Earlier today at a news conference in Brussels, Barack Obama lamented the “diminished” military budgets of other members of NATO, invoking the situation in Ukraine as reminder that “freedom is not free”. This turn of phrase, typically used for domestic sloganeering to the glory of militarism, here is being effectively re-purposed to state an addendum to the usual war cries that arguably further poisons an already toxic view of the world: Empire as Favor, the mighty eagle soaring to carry the slacker deadbeats of Earth above the snake pits they blissfully ignore.
As insulting as this formulation is on face value alone, it leaves open a question that pulls the rug out from under its logic. The statement of U.S. military spending as a thankless burden implies possibility of threat to cease carrying it should the slackers refuse to carry their fair share, does that possibility present itself? With the only argument in D.C. being how much to raise the military budget, rather than whether to do it at all (or, FSM Forbid, actually cut it), the mere thought is laughable. The burden of course in reality lies on the U.S. public in being expected to pay for this in the first place, as well as the populations overseas tending to receive “our” generous gifts in the form of fire raining down on their neighbors, but such talk is UnSerious in the halls of congress. One cannot claim to be Atlas and close off all possibility of shrugging.
To further muddy the waters, the insistence on global dominance by the U.S. itself in a way actually explains the current balance of military spending by NATO members. Consider the scope of their expected goals, largely basic invasion defense & the occasional logistic aid vs seeking to be able to fight multiple conflicts at once anywhere on the planet. Empire simply costs way more than the basics. Past and ongoing attempts to stretch the defensive concerns of Europe by waving in the general direction of Iran fall apart with slightest attempt to find reason for Iran to do such, and lately decent chunks of the continent have had internal issues involving conflict between a single flawed monetary policy and scattershot fiscal policy far more immediately pressing than future phantoms.
Speaking of claiming threats of beasts on the borders, Obama’s nod towards Ukraine* and what Russia is currently doing there gives a throwback flair: “The Soviets Shall Rise Again!”, with Putin dressed in the Eastern European analog to Confederate garb. Yet, there lays quite obvious reason why his excursions have been so limited: Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty claims attack on one member as attack on all, & calls for backup. Which would mean the U.S. Which would likely mean WW3, possibly even the end of the world. Which even Vladimir Putin is not dumb enough to trigger. In other words, Crimea was a target at least in part because no one is expected to nor wants to actually fight over it. Another part of that has been the expansion post-Cold War of NATO into the former Soviet Bloc, an action which when you think about it makes no sense considering the original point of NATO to begin with. The fear at the birth of NATO was of Soviets invading the West for conquest & resources, yet the first — and to date only — invocation of Article 5 was by the U.S. in response to (largely Saudi-backed) multinational radical Islamists attacking due to blowback from previous American intervention. It seems to me that the response has outlived its challenge so long that it struggles to scream at the slightest thing “see, told ya so!” when Russia is if anything demonstrating its weakness in Ukraine.
Surely there is some incentive to Barack Obama making the complaint that he did that makes sense, if the ones spoken of do not. Call it cynical, but I can’t help but wonder who the governments of those NATO countries, if inspired to pay for “freedom”, would be buying all those Freedom Bombs from…
* — From my reading of the situation there, between Putin’s stated reasoning for invasion & annexation of Crimea and the type of characters that have popped up in the post-revolt Ukrainian government, the conflict there is pretty much Fascist on Fascist. I feel for those caught in the crossfire, also Fuck the Kremlin for invading & Fuck Washington for backing up far-Right elements and overall sanctimonious doublespeak, try telling that line about votes under occupation to the Iraqis.