Special Report

Amoral Hazard

Instead of redrafting our soldiers for further service in Iraq, let's get out of NATO and away from selfish "allies" who won't lift a finger to help yet tie us down in Kosovo.

By 7.9.04

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WASHINGTON -- Plans by the U.S. Army to recall thousands of retired soldiers and place them on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the worst kind of policy: unfair and unnecessary, a punishment dished out to American patriots to soothe the surly souls of foreign layabouts.

The clause in recruitment contracts that allows the military to recall soldiers during times of crisis years after their retirement is necessary -- no argument there. It's an insurance policy in the event that the nation comes under catastrophic attack. But, as anyone who has sat through a recruitment officer's pitch knows, enlistees are assured that they will only be asked to make such a sacrifice in a World War III-type scenario.

We find ourselves, thankfully, in a less dire situation, but former servicemen are about to be yanked from their families and careers and forced to re-enter the military for as long as 18 months. It does not have to be this way.

Presently, there are 350,000 American troops deployed overseas. Approximately 250,000 of them are deployed in support of combat and peacekeeping operations, with 141,000 of those in Iraq and 17,900 in Afghanistan. The other 100,000 are trolling around the same bases their fathers and grandfathers did in places like Germany, Italy, Britain, and Japan.

Others are hanging out in the giant fenced in mall we built in the former Yugoslavia, keeping the peace that Europeans were too weak-willed to institute and are now too selfish to maintain.

THAT'S RIGHT, WITH our forces stretched thin, our "allies" are blocking us from access to our own troops. It was fine with the French and Germans that American military power be used through NATO a few short years ago to end the warfare in Kosovo. The United States had no compelling national interest whatsoever in that war other than to help Europeans do something they could not do for themselves.

Yet now, we cannot even get European troops to replace us in Kosovo to allow us to go and fight our own battles. Worse, France has assured us that NATO will not be helping train the new Iraqi army or stand guard as the people of Afghanistan vote in their first free elections.

It turns out NATO is a one-way alliance, effective only when our partners need a hand. When the United States has a problem, however, it is a rope binding one hand behind our back. And for these amoral obstructionists we disrupt the lives of good and decent Americans who already served their time.

"For 60 years, American taxpayers footed most of the bill to protect Europe," the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized. "Somehow, Europeans appear to believe Americans will continue doing this indefinitely, regardless of European behavior and attitudes."

They behave thus because it's a safe bet. Realistically, if the European antics of the last year -- the Oil-for-Food scandal; rampant, officially sanctioned anti-Americanism; obstructing the prosecution of the War on Terror -- are not even provoking the threat of a withdrawal from NATO, it isn't going to happen for some time.

The effect of such a bold move would not likely be as earth-shattering as opponents would like us to believe. In fact, it might be worthwhile for Europeans who have dabbled with socialism for half a century on the backs of the American taxpayer to find out what it's like to pay for their own defense for a while. It needn't be terribly expensive. What threats does the Old World face today? Is Germany going to re-militarize the Rhineland? Is France going to be overrun? And if the continent ever got into any real trouble, the U.S. could always deploy forces.

THE POINT IS, in a time of peace, European selfishness and obstruction only costs us money. But now there is a war on. It is painfully clear who our real allies are in this fight, and they don't all sit around the NATO table. America has a job to do, and our supposed friends are constantly making that task more difficult. Is there any better example of why George Washington warned against "entangling alliances"?

Retired American soldiers should not be forced to carry an unnecessary burden simply so we can continue this farce of a trans-Atlantic alliance. We should not sacrifice the livelihood of a single one of these men so smarmy European bureaucrats can feel superior and tut-tut our every decision. Our people and our country deserve more respect.

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