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Blind Squirrel

President Obama recently showed some signs of awareness of the world around him when he criticized our European allies for the mess Libya became after its dictator was overthrown in 2011.  Mr. Obama seems to feel that, had the Europeans only done more,  Libya wouldn’t have evolved into even more of a cesspool than it already was.

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves in applauding the President for his sentience.  His only self-criticism appears to be that he trusted the Europeans too much.  You see, he’s not really angry; he’s just very, very disappointed.

The kicker, to me, is this quote:*

“Free riders aggravate me”

President Obama was commenting on the negligible amount of money Great Britain spends on her national defense, but he could have been talking about any of our European allies.

NATO member nations have ridden on the back of the American taxpayer for three generations.  From 1940 to 1992, this was a good bargain.  First, we needed to liberate Europe.  Next, we did not want to have to come back to liberate Europe again, and it looked like the Soviets were going to try to extend their empire to all points east of Liverpool and Reykjavic.  European NATO countries contributed much toward the goal of containing the Communists, and that problem eventually melted away.

But in the almost quarter century since then, NATO has become a farce.

Let’s take a look at a few numbers from 2014, when there were 28 members:

  • The United States spent about 3.5% of her GDP on national defense.  This included world-wide commitments, not just the defense of central and western Europe.  This was the highest percentage spent in the alliance.
  • The next highest percentage of GDP spent was a four-way tie between Greece, Turkey, France, and the U.K., who spent 2.2% apiece.
  • The average expenditure for NATO was 1.41 %.
    • If you take the U.S. out, it was 1.33%.
  • 57% of NATO members spent less than that average.  This included large, prosperous countries such as Germany and Canada.
  • Almost 40% of NATO members spent 1% or less of GDP on national defense.  Germany, arguably the largest economy in Europe, was among them.

Here are those same numbers from 1989, when there were 15 members and the Communist threat was just beginning to dissolve:

 

  • Greece spent 6% of GDP on defense, the largest percentage in NATO.
  • The United States spent about 5.5% of her GDP on national defense.  This included world-wide commitments, not just the defense of central and western Europe.
  • The next highest percentage of GDP spent was the U.K. at 4.1%
  • The average expenditure for NATO was 3.19 %.  If you take the U.S. out, it was 3.02%.
  • 40% of NATO members spent less than that average.  This included large, prosperous countries such as Germany and Canada.  However, Germany was just under that average at 2.9%.
  • No NATO members spent less than 1.3% of GDP

To put that in perspective, the only NATO country currently spending at least the average percentage from 1989 or more is the United States.  None of the other members, old or new, even approached it.  Almost half of current members spent less than the smallest 1989 contribution, 1.3%.

 

Am I suggesting that anyone needs to spend as much as they did during the last truly dangerous year of the Cold War?  Of course not.But this is ridiculous.

I’m not an isolationist, but I’m also not a sucker.  The United States is being taken advantage of, and we’re not the ones bordering Russia and the Middle East.

If the United States is going to be involved in the security of Europe, then the Europeans need to pay their own way.  European money needs to pay for more of Europe’s peace.

Hopefully President Obama’s replacement realizes that the rest of the world is perfectly happy with us picking up the check earlier than the last year of their presidency.

 

*I’ll let the irony of this particular president expressing that particular sentiment just sink in without further comment.

 

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