"In 1877, Lord Salisbury, commenting on Great Britain's policy on the Eastern Question, noted that 'the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.'
"Salisbury was bemoaning the fact that many influential members of the British ruling class could not recognize that history had moved on; they continued to cling to policies and institutions that were relics of another era."
"Relics of another era" -- thus did Stephen Meyer, in Parameters in 2003, begin his essay "Carcass of Dead Policies: The Irrelevance of NATO."
NATO has been irrelevant for two decades, since its raison d'etre -- to keep the Red Army from driving to the Rhine -- disappeared. Yet Obama is headed to Brussels to celebrate France's return and the 60th birthday of the alliance. But why is NATO still soldiering on?
In 1989, the Wall fell. Germany was reunited. The Captive Nations cast off communism. The Red Army went home. The USSR broke apart into 15 nations. But, having triumphed in the Cold War, it seems the United States could not bear giving up its role as Defender of the West, could not accept that the curtain had fallen and the play was closing after a 40-year run.
So, what did we do? In a spirit of "triumphalism," NATO "nearly doubled its size and rolled itself right up to Russia's door," writes Richard Betts in The National Interest.
Breaking our word to Mikhail Gorbachev, we invited into NATO six former member states of the Warsaw Pact and three former republics of the Soviet Union. George W. Bush was disconsolate he could not bring in Georgia and Ukraine.
Why did we expand NATO to within a few miles of St. Petersburg when NATO is not a social club but a military alliance? At its heart is Article V, a declaration that an armed attack on any one member is an attack on all.
America is now honor-bound to go to war against a nuclear-armed Russia for Estonia, which was part of the Russian Empire under the czars.
After the Russia-Georgia clash last August, Bush declared, "It's important for the people of Lithuania to know that when the United States makes a commitment -- we mean it."
But "mean" what? That a Russian move on Vilnius will be met by U.S. strikes on Mother Russia? Are we insane?
Let us thank Divine Providence Russia has not tested the pledge.