new NATO members so vital a national security threat to the U.S. that we are willing to risk American lives?" they asked.

As an admirer of Kennan and a follower of his thinking, I've been dogging this issue ever since.

"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a ghost," I wrote here in The Hill in 2014. "It is the primary shibboleth which keeps the illusion of 'the West' frozen in place today; keeps our gaze fixed on the frozen tundra on the other side of the river and the danger lurking there, the slumbering bear we perceive to be Russia."

Trump might even have said this: "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world." That was from George Washington's "Farewell Address" to America.

Say what you like about Trump, but today it appears that only he speaks to this. Here is an additional thought for him, originally mentioned in The Hill, one hopefully more suited to the times and an America free, unfettered and unhinged from the archaic, entangling alliances that Washington warned us about, and uniquely perched between Asia and Europe, between China and Russia, at the very beginning of a brand new millennium:

Consider instead for defense the Anglosphere — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the U.S. — for a reality-based, earth-based, tradition-based perspective, and one without abstraction, without interpretation. This is our first circle. It tells us who we are. We should defend it and start to look outward from there.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at