As I head over to Ireland for a conference on closing U.S. and NATO military bases around the world — and at which some of us will make plans for protesting NATO in Washington on April 4, 2019 — the presidents of France and Germany are talking up the need for a European military that can fight the United States, Russia, and/or China. There are three responses to this development, two of which will get us all killed more quickly than the other.
One is this. Down with the stupid, ungrateful, miserable, old-fashioned Europeans! Make them fund NATO for their own good, whether they like it or not. This is a U.S. world, NATO is its tool, and others must be made to submit and to say thank you. This response unites all variety of liberal-conservative imperialists, thoughtless accepters of corporate opinion, people who like NATO because they’ve been told Trump doesn’t, and Trump himself, who of course once blurted out the obvious (that NATO is obsolete) until the generals informed him of what his job is, since which point Trump has been the biggest NATO-booster in at least half a century.
A second response it this. Hurray for a European military! This will break up U.S. hegemony. We’ll have a multipolar world, a balance of powers, independence from the Pentagon’s imperial throne. Perhaps even peace and disarmament will follow, who knows, who cares! Dance in the streets, people, the empire is collapsing! This response unites so-called peace activists who oppose U.S. war-making (and only U.S. war making) with weapons manufacturers and all variety of war and “reconstruction” profiteers. For centuries now, armaments and empires have led to wars, not peace. While the United States spends half the world’s military spending, other NATO members spend another quarter. China spends a tiny fraction of what the U.S. and other NATO members spend, and Russia spends a tiny fraction of what China spends, and has been reducing that each year, while Saudi Arabia and other weapons customers of the NATO nations ramp up.
The notion that NATO faces some external threat has become so ridiculous that the big hope for the weapons companies has to lie in two places (well, three until the Mueller investigation — or at least the Putin-stole-the-election core of it — fizzles out). The first is getting NATO to fight itself. Split NATO into Europe versus America. Get Europe to double its weapons spending to keep pace. That’ll make a few people very, very rich. Ask a U.S. weapons CEO for his or her view, I dare you. The second is getting these new rivals to sell even more weapons to poor countries and to wage even more wars against those weapons in those poor countries. There’s an old saying: When two demented, drunken, senile dinosaurs fight, it’s the ants and flowers that suffer. Rich nations haven’t actually fought each other since the Nuremberg trials. But they heavily arm and heavily bomb much of the rest of the world, the “violent” regions of which produce hardly any weaponry (and virtually all of that in Israel). If militarism is Westerners’ idea of progress, if their vision for decades to come — decades guaranteed to see environmental collapse and refugee crises — is a reorganization of barbarism, the result will make Donald Trump look good.
A third response is this. The problem is war, not U.S. war, but war. The U.S. is the biggest weapons dealer and the biggest warmonger, so it is the biggest piece of the problem. But the problem is war. And we don’t have decades left to dick around with medieval balances of power. The earth’s climate is already doomed. Militarism is both the biggest cause of climate collapse and the only industry given a waiver in major environmental agreements. Of course, Europe should stand up to the United States and to Trump’s demand to buy more weapons and fund a bigger NATO, but not by buying even more weapons and funding a different sort of NATO! As someone who has lived in Europe and loves both Europe and the United States, I have to say I’ll be extremely disappointed if Europe cannot manage to reply to fascist U.S. buffoonery with a civilized approach. Tiny fractions of what the United States and NATO members spend on wars could provide real aid to the entire world, including to these governments’ own people. A European Nonviolent Peaceforce, a European Climate Protection Agency, a European Disarmament Project, a European Aid Mission, a European Global Marshall Plan — if you want to unite Europe in opposition to Trumpian jackassery, try one of these, not a bigger jackass. Hell, try the rule of law. The chief prosecutor back at Nuremberg claimed the standards should apply to the United States as well.
If you favor peace, the above should be obvious. I shouldn’t have needed to say any of it. But peace is often a facade covering other motivations, hiding them even from ourselves. It shouldn’t be. We should have a peace movement that backs violence no more than a campaign for virginity backs sex. We’ve had 100 years now since the war to end all wars, 100 years of endless wars to end all peace. What we need is a peace to end all wars. And we need Europe to be a part of that. Arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine, human experimentation in CIA prisons, fascist propaganda about poor Honduran refugees: these are symptoms of the larger problem, the problem people claimed to be shocked by when the “civilized” Germans started putting human beings into ovens: the problem is putting massive violence between one part of humanity and another. Don’t do it, Europe! Don’t follow a fool! Don’t confuse Hollywood with reality! Don’t escalate humanity’s self-destruction! Help us turn down a different path!
If you want to ape Trump, do it like this. Treat NATO the way Trump treats disarmament agreements: withdraw from it and do the opposite!