The Spectacle Blog

Where’s the Disaster?

By on 6.19.09 | 1:50PM

Sally McNamara makes the usual misguided charge of "isolationism" for my suggestion that it is time for Europe to defend itself.  That would surprise the nation's founders, who believed in an active America, just one which did not unnecessarily tie its future to the policies of other nations. 

As a prescient George Washington warned:  "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

Ms. McNamara allows that the Europeans aren't doing much on defense, but predicts "disaster" if America pulls its troops out of Europe.  Yet she doesn't demonstrate from what that disaster will stem.

She says Europe matters to us.  Of course it does.  But what does that have to do with an American defense guarantee of a continent with a larger GDP and population larger than our own?  From whence do the dire threats come which Europe cannot handle?  Russia, reeling from the financial crisis and possessing less than a tenth of Europe's GDP and a third of the population, is in no position to attempt a blitzkrieg to the Atlantic.  Missile proliferation could be addressed outside of NATO.  Islamic extremism is something the Europeans have to fight on their own-after all, it is related to their own immigration policies and demographic trends, not foreign armored divisions.

She worries that Europe won't do a good job defending itself.  Just look at Kosovo, she observes.  But the mere existence of a problem does not mean America must act.  If the Europeans did not believe it to be in their interest to resolve that tragic but geopolitically minor civil war, there was no need for Washington to intervene.  Kosovo never mattered to the U.S. and certainly did not warrant war by the U.S.  Instead of treating NATO as a means to prevent war, war became the means to save NATO, perverting its very purpose.

Finally, Ms. McNamara notes that "those East of Berlin need, want and in some cases crave NATO's sacred Article V guarantee."  True, but so what?  Security guarantees should not be tossed about like chocolates as gifts for friends.  Rather, a promise to go to war should be reserved for defending America. 

It is hard to discern the security justification for Washington promising to go to war over nations that were not only once part of the Soviet Union, but also part of the Russian Empire. Even worse is threatening a confrontation with a nuclear-armed state over issues along its border.  Such a risky strategy reduces rather than enhances U.S. security.

Withdrawing U.S. forces would threaten disaster?  No, disaster would be going to war against a nuclear power on behalf of unstable, irresponsible states unrelated to our own defense.  For instance, Spiegel online reports on the result of an EU commission investigating the Georgia-Russia war:

The confidential investigative commission documents, which SPIEGEL has obtained, show that the task of assigning blame for the conflict has been as much of a challenge for the commission members as it has for the international community. However, a majority of members tend to arrive at the assessment that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili started the