It's always difficult to identify a true masterpiece simply by its internet headline. Such is the case with This Is How NATO Ends, a short story by Philip K. Dick about a dystopian future in which NATO no longer exists (mostly because of Donald Trump). Foreign Policy bought the rights to this incredible but obscure piece of literature, and now it is being shared with the world for the first time.
We simply cannot conjure up the words to describe the haunting imagery that Philip implants into the reader's mind. A world without NATO? How could this happen?
As Dick writes:
In NATO's case, the long whimper of its demise began with the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January 2017. Throughout the endless 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had railed against American allies that he felt did not carry the burden of their own defense. He hinted darkly that as president he would not defend allies that did not pay their share. His praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin further stoked fears in Eastern Europe that he would abandon them to Russia's tender mercies.We don't want to ruin what happens next (ok, we have to tell you: Russia re-invades Ukraine for the 1,000th time, and Iran "stages a coup" in Baghdad. In both cases, NATO fails to start WWIII. Just imagine!).
Once he became president, Trump's attitude toward Europe and NATO became just as erratic as his ramshackle presidential campaign. He appointed cabinet secretaries who praised NATO in their confirmation hearings. He allowed visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May to assert that he "supported NATO 100 percent." Then, just as suddenly, he would veer back toward bashing allies, calling NATO obsolete, or attacking the EU as a German plot...
In the last few passages of the story, Philip laments the collapse of a truly great "defensive" alliance:
As a result, in most of its 70 years, NATO, far from being obsolete, had been the tool that U.S. and European policymakers turned to in crisis after crisis. In the Cold War, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Libya, and elsewhere, U.S. presidents and European leaders had found that NATO provided not just military capacity but also a mechanism for rallying allies and securing broader legitimacy for their own defense priorities. NATO worked because its members believed that their partners had their back. Solidarity was at its heart.You heard it here first: NATO's involvement in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere provided a "mechanism for rallying allies" and "securing broader legitimacy for their own defense priorities".
It is easy to see now that President Trump solved NATO's burden-sharing dilemma — by destroying its solidarity.
And now here's Trump, asking NATO members to pay a bit more. Why is he destroying all that great solidarity that NATO achieved while bombing poor people into the Stone Age? And is this eulogy copy-and-pasted from a Nazi SS memo about purging Slavs from the earth?
This is so much better than "Nextflix and chill". Thank you Foreign Policy!