To the surprise of very few in the defense community, President Trump responded to the latest Syrian gas attacks with a new barrage of missiles targeting chemical weapon facilities across Syria. The biggest difference between the response from a year ago is the fact that, this time, France and the U.K. joined in with some of their firepowers. This is an important distinction and a development that I was very happy to hear about in a situation that has rarely brought any good news.
Our relationship with many European countries has dipped over the last year or so. Between populist movements that are growing all over the continent and an ‘America First’ stance on trade and environmental deals, our neighbors across the pond and we haven’t seen eye to eye on a lot of issues. However, despite these minor differences, it’s important that we continue to maintain the series of alliances that make up NATO, arguably the most powerful military alliance the world has ever seen.
Questions about the viability of NATO began at around the turn of the century. The Soviet Union had been dissolved for years, and Russia held a fraction of the military and economic powerhouse that the USSR had wielded. Meanwhile, prominent NATO members didn’t approve of the US military involvement in Iraq, most notably France and the related ‘freedom fries’ debacle. By the early 2010’s, there were serious discussions about whether or not the US should reduce its contribution or withdraw from NATO.
This changed primarily because of two reasons. The first was the wave of Islamic State-backed terrorist attacks that occurred in both North America and Europe. There was a new enemy that had declared war on the generalized ‘west’ which called for increased intelligence sharing and multiple operations to reduce the effectiveness of the terrorist organization. The second came from an older threat that wasn’t supposed to be a threat anymore; Russia’s aggression in eastern Europe and, more recently, involvement in information operations targeting western governments. Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Eastern Ukraine, and Crimea caused a lot of anxiety in some of the smaller NATO-member nations that now border Russia in the Baltics.
These factors solidified NATO’s place in the modern international climate. Now, imagine what had happened if the earlier calls for a US withdrawal from NATO had gone through? The point of maintaining these relationships is not only to combat an active threat but to train and prepare so that international cooperation is ready when they’re needed. Our troops have trained and fought alongside British and French troops, and that training prepares us for multilateral strikes like the one conducted last week in Syria. Communication channels and battle orders are already in place when they’re needed instead of having to take the time to draft them hastily. Periods of peace aren’t the time to abandon our alliances; they’re the time to maintain them for the inevitable time when they’re needed once again.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.