Something the President (Obama) did this week caught my attention. It seems he decided to extend a formal invitation to the White House to a foreign head of state. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, unless it happens to be a shamed African dictator who has ruthlessly plundered billions of dollars from his own country. Mr. Obama granted a coveted private meeting with President Ali Bongo of Gabon in the Oval Office despite his appalling track record. I am sure most of you don’t know the Bongos of Gabon but Bongo's family has ruled the impoverished African nation with an iron fist for five decades and have used its oil riches to fund a life of outrageous luxury.
I sometimes wonder just what the President is thinking when he sends this kind of message to the world.
I have always liked Bob Gates (our Secretary of Defense). I felt he was an excellent choice to take over after Don Rumsfeld (don’t get me started about him). He is leaving office this month and I will miss him. Now that he is leaving he is beginning to speak a little more frankly about things and he recently said some things to and about NATO that I have been thinking for a while.
Addressing NATO last week he said America’s military alliance with Europe — the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades — faces a “dim, if not dismal” future. Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.
“Future U.S. political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he told a European think tank.
Gates has made no secret of his frustration with NATO bureaucracy and the huge restrictions many European governments placed on their military participation in the Afghanistan war. He ruffled NATO feathers early in his tenure with a direct challenge to contribute more front-line troops that yielded few contributions.
Even so, Gates’ assessment Friday that NATO is falling down on its obligations and foisting too much of the hard work on the U.S. was unusually harsh and unvarnished. He said both of NATO’s main military operations now — Afghanistan and Libya — point up weaknesses and failures within the alliance.
“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic at large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.
Without naming names, he blasted allies who are “willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”
The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops based in Europe, not to stand guard against invasion but to train with European forces and promote what for decades has been lacking: the ability of the Europeans to go to war alongside the U.S. in a coherent way.
Rumor has it that Alec Baldwin is thinking about running for Mayor of New York. I have to confess that one took me by surprise but it turns out that he has been writing pieces for the HufPost and making ‘political’ comments on Twitter for a while. I guess I have been sleeping. But, no matter. It is a New York problem, not mine. When Mayor Blumberg was asked his opinion he said “good” but Baldwin will have to take care of one small problem first. He does not live in New York and they have this little requirement about that. I guess we’ll wait to debate this further when Alec actually becomes a New Yorker…
Live Long and Prosper....