You need military power to be a military power.
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BUT THE EUROPEANS FACE an even more fundamental problem than disunity. They don’t have the military assets necessary to do anything more substantial.
European governments long have emphasized quantity over quality in their militaries. During the 78-day war against Serbia, military analysts estimated that the Europeans possessed barely 15 percent of America’s effective combat capabilities. Only U.S. participation, despite the lack of any serious American geopolitical interests, made that operation possible.
Even during the Cold War, facing the Soviet Union, European governments underfunded defense. The European members of NATO routinely promised to up military outlays and just as routinely violated their promises. But they knew Washington would defend them in any case.
The pattern has repeated itself with the rise of the European Union. In the midst of routine chatter about creating the European Security and Defense Policy, now part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Europeans regularly reduced the size of their militaries. While strengthening the EU structure in order to establish a common international approach, member governments cut back on the military forces necessary to implement such an approach. The Europeans seem to believe the continent can be a military power without possessing military power.
The ongoing fiscal crisis has caused the Europeans to reduce defense outlays even more deeply. Virtually every country, including Italy, Germany, Great Britain, and France, is making substantial cuts.
European governments are shrinking their militaries because they perceive few security threats. The likelihood of a Russian attack on major Western states is about the same as that of a Martian invasion, à la a modern War of the Worlds. The Central and Eastern Europeans worry more about Moscow, but are doing little more to maintain effective militaries. Virtually all European peoples prefer to preserve welfare benefits than guard against security threats.
NATO’s Rasmussen worried: “If the cuts are too deep, we won’t be able to defend the security on which our democratic societies and prosperous economies depend.” Those deep cuts, however, seem inevitable. Stated Ian Brzezinski and Damon Wilson of the Atlantic Council: “All allies are cutting or flat-lining defense spending.”
U.S. officials grumble about the negative impact on Europe’s military capabilities, which they worry will force greater reliance on American forces in a crisis. But the Europeans have every right to tailor their militaries to perceived dangers. Washington should stop hoping the Europeans will convert to neoconservatism. Instead, the U.S. should stop taking on Europe’s problems as America’s own.
In Libya the Obama administration should not let the Europeans dictate U.S. decision-making. Officials say they hope to achieve consensus within NATO. But there will be no consensus on military forces within NATO. Any action would be America and a couple others.
Rather than worry about whether the Europeans reach agreement on Libya, the Obama administration leave the issue to the Europeans. Libya was an Italian colony and long has had closer relations with Europe than with America. Protracted conflict or civil war in North Africa would have far greater consequences on Europe than on the U.S. There is no geopolitical reason to drag Americans into the Libyan imbroglio.
The unnecessary debacle in Iraq illustrates what happens when Washington leads badly. The point is not that a failed Libyan state would have no consequences for the U.S., but that the consequences likely would be far less costly than getting involved. Being a superpower means being able to ignore foreign chaos and war. Doing so wouldn’t lessen the humanitarian tragedy, but military intervention is not charity. Even those supposedly being helped pay a high price: Perhaps 200,000 Iraqi civilians have died, and many more have been wounded. Washington should not repeat this disaster.
European politicians desperately want to make a difference internationally. But they lack the continental unity necessary to act as a world power. They also lack the military means to back their decisions. Washington should impart a simple message regarding Libya and beyond: the U.S. government will not treat Europe like a great power until the latter starts acting like one.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?