The Corner


NATO, Abortion, Idealism, Etc.

A New Year’s celebration in Podgorica, Montenegro, January 1, 2019 (Stevo Vasiljevic / Reuters)

In the usual fashion, my Impromptus column today has a slew of issues and characters. Some of the characters are Bob Novak, Priyanka Gandhi, Klay Thompson, and Pat Buckley. I tell a story about Pat — or rather, I correct one, supplying the true one, which may not be as good.

One of my items is NATO — and let me touch on that, before getting to some reader mail. Interviewers like to ask our officials about Montenegro — probably because Montenegro is a new member of NATO, and ridiculous-sounding to some. “If Montenegro were attacked, would the U.S. defend it? Would we commit our sons and daughters to die there?”

Let me note that interviewers could ask about Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, too. They are older NATO members, and bigger countries, and maybe less ridiculous-sounding to some. If Britain or France were attacked, would we defend it? That is an interesting question, too. I wonder what the answer would be.

Article 5, as you know, says that an attack on one is an attack on all. It has been invoked only once — by the United States, after 9/11. (The Afghan War is, in part, a NATO war.)

Okay, back to lil’, ha-ha Montenegro. Interviewing the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Martha MacCallum of Fox News duly asked the question: Would we defend Montenegro? The secretary demurred, saying, “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.”

That is very interesting. For a long time, our country has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the question of Taiwan and China. If the latter attacked the former, would we come to the former’s defense? We leave the question hanging in the air.

I did not know we had a policy of strategic ambiguity where NATO countries are concerned. What does that do to deterrence? For really effective deterrence, you let your adversary, or potential adversary, know that you are resolved. Right? That is what has the best chance of preventing conflict in the first place.

Anyway, let me move on — to some reader mail. In an Impromptus earlier this week, I mentioned Baudouin, the late king of Belgium. In 1990, he stepped down for a day — abdicated — so that he would not have to preside over the legalization of abortion in his country. A reader writes,


There’s a quote from the Talmud that whoever saves a single life saves the whole world. In 2012, I believe, I read an article in The Human Life Review which said that a woman had written the king, saying that she had once planned to have an abortion. But after hearing of his stand, she had the child instead.

I remember that it was 2012 because my wife and I were going to visit Brussels that year. We went to the Church of Our Lady of Laeken where the kings and queens of Belgium are interred.

To set up the next letter, let me quote from a post of mine yesterday — won’t take a second:

… you find that, in politics, nothing surprises you. If tomorrow Senator Mitt Romney came out for legal gambling and prostitution in Salt Lake City …

Well, let me not be too cynical.

A few days before that, a college student had written me. I’ll begin her letter in midstream:

… you mentioned the candor of Jerry Brown and his love of the political realm. I too loved his candor, and I understood it as well. I fell in love with politics during the 2008 presidential election. I was more enamored of the conventions than of the Olympics. I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch them. They let me. It was grand.

What advice do you have for a young conservative who is caught between idealism and cynicism?

Me: I say, maintain your ideals — keep them bright and shining — while being alert to what is happening, at any given time. Also, endeavor to make “what is happening” conform as closely as possible to what is ideal, what is right. Does that make sense?

Her: It does. It’s the putting it into practice that presents the real trial.

Me: You are RIGHT. But I think of the adage: “Practice makes perfect.” I am practicing, too! (Hard.)

Her: I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to be perfect, but I will be practicing as well. The alternative isn’t at all appealing to me.

Me: Me neever (in sum).

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