‘What did we ever do to anybody?” lamented my friend, an important minister in the government of the tiny principality of Bourgonya.
“We’re poking along, minding our own business for centuries, and then the next thing we know the combined military might of the Western world is glaring at us, threatening us. We’ve got NATO shaking its fist at us. How did that happen?”
There is a need and you fill it, I said, trying to reassure my puzzled caller.
“But they call us, ‘Godless Bourgonyans.’ We’re not godless, we’re Episcopalians! All we ever did was make a little wine, print up a lot of postage stamps. Now suddenly we’re Public Enemy No. 1.”
Welcome to the Real World, pal, I said. It’s all about NATO.
“What’s NATO got to do with our little Bourgonya,” wondered the minister, who drives an ice cream truck most of the day.
Everything, I said. For all these years we had this huge military alliance designed to thwart the dreaded Commies. Now the Commies are gone and we’ve got an alliance with no one to defend against. In fact, NATO’s just signed up three of the former foes and even the Russians are on our side.
“Excellent. Peace is nice. You won. Disband NATO,” said the minister, who is quite a silly fellow.
Disband it? I exclaimed. We’ve got trillions tied up in NATO, even though we have no idea what to do with it. There are all those generals. All those armament makers. All that money that might get wasted on foolish things like helping the poor. That’s where Bourgonya comes in.
Right there in the power vacuum. With the Western powers and the former Communist centers now great pals, the alliance desperately needs an enemy. That’s you. The Evil Bourgonya Empire.
“Why Bourgonya? We don’t even have an army. All we’ve got is a two-man police force, and the sergeant’s drunk most of the time. We don’t bother anyone. We have no territorial aspirations. We like everyone. We don’t threaten anyone.”
Exactly. The alliance is not looking to fight you, just to use you as a bogey man, as the menace over the horizon, “The Mellow Peril” sort of thing. If it doesn’t have that, someone might actually start asking why we need NATO in the first place. So your role is to be the terror, the threat against which a mighty alliance - and a mighty expensive alliance at that - is required.
“But this is terrible. We want no part of this. We want to be everyone’s friend. We will call the leaders of the great powers and beg them to stop the … ” You could do that, I interrupted. Or you could consider making a pretty penny out of this opportunity.
“A pretty penny? How?”
In exactly the way that so many others have made a pretty penny out of these things for so very long. You have no army, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a big defense budget. We need to rant and rave against your military spending to justify ours. We could slip you a few billion …
Sure. It would be small investment. We can point to your huge increase in military spending and then continue on with our own. Our CIA will circulate inflated and self-serving statistics about Bourgonya’s great might. It will be very important that your economy stays strong. We will secretly prop it up. We’ll buy your mediocre wine and stamps by the millions. We’ll call you a lot of names, but we’ll drown you in money.
Of course. We need an enemy to keep NATO going. What’s the point of a military alliance otherwise? We’ll send in spies and analysts, professors and bleeding-heart Bourgonyan sympathizers, fill up your hotels, pay bloated prices for meals. We will buy everything you produce in the guise of studying you for weakness. You don’t have to do anything except talk tough and take the dough. What do you think?
“Enough of this empty prattle, you lickspittle capitalist dog! I will waste no more time on such vermin as you. Better that we will bury you and your decadent system with its oppression of the proletariat. We laugh in the face of your paper tiger NATO. The power of the Bourgonyan might will crush you like a bug. Your decrepit system will be like dirt under our boots.”
Thanks, and have a nice day, Evil Empire.
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