The North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrated its 60th anniversary last weekend. Part of the festivities, with President Obama amongst the celebrants, included welcoming Croatia and Albania into membership, bringing the total of the alliance’s participants to 27 nations.
Though hardly anyone refers to its full name any more, NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO's most active current operation has tens of thousands of U.S. forces and a sprinkling of troops from other nations fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. To put it mildly, Afghanistan is quite a distance from the North Atlantic. But that doesn’t bother our leaders even a little bit.
In a recent op-ed column appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Professor Andrew Bacevich, a frequent commentator about military matters, urged that the U.S. quit NATO. He concludes that calling the pact “a successful alliance today is the equivalent of calling General Motors a successful car company.” In other words according to the professor, NATO has outlived its usefulness.
But there’s more to the story. When NATO was being considered in 1949, internationalist-minded Secretary of State Dean Acheson, the pact’s chief promoter, stated very clearly that the alliance derived its legitimacy from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and that “it is an essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.” It has lived up to that description for the past 60 years.
Only 13 senators voted against U.S. entry into NATO. They pointed out that the pact requires an attack upon any one of 12 original nations to be considered an attack on all requiring appropriate military response from every participant. (As of this past weekend, an attack on any of the 27 nations would require the U.S. to respond militarily.) Ohio Senator Robert Taft claimed in 1949 that membership in NATO would likely “involve us in disputes where our liberty is not in fact concerned.” A little over a year later, what concerned him became reality.
In June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations responded with a Security Council resolution calling on all nations to aid South Korea. President Truman sent U.S. forces into the fray, but Taft and others objected insisting that, without a constitutionally required declaration of war, the president’s action was illegal. Truman responded by asserting that, if he could send troops to NATO, he could send them into Korea. And he got away with it. Taft insisted, “If this incident is permitted to go by without protest, at least from this body [the Senate], we would have finally terminated for all time the right of Congress to declare war, which is granted to Congress alone by the Constitution of the United States.” He even worried that in the absence of a war declaration, the President’s usurped authority could be used to send troops anywhere, “into “Malaya or Indonesia, or Iran or South America.” Sad to say, he was correct.
There has been no congressional declaration of war since December 8, 1941 when Congress responded appropriately to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. None preceded U.S. action in Vietnam, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In each case, a Security Council resolution was cited as “authorization” for the use of U.S. forces. Once the blinders have been removed, anyone should be able to see how NATO has indeed helped to strengthen the United Nations. There is, therefore, excellent reason for the United States to withdraw from the alliance in order to maintain the independence of our nation.
NATO’s partisans claim that the pact saved Western Europe from further Soviet advance westward. But all during the years that the USSR posed a threat to the West, the Moscow regime was kept alive through massive aid sent from the chief NATO member, the United States. In the meantime, NATO, along with its stepchild SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization – now defunct) and the UN itself, dictated how our nation could use its military arm. The war in Korea has never been settled and 45,000 U.S. troops continue on station in the Korean peninsula more than 50 years after the shooting stopped. The Vietnam War ended in defeat after our forces were stymied in how they fought all during its years. American forces are now involved in UN Security Council and NATO-authorized actions in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are tasked to combat, not an enemy nation, but a military tactic – terrorism. Is it any wonder that the struggle continues? No army in history has ever succeeded in fighting a tactic.
Withdrawing from NATO is certainly called for. But so, too, should the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations. America’s military should never be sent into battle except to protect the lives, liberty and property of the American people. And it should never be used in any war without a formal declaration of war issued by the U.S. Congress. Did entry into NATO initiate the current misuse of U.S. military? Yes, but without entry into the UN, there would be no U.S. involvement in NATO. Exiting both is long overdue.