In my – not so humble – opinion you have been blinded by the euphemism that your current job title is: Defense Secretary.
Let’s leave aside the fact that in my eyes the NATO has lost any legibility with the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact, because the problem at hand seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what comprises defense and what not. Let’s also leave aside the claim that the nominal costs are the issue here, because – much like Rome in ancient times – the US is in fact receiving tribute from almost every single nation on Earth – including its sworn enemies – due to the singular position of the US-Dollar as the global reserve currency. Of course this is not very visible, but it’s there – anyone with minimal knowledge of economics and the currency system can tell. So your nominal costs are by far not your real costs, especially when looking at the economic dimension of US military engagement in the past. To my knowledge China and Russia decided in recent years to trade between themselves in their respective currencies, rather than in US-Dollar as they did in the past. Now, of course, they’ve got the bomb. Some will remember the fate of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who didn’t have the bomb, after the Iraqi oil trade moved to the Euro. Iran had announced similar plans since (but subsequently backed down), which explains a certain interest in toppling the regime there. But back to the “defense” topic …
Mr. Gates, please, let’s not pretend that what the US did in Afghanistan was in any way – or even still is – defense of a nation under attack. And let us add Iraq to the bill while we’re at it. Defense of certain interests? Perhaps. But then be clear about what you “defend”. This whole talk is not about the defense of one country or several NATO member countries against an enemy, it’s usually about defending someone’s unilateral interests. Much, by the way, like other predominant powers in their times defended their interests.
And, dear Defense Secretary Gates, if the US – such as in Iraq – decides to rush invading a country without evidence of weapons of mass destruction, why should the peoples of other NATO member states pay for this recklessness?
Just because you have one of the biggest arsenals of “nucular” (to stay with the jargon of your former president) weapons and would be able to wipe out most of the planets population and still negatively affect any survivors for years to come does not give you any special rights on the international stage as you asserted them in the past. It also does not justify making unilateral decisions based on a web of lies (Iraq, Afghanistan).
If you expect a fairer mode of burden sharing then it would be time for the US to convince the other two Western partners in the UN Security Council to push for a reform. It’s time to share the rights, too. Waive your (all, not just the US!) rights to veto, let a majority vote be the standard for future decisions instead. And for f***’s sake ratify your membership at the International Criminal Court in The Hague instead of passing laws to free US military personnel accused of crimes and detained at the ICC.
… then and only then could the governments of countries like my home country (Germany) justify a higher burden to their people (and implicitly tax payers).
Just my two €-cents to a discussion that seems to be loaded with populism.