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Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Foreign Policy Blunder Nobody is Talking About

The United States gains nothing, but the potential costs are clear and profound.

Quite often in Washington, the greater number of legislators who vote in favor of a piece of legislation, the worse that piece of legislation is. This rule is one that tends to hold true regardless of the party affiliations. Why?

Quite simply, this phenomenon is a reflection of the few commonly heralded goals in the capital, namely, the growth of state action in the domestic economy and in foreign affairs. Indeed, disagreements are primarily driven by the details of the intervention, not on if they should or shouldn’t. Overshadowed by the reckless attacks on the Syrian government, Congress experienced one of its rare and dangerous moments of harmony on another major foreign policy issue.

On March 28th, the US Senate passed a resolution supporting Montenegro’s ascension to NATO membership in a 97-2 vote. The lone but principled opposition consisted of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who provoked a fairly hostile response from John McCain after an attempt to stall the bill, and Utah Senator Mike Lee. With President Trump approving the resolution on April 11th, the small country of Montenegro is one massive step closer to full membership of NATO, which requires that all member nations approve the inclusion of any new countries.

An Entangling Alliance

Montenegro has recently been accusing Russia of attempting to stage a coup against its government.

One can safely assume that many Americans have never heard of Montenegro, and surely far fewer could find the beautiful little country nestled beside the Adriatic Sea. It simply doesn’t play a noticeable role in American affairs. However, if Montenegro were to ascend to full NATO membership, this would change. Montenegro’s national security would become America’s responsibility.

Article 5 of the treaty commits every member of NATO to come to the defense of every other member country. This means that an act of war against one member is an act of war against all. All of Montenegro’s future disputes and conflicts would suddenly become ours if their membership were confirmed. The members of Unites States’ military, people’s sons, and daughters, would be obligated to defend the small European nation with their lives.

Yes, Article 5 also means that Montenegrin forces are technically obligated to defend the US as well, but to what effect? The country has a whopping 2,000 troops at its disposal and a fleet of 7 operational helicopters. In comparison, their military is dwarfed in size by the Los Angeles Police Department, which has 9,000 officers and 15 helicopters.

Clearly, little to no security advantage could possibly be gained through Montenegro’s inclusion, especially when one considers the potential security risks involved. Montenegro has recently been accusing Russia of attempting to stage a coup against its government. Russia wholly rejects these claims, and the US is clearly far better off not getting involved in any needless saber-rattling with the nuclear superpower.

What should be the goal for global relationships? The answer can only be peace and prosperity.

Adding Montenegro to NATO could very well be a burden on American wallets as well. As Doug Bandow wrote for Forbes last month, “Seriously, if the West’s survival depends on Montenegro’s inclusion in NATO, we should all be heading for the bunkers. And any capabilities which the country develops are likely to be paid for by American taxpayers with funds to upgrade the Montenegrin legions.”

The United States gains nothing through Montenegro’s inclusion to NATO, but the potential costs are clear and profound. One must wonder why our government just approved it so eagerly. What Congress has voted in favor of and what the President has approved is to needlessly expand our responsibilities abroad, commit American tax dollars to protect foreign lands outside of legitimate US interests, and put American lives in more potential danger.

Global Peace and Prosperity

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius stressed that all actions need a clear and defined purpose which they are meant to achieve. What should be the goal for global relationships, then? The answer can only be peace and prosperity, and our actions must be directed towards promoting these ideals. Clearly, Montenegro’s ascension to NATO is a mistake and harmful to our nation’s interests. In fact, the time has come to question America’s entire involvement with NATO.

Through commerce, people necessarily begin to understand, tolerate, and respect each others ideas and culture.

NATO’s only accomplishments in the past 30 years have been to move the world towards more needless interventionist wars, the destabilization of populations, and the impoverishment of all parties involved. It’s intervention in Kosovo generated more chaos and death, exaggerating and extending an already tragic situation. NATO’s 2011 intervention to overthrow the Libyan government, lead by US forces, is still a fresh scar in the world’s mind, the unintended consequences of which are still being unraveled.

NATO is not an organization that promotes peace. It is not an organization that generates prosperity. In its actions, it has been a threat to both, and the United States would be better off without being a party to it.

America is best served by avoiding foreign wars and the political ties that produce them. Instead of partaking in and expanding entangling treaties, nations should immediately go to work at dissolving government trade barriers. As markets grow and become more intertwined, two miraculous things occur. The first is that all participants become wealthier, a fact that all students of economics understand, but the second is something that is a bit less celebrated or understood.

The free market is the world’s greatest guarantor of peace.

As the division of labor spreads and strengthens across political borders, the people in them begin working together toward shared goals. Soon, they begin to rely on one another, which by itself is enough to ensure lasting cooperation. There is more to it, though. Through trade and commerce, people necessarily begin to understand, tolerate, and respect each other’s ideas and culture, melting away animosity.

No government treaty or intervention could ever hope to accomplish something so meaningful and conducive to international harmony. The free market is the world’s greatest guarantor of peace, and it is the foreign policy which must be pursued if human prosperity is the goal.

  • Nathan Keeble helped start the Campaign to End Civil Asset Forfeiture in Tennessee.