Donald Trump makes everyone else look mature. So it’s easy to forget that, sometimes, he’s not the only one who’s wrong. His establishment critics are, too.
Take NATO, whose annual summit Trump threatened to derail because he publicly upbraided America’s allies for supposedly not spending enough on their militaries. (After first berating America’s allies for not spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, Trump on Wednesday demanded they spend 4 percent.) Some Democratic politicians and liberal journalists have responded to that line of thinking with what sounds like a thoughtful, measured critique: Yes, America’s partners should increase defense spending, but it’s not worth blowing up NATO make them do it. Earlier this month, four Democratic senators wrote to Trump asking that “in addition to urging NATO allies to meet their commitments to spend 2% of GDP on defense … you make a strong statement of support for the democratic nations that make up the alliance.” In recent days, The Washington Post has editorialized that “Mr. Trump makes a valid point about defense spending.” The New York Times has concurred that “many allies can do more to reach the target level of spending 2 percent of their annual G.D.P. on defense”—even as both newspapers warn that Trump risks harming an organization that has served America well.
The Democrats, the Post, and the Times are wrong: America’s NATO partners don’t need to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, let alone 4 percent. And the fact that some of America’s most prominent progressive politicians and journalists think they should underscores just how detached liberal foreign policy has become from the values liberals supposedly prize.