Trump, NATO, Gatsby and Montenegro

Saturday, 21 July, 2018

US President Donald Trump raised eyebrows in an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News earlier this week. “Why send our kids to fight in exotic foreign lands?” was the tenor of Carlson’s question. Specifically: “Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked. So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?”

Trump’s response: “I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people… They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations you’re in World War III.”

Naturally, all those suffering from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) viewed this answer as an attack on the very essence of NATO and a complete misunderstanding of the alliance and its role in the world. Others, a minority, it has to be said, saw in the president’s answer a deep understanding of international conflict and a nuanced appreciation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. In Chapter IV, Gatsby speaks about the horrors of war and… Montenegro:

“In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn’t advance. We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a decoration — even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!”

Montenegrin medal Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them — with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines

He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm.

“That’s the one from Montenegro.”

To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look

“Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”

“Turn it.”

“Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”


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