A Jewish proverb tells us, “One father can support 10 children, but 10 children cannot support one father!”

It may have taken half a century, but finally the American “father” has lashed back at many more than 10 negligent and ungrateful “children” in a way that grabbed the attention of the entire world. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates really let NATO have it. Let’s review.

It didn’t take long after World War II’s triumphant conclusion before the Soviet Union became the new threat. It was widely feared that the Soviets, drunk on their smashing victory over Nazi Germany and cocky in their communism and sudden ownership of Eastern Europe, would launch an invasion westward from their expanding empire to the Atlantic Ocean, and swallow the rest of Europe. Nobody at that time dismissed such fears as right-wing paranoia. The Soviets had the ways, the means and the inclination to take it all.

America led the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, to present a unified defensive front to discourage any Soviet attack. Originally NATO was 12 nations. Mission accomplished! There was no Soviet attack.

Here we go from history to opinion. After the collapse of European communism, NATO went senile and insane – and bureaucratically paralytic. You may be excused for overlooking the fine print on a mortgage; there’s no excuse for missing the large print in our NATO obligation. There grew the notion that it’s a shame to break up a military alliance that’s never fired a shot just because its purpose has expired. Instead of relaxing when European communism collapsed, NATO – all dressed up and no place to go – looked for new missions.

The new missions came: Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya. Most Americans sympathized with the sides NATO took, but there was a murky sense of, “This is not what we signed up for!” The NATO motto is, “An attack on one is an attack on all!” So far, not one NATO target has ever attacked a NATO member. Do you realize what we’re committed to under NATO? One example of many: Norway, a NATO member, shares an Arctic border with Russia. If Russia were ever to send troops across the border, take the Norwegian town of Kirkenes and move south, we’re committed to go to war against Russia.

It gets worse. The original dozen members have now swelled to 28. The newly liberated ex-communist countries flocked to NATO’s unbelievably appealing invitation. Estonia was either candid or careless enough to say it out loud: “This is great. We send a handful of troops to NATO missions and America promises to come to our defense if Russia attacks!” Does anybody really think that’s going to happen?

Back to Secretary of Defense Gates, who excoriated our NATO partners for letting America do the heavy lifting, the heavy spending and the heavy fighting. If Bill Clinton can understand the character-eroding nature of welfare, all of us should understand the tendency of Europe to accept the free ride America has generously offered since 1945. It takes a lot of character to say, “Wait, America! We want to do our fair share of the spending and the fighting and the dying in defense of freedom!” That’s especially true when America has been so willing to shoulder the whole burden as though it’s still 1945 and we’re the only ones who can shoulder the burden.

Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Canada got good marks from Gates. The rest of our NATO allies are a pack of freedom-loving freeloaders who refuse to do their share.

Secretary Gates was talking only about NATO. Let’s go further. I wonder if the following conversation has ever taken place: A German and a Japanese man meet in an airport lounge somewhere on earth. “How do you like those Americans?” says the Japanese man. “We sneak-attack them while our diplomats are in Washington talking peace. They win the war. And instead of vengeance, they give us democracy and prosperity!” “Yeah,” replies the German. “We declared war on America five days after you bombed Pearl Harbor and they beat us and afterward they not only gave us democracy and prosperity, but they protected us against the Soviets. Wow! America is truly great!”

I somehow doubt there’s ever been such a conversation. Obviously there’s never been the logical follow-up. Looking at America’s bank statements and blood statements and all the peoples we’ve set free and made secure, wouldn’t you think somebody by now would have thrown a fundraising luncheon or a testimonial dinner to honor America and invite every country America has ever rescued to toss a coin or two into America’s tambourine in our time of need?

There’s always been great support in Europe for America’s military-industrial complex, every time we liberate them! When Germany and Italy needed regime change, America came over and helped pull it off. Let’s test that Jewish proverb. Maybe 10 children can support one father if he’s an angry father!

Remember, war never solved anything – except slavery, Nazism, oppression, a lot of dictatorships and an occasional genocide.

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