There may be nothing Donald Trump likes better than to bash America's NATO partners as freeloaders who are feeding off the US economy, dragging America down.
A study conducted by the Rand Corporation, America's venerable military think tank, finds that Trump is talking crap.
The researchers started by building an entirely new database of thousands of U.S. treaties and security agreements, an effort that took six months. They also obtained 50 years of data on overseas troop assignments.
They then merged those data sets with U.S. and global trade numbers. They tracked changes in the number and nature of U.S. security commitments between 1955 and 2004, and then matched them to any subsequent bumps or dips in the trade numbers.
They found clear evidence that those overseas commitments do indeed strengthen trade between America and other countries, likely worth tens of billions of dollars every year. In fact, they estimated that doubling the number of treaties could expand U.S. trade, especially imports, by 34 percent. Doubling troop numbers would increase trade by up to 15 percent.
What about the group that claims that slashing America's overseas military presence by upwards of 80% could save Washington $126 billion a year?
Those limitations, however, are not likely to change the study's bottom-line conclusion, the researchers wrote. A wholesale cutback of overseas commitments would almost certainly cost the United States more than it saves, perhaps by as much as 3-to-1.
“Policymakers who reduce these commitments would face not only the immediate problems of how and where to make the reductions,” the researchers concluded, “but also the future problems of a poorer United States.”
But this is post-truth America where beliefs, fueled by suspicion, fear and anger, cannot be displaced by facts and logic. As Joe Stiglitz notes, America under Trump is a rogue state and it is not at all reluctant to engage in self-harm.