Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is Estonia worth a war?

Is Estonia worth a war?  Justin Logan is with the Cato Institute, a generally libertarian think tank.  In this essay he takes a typically libertarian stance with respect to foreign entanglements: generally libertarians are against them (especially military action) unless they are specifically and directly in the immediate interests of the U.S.  In the case of defending Estonia if they invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter, he thinks the answer is “no.”

I've no doubt that my Estonian friends would be made very uncomfortable simply by hearing that question raised.  America essentially is NATO, as it supplies the vast majority of NATO's warriors, war machines, and logistics.  If America decided not to respond to an Article 5 invocation, the remainder of NATO probably could not muster an effective defense of the Baltic states.

Libertarians are not exactly mainstream in American political thought, though their influence is on the rise.  However, Logan's evaluation of America's NATO obligations isn't just libertarian.  A large fraction, perhaps even a majority, of Democrats feel the same way – as do a significant minority of Republicans.

There are two entirely separate arguments that persuade me that we should help defend Estonia (and any other NATO members).

First, an invocation of Article 5 by any NATO member obligates America to come to their defense.  If we don't agree with that, we should exit NATO.  If we didn't agree that we should defend Eastern Europe (including the Baltics), we shouldn't have agreed to allow any of those states to join NATO.  We did, and now we're obligated to defend them.

Second, defending Eastern Europe (including the Baltics) against Russian incursions is directly in America's interest – in precisely the same way that it would have been in our interest to defend the first victims of Hitler's aggression.  The cost of not defending them was very high – and even if the result of letting Russia run over Eastern Europe was “just” another Cold War, that cost would be very high as well.

Unfortunately, I am afraid the current administration is more inclined toward non-intervention – and that eventually we will pay a high price for that...

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