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What Donald Trump Gets Right About U.S. Alliances

Donald Trump at a rally in North Carolina, September 2016. Mike Segar / Reuters

When Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, criticized NATO in a number of interviews earlier this year, he was challenging the foundations of the United States’ military strategy. His attack on Washington’s conventional wisdom has unsettled the U.S. security establishment no less than it has the foreign governments that depend on it, and has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum.

Trump, however, is right. U.S. policy toward its allies really is “obsolete,” as Trump termed NATO. The United States remains remarkably secure and faces no serious—let alone existential—threat akin to that formerly posed by the Soviet Union, the enemy that most U.S. alliances were formed to oppose. Moreover, Washington’s Asian and European allies are prosperous and industrialized states that are more than capable of protecting themselves.

Unfortunately, U.S. strategy currently appears to endorse the idea that whatever is, must forever be.

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