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Assault on America, Day 337: Trump makes NATO ‘go Dutch,’ allies whine. Americans cheer

Trump and Macron
“Okay, we'll go Dutch.”

We've all been in situations where we’re sitting around a table with friends or family at a restaurant or bar and when the check arrives, everyone looks at each other as though someone in the gathering should unconsciously extend their hand, grab the paper and take care of it for the whole company without hesitation. It’s not like we’re greedy -- or cheap -- it’s just that sharing the cost of a necessity (like a meal) is something everyone should be willing and obligated to do on a regular basis.

Wikipedia defines “Going Dutch” as, “a term that indicates that each person participating in a paid activity covers their own expenses, rather than any one person in the group defraying the cost for the entire group. The term stems from restaurant dining etiquette in the Western world, where each person pays for their meal.”

International relations isn’t so different than a congenial visit to the diner down the street, is it? One might think so, but President Donald Trump’s drawn a plethora of dirty looks and blank stares whenever he’s suggested America’s allies (NATO in particular) should chip in their contributions towards the greater security of their home environs (for NATO, it’s protection from the dormant but still dangerous and capable Russian foe). Upon advancing the gesture he’s greeted with so-called “experts” pontificating and grandstanding about our country’s premier role in the balance of power and the responsibilities that go along with it.

Unlike his predecessors, however, Trump isn’t dwelling on old excuses and rationales for keeping Americans indefinitely stationed overseas -- and paying for everything as we go. And Trump refused to do so again at this week’s NATO meetings, calling on longtime allies to honor minimum commitments. But is Trump’s suggestion to “go Dutch” cheapening America’s principal position as defender of freedom? Some seem to think so. Ben Wolfgang wrote at The Washington Times, “Analysts say the president’s push, particularly as it relates to U.S. forces in South Korea, upends the nation’s post-World War II approach to troop deployments abroad and sends the wrong signal at the wrong time. Critics fear the bare-knuckle Seoul-Washington talks are meant to create a template for U.S. demands of other longtime allies.

“’We’ve seen right now Korea is the first in the breach, both last year and this year,’ said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA Korea deputy chief and now a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. ‘In the past, the U.S. has said the cost of U.S. forces [on the Korean Peninsula] was $1.5 billion or so. And last year, Trump directed we’re going to get cost plus 50%, implying not only a transactional relationship but we’re going to make money having forces overseas.

“’It implies our men and women in uniform … are mercenaries, and that’s certainly not the case,’ Mr. Klingner said.”

Mercenaries? Seriously? Mention the term and history buffs immediately harken back to the legendary -- but true -- tale of General George Washington and his Continental Army crossing the ice laden Delaware River in rickety old boats on Christmas Day, 1776, to surprise the slumbering and intoxicated Hessian mercenary force tasked with holding them in winter camps. Great Britain’s vastly overextended empire and shortage of domestic manpower necessitated the hiring of German forces to do some of its fighting. It was done quite a lot in the old days -- and still is, through certain entities employing “private security forces” to prosecute undeclared conflicts.

The concept of “professional soldier” isn’t a new one and over the course of time many men have proffered their services for pay alone. There’s only so much loyalty to go around when fighting men and women are sent to foreign lands to scrap for higher notions of political autonomy for folks who they’d never met nor would ever run across in the normal course of life.

United States military members aren’t mercenaries in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean foreign governments resting behind their mighty shield shouldn’t be required to pay for their presence -- and if it turns out to be a “profit” operation, so be it. It’s no secret that America has carried the bulk of the financial load incurred from protecting western Europe during the Cold War as well as for maintaining a significant presence in Asia after WW II, resisting the spread of communism. In the process taxpayers have remunerated with blood and treasure, all to present numerous peoples with freedom and the prospect of economic liberty, which they’ve taken generous advantage of.

If you own a Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes or Samsung TV, you understand what happens when people are given the chance to better themselves.

It’s not so far-fetched to claim the best way for a country to get rich is to stumble into a war with the United States and lose. If you don’t believe it, just ask the Germans and Japanese about how the benevolent Yanks helped them rebuild and bolster their post-war economies. Great success stories? Heck yeah -- but the American taxpayers also shouldered a good portion of the load. And these nations have prospered under the U.S. military umbrella as well.

