by Francis P. Sempa
Jessica Berlin, a policy analyst writing in the Center for European Policy Analysis’ online journal, has proposed a NATO without limits–an expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to all democratic nations. “The 21st-century threat landscape,” she contends, “calls for a global alliance capable of mutual defense.” “NATO must open its doors,” she writes, “to new members beyond Europe and North America.” Her proposal is breathtaking in scope: an attack on any democracy is an attack on all democracies. It is a recipe for endless wars on all continents and a reckless extension of America’s nuclear guarantee to all the world’s democracies. It turns John Quincy Adams’ prudent counsel on its head: America goes abroad in search of monsters to destroy and is the champion and vindicator of the freedom and independence of all democracies.
Berlin’s proposed “New Alliance Treaty Organization” fulfills the vision of Woodrow Wilson who sought to use American power, treasure and blood to make the world “safe for democracy.” It echoes the irresponsible Truman Doctrine which rhetorically committed the United States to “support free peoples around the world who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” It mirrors the reckless pledge of President John F. Kennedy to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” It shares the Utopian vision announced by President George W. Bush that the United States will “extend the benefits of freedom across the globe” and to “bring the hope of democracy . . . to every corner of the world.”
Berlin is simply the latest exponent of democratism, an ideology that Patrick Buchanan argued would “bleed, bankrupt, and break this republic in endless crusades and interminable wars.” It is a tragedy of history that the ideology of democratism coincided with the rise to power of what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.” That tragedy is written in blood in Southeast Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and lesser conflicts. And Berlin envisions the new NATO as not only the army of the world’s democracies but also the armed force that will be used to prevent or stop genocide wherever it occurs. Here, Berlin mimics Samantha Power’s notion that the United States and its European allies have a “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the rest of the world’s people.
One of history’s greatest statesman Otto von Bismarck once remarked that “it is unworthy of a great state to dispute over something which does not concern its interests.” Bismarck was referring to actual, concrete interests, not interests defined by ideology. The great British geopolitical thinker Sir Halford Mackinder understood that democratic ideals must give way to geopolitical realities. Closer to home, America’s first and greatest president, George Washington, counseled his countrymen to conduct foreign policy without sentiment or emotion, and to “steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,” and to “safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”
Jessica Berlin not only wants to make NATO permanent; she wants to expand it to geographical and ideological lengths that even its most ardent supporters and admirers should shy away from. Crusaders and ideologues make for dangerous statesmen.
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Francis P. Sempa writes on foreign policy and geopolitics. His Best Defense columns appear at the beginning of each month.
Photo “NATO” by NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0