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“How important is NATO for U.S. national security? American conservatives have long debated this question.
In early 1951, General Dwight Eisenhower met with Senator Robert Taft (R., Ohio), his rival for the Republican presidential nomination. Eisenhower offered Taft a simple deal: If the senator, who had voted against the formation of NATO two years earlier, would commit to supporting the Western alliance, Ike would end his candidacy and Taft would have a clear shot at the White House. Taft declined his offer. Eisenhower eventually resolved to win the election and, in so doing, he preserved America’s burgeoning alliance system in Europe. As he told Congress that February, “in a world in which the power of military might is still too much respected, we are going to build for ourselves a secure wall of peace, of security.”
Eisenhower went on to preside over eight years of relative peace and prosperity, in part through a sensible commitment to international policies of peace through strength. Ike’s commitment to U.S. alliances and collective defense was part of this package, and it became a baseline for successful Republican foreign-policy presidencies after his, including Ronald Reagan’s.
Today, we again see questions of whether and why conservatives should support NATO, this time from the perspective that the Soviet Union collapsed long ago.”
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