South Korea in particular enjoys enormous strategic and logistical advantages over Kim Jong-un’s North Korean rogue outlaw regime. South Korea is significantly larger in population and its economy is many, many times larger than North Korea’s. Its domestic forces are more than capable of handling their own defense without the need for American boots on the ground. Many a conservative commentator has likened the United States military presence on the Korean peninsula to a hostage situation. With our guys and gals over there, Jong-un wouldn’t dare risk an attack that would engender a nuclear response from the big “sleeping giant” nation across the Pacific Ocean. It’d be a suicide mission.

U.S. guns and nuclear forces are constantly at the ready and prepared for such an episode, and they would remain so regardless of whether they occupy South Korean soil or not. Are our personnel “mercenaries” if the South Koreans pay for their upkeep and alacrity? How about compensating for the weaponry? After all, how many aircraft carriers does South Korea possess?

Zero. But the country does have Dokdo-class amphibious assault ships, which can support helicopters. South Korea is also reportedly planning to build ships capable of launching carrier-type planes to supplement its ground-based military aircraft. According to this article in The National Interest, “The South Korean navy in 2019 operates 68 major warships including 16 submarines, 12 destroyers, 13 frigates, 13 corvettes and 14 amphibious warfare ships. The fleet also includes scores of patrol boats, mine-warfare vessels and auxiliaries.”

The seafaring vessels apparently could strike North Korea’s multitude of artillery batteries should Jong-un leap over the edge of sanity and decide to end it all for he and his citizens by attacking his southern neighbor. In other words, with all of this existing South Korean power -- and more coming onboard in the very near future -- why would it be out of line for Trump to ask the country’s leaders to pay a premium to have American soldiers and sailors act as virtual human shields as an additional deterrent?

The same goes for Japan, which is adding to its own navy (don’t worry, Pearl Harbor is safe) to help keep China honest.

As far as NATO goes, its member countries shouldn’t get away with shirking their financial responsibilities, especially since Vladimir Putin’s armies aren’t exactly situating themselves on their borders. Why does the United States still station forces in Western Europe well over seventy years since the end of WW II and over a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall? Is Europe so castigated and helpless that it can’t afford to pay its fair share for defense? Does Russia still represent the same threat it did under Stalin and Khrushchev?

The oil-dependent Russian economy can’t sustain a hegemonic military any longer. Don’t the naysayers look at the data?

Trump’s repeated insistence that security conditions have changed markedly in recent decades is exactly on point. There’s simply no reason why the United States must continue to prop up NATO with money and manpower when the world doesn’t look anything like it did in the late 40’s and 50’s. European nations have become complacent and neglectful due to a certain stubborn American mindset that sees danger everywhere even when common sense indicates there isn’t any.

If America wants to “Go Dutch” with NATO partners, Japan and South Korea, the others shouldn’t be staring across the table wondering why Trump is being so difficult. Time is running out for America’s “allies” to realize there’s a new reality in their political relations. In Trump’s world, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Rob Crilly reported at The Washington Examiner, “President Trump threatened to use trade as a weapon against NATO allies who fail to pay their share of defense costs, as world leaders gathered in London to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary.

“Trump has frequently accused members of leaving the United States to shoulder the burden of defense costs. He takes credit for cajoling more members to meet their commitment of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

“’NATO is becoming different than it was, bigger than it was, much stronger than it was because people are now fulfilling their commitments. There are some counties that aren’t fulfilling their commitment, and those countries are going to be dealt with,’ Trump said. ‘Maybe I’ll deal with them from trade standpoint, maybe I’ll deal with them in a different way. I’ll work something out.’”

You can bet he will. One can only imagine being a European leader at the NATO meeting with Trump, wondering what happened to the good ‘ol days when American presidents from both parties smiled while shaking on new deals promising to bludgeon the Russian bear into submission without asking for any coin to help power the battering ram.

Not with Trump. When he says “America First,” he means it. The gravy train’s off the tracks and it ain’t coming back… unless Joe Biden or Jeb Bush is elected president. Here’s thinking neither possibility will ever happen, and even if it does, the public is now conditioned to demanding more from “allies.”

“Going Dutch” with friends isn’t a bad thing when everyone’s in a good mood, there’s plenty to share and the bank account is full. These are good times in America. Trump’s made a lot of it possible. The American military isn’t for hire, but it’s also not going to be anyone’s sucker either. It’s time Trump’s enemies -- and friends -- realized it.

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