NATO: Not Worth the Cost
The effort began in 1947 as the Treaty of Dunkirk, a mutual assistance arrangement between the United Kingdom and France.
In 1948, the alliance was expanded to include the Benelux countries and was then known as the Western Union or the Brussels Treaty Organization. The alliance was expanded again in 1949 to include the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. NATO was a paper tiger until the Korean War, which by the mid-1950s provided an impetus for member nations to develop contingency plans and “standardize” military armaments/equipment.
There were no NATO operations during the Cold War, but excluding the United States, there were always doubts about the ability of member states to contribute a viable military force structure in defense of Europe. There was always a question about the probability that member states would hold up their end of the Article Five agreement, particularly in response to aggression by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The Warsaw Pact arrangement collapsed in 1991 —along with the Soviet Union, which was the entire reason for the existence of NATO. And, that being the case, one must question why NATO continues to exist. Rather than disbanding NATO, which is what should have happened, NATO members began a strategic re-evaluation of NATO’s purpose —which I view as any combination of contingencies to justify maintaining that which has never justified its costs.
In terms of weaponry, which is the essential element in defeating an enemy, European members of NATO insisted that the United States change its armaments, at a tremendous cost to the American taxpayer.
These were decisions that placed US combat troops in peril. Of particular note, NATO standardization required that the United States to replace its time-proven .45 caliber pistol with 9 mm handguns —a weapon that was so ineffective that US infantry training schools began teaching their students that in order to have its greatest effect, they must shoot an enemy target twice.
Similarly, the United States was forced to replace its .30 caliber, M-1 and 7.62 mm M-14 rifles with 5.56 mm (.22 caliber) M-16s. In Iraq, US and coalition forces using 5.56 mm rifles were overwhelmed by the enemy’s 7.62 mm AK-47’s. This is not an issue about battlefield toys; it is about the survivability of US combat troops in a lethal environment. But NATO did more than cost the United States more money in armaments. NATO also caused conflict where none had previously existed.
Beyond the foregoing, Article 5 (mutual defense) is not worth the paper it is written on. No member state is obligated to render aid to another because no state commit its national treasury to war simply because of some obscure agreement signed in 1949 that most members states avoid paying for.
NATO is a cold war relic —one that the United States should scrap. The world may have changed since 1949, but NATO hasn’t. It was at the beginning, and continues now, as an unnecessary drain on the US treasury and the American taxpayer.