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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My Contribution to the Conlawprof Listserv

Re: Leader Uber Alles: Responding to Professor ABC & Professor XYZ

Professor ABC: “El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago has systematically destroyed the western alliance that has prevailed since the end of WWII ….”

The original rationale and the traditional rationales for U.S. participation in NATO included: [1] Europe was broke after WWII (including the European nations among the allies which won the war); [2] Europe was fractious and disorganized; and, [3] a disunited Europe faced a unified (atheist and communist) Soviet Union (and later Warsaw Pact bloc) with designs on dominating (at least) Western Europe. That world is gone, and with it, the original and traditional rationales for continued U.S. participation in NATO. 

Today, Europe is not broke. Today, Europe is not disorganized (e.g., Council of Europe, EU, etc.) And today, the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact, and expansionistic atheistic world communism are no more. It is true that Russia is a great regional power, and it is a real threat to its neighbors. But Russia is a threat which Germany and France, in cooperation with one another and with other European countries, can defend themselves from. Russia is only an American problem is you adopt the near messianic mission that the U.S. defense perimeter must include each and every nation of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe—including nations spun out of the former Soviet Union. If, in Professor ABC’s words, “El Caudillo” shifts the burden of defending Europe from the U.S. onto Europe—i.e., onto Europe’s soldiers and taxpayers—that might be a yuuge win for the United States—and the U.S.’s soldiers and taxpayers. It strikes me as the sort of policy difference that is part-and-parcel of “normal” democratic politics (as opposed to “El Caudillo” politics). Nor should Trump’s position come to us as a total surprise. This issue was contested during the presidential election. See Again: all normal politics. Given the all too recent destruction of the Libyan state, under NATO auspices, by a joint adventure of the U.K. and France (with a green light from the U.S.’s State Department under Secretary Clinton), a serious unwinding of America’s defense commitments to NATO (and, perhaps, elsewhere) might put a needed damper on other such misadventures.

Professor XYZ: “Our Allies are being alienated while Putin gloats about the destruction of the European Union.” The United States has no tools to control Putin’s gloating, or the future of the EU. The dissolution of the EU, its continuation in its current form, or in some different future form—is not anything the U.S. can meaningfully control. (Unless, of course, one has a near messianic vision of America’s role in the world ... but I repeat myself.) 

The future of the EU is in the hands of EU institutions, its member states, and the people(s) of Europe. When President Obama visited the U.K. and urged its people to vote against BREXIT, he did so at the request of the elected Prime Minister, but a majority of U.K. voters voted otherwise, and Cameron resigned. Surely some U.K. voters and some U.K. government officials were alienated by the President’s intervention. Was our ally, the U.K., alienated by President Obama’s intervention? It is a tricky question. The same is true with regard to Trump’s policies which impact our allies. Maybe some officials in the governments of our allies are alienated by Trump’s policies: that is quite possible. But neither Trump nor those foreign officials will be in office forever. Asserting that our allies are alienated seems a bit premature.

Perhaps, one reason that some of our allies’ governments are “alienated” is that Trump appeared quite serious in telling our allies to meet their 2%-of-GDP defense commitment—a NATO policy. It is a policy which is only being met by about 5 of NATO’s 28 members. See It might surprise some on this listserv that some Americans are alienated by our forever footing the defense bill (including the all too real human costs) on behalf of the free riders of Europe. 


Seth Barrett Tillman, My Contribution to the Conlawprof Listserv, New Reform Club (June 13, 2018, 10:04 AM), 


les hardie said...

Every dollar ( oops, Euro) that our European friends don’t spend on their own defense is available for their socialist welfare state projects. If they are forced to adequately pay for their own defense, they will be forced to admit they cannot afford both “guns and butter”. By giving them a free ride, we have allowed them to imagine they live in a conflict-free world, where all disputes can be resolved by talking ( and talking ad nauseum) in the UN or EU. Trump is blowing up the smug pieties of the European transnational elites. “Pay your own way, pals” is his mantra, and they don’t like it one bit. Viva Trump!

Lexington Green said...

We are almost about a quarter century overdue for a Post-Cold War reassessment of America's foreign commitments, defense establishment, security state, etc. Inertia is not a good enough reason to keep doing things the same way, for decades, when the original rationale is long gone.