After decades of other nations taking unfair advantage of America’s generosity, President Trump is reducing the outflow of our tax dollars to other countries and holding them accountable for more of their own security and prosperity. It isn’t setting well with nations which have been enriching themselves on our resources for generations. This will be a painful process for America and the rest of the world, but the adjustment is crucial for the future of all nations. Here is what it will require.
Most of the current inequity began with America’s compassion and goodwill demonstrated in the post-WWII reconstruction of Europe and Japan. Our subsequent prosperity during the 50’s and 60’s placed us head and shoulders above the rest of the world in economic and military power. Our Judeo-Christian values led us to share our blessings through foreign aid, the World Bank, imports, defense alliances, liberal immigration, response to disasters, etc. By and large, the rest of the world’s governments became dependent on us to supplement their subsistence. Allies depend on our military to supplement theirs. The oppressed depend on us to take them in. Foreign businesses expect to export to us without barriers, but don’t reciprocate. Even our enemies assume we will feed their economy while they threaten us. A world game-changing adjustment is well overdue.
Of course, America must always be America, the nation that shares its incredible blessings with those less fortunate both domestically and throughout the world. We have a moral responsibility to heed the words of Jesus, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” But, when the giving gets way out of balance and enables others to neglect their own responsibility, such enabling is wrong and the giver is to blame.
The controversial NATO Summit just concluded exemplified the new order of international relationships with America. Since 1949, western European nations have trusted in the U.S. to protect them from the former Soviet Union and now Russia. Although all the nations have military forces, the U.S. contributes well over half of the investment of those forces. The chart above shows that, of the 29 NATO nations, ours funds over 70% of the total military capability. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP is probably a fair comparison of skin in the game. Even at that, we spend 3.6% of our GDP on defense–much more than any other member country. All NATO countries agreed at the 2014 NATO Summit to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their military annually. Only four other countries are doing that. Yet the Russian threat is in their back yard and an ocean away from America.
Some European governments argue that all of their defense spending is in support of the NATO region while much of U.S. spending funds forces obligated to the Pacific and other areas of the world. That argument doesn’t consider the fact that, if Europe were attacked, almost all of our forces would be immediately deployed to the European theater.
And, there are other ways America is moving from business as usual to fairness and equity in international relations. For years, foreign governments have placed excessive tariff charges on imported U.S. products to keep their domestic businesses competitive. Then, their businesses enjoy exporting products to the U.S. with little or no tariff charges by us. That is a big reason we have such a trade deficit with other countries. We import much more than we export due to unfair trade barriers of our trading partners. President Trump’s tariff increases may cause some discomfort to our own citizens in the form of higher prices. Trade wars may make certain items scarce. But, it is a necessary temporary pain in order to ultimately create a level playing field for international trade. Free trade must be fair trade.
We are also seeing adjustments to the long-running open borders that have allowed almost anyone and everyone to enter our country, often illegally. We have long-established legal processes for reasonable immigration and asylum. But, millions of illegal immigrants have entered our land and are siphoning our resources. Business as usual trespassing on America is starting to be denied although not without major opposition from the liberal faction among us.
The U.S. GDP is greater than that of all European countries combined and almost twice that of the second highest nation, China. The U.S. military comprises over a third of the entire world’s fighting forces. There is almost no possibility of losing our world leader status anytime soon. Other nations will continue to look to America for help and direction for the foreseeable future, and we are morally obligated to maintain that role. However, the time has come for a global reshuffling of commitments and an environment of fairness among the nations. Mainstream media will decry it as betraying our friends, and protests will abound both here and abroad. But, just sit back and watch an essential and healthy cultural shift take shape. “Make America Great Again” is not a motto of arrogance; it is a reset toward fairness. It’s not Trump’s isolationist doctrine; it’s Trump’s fairness doctrine.
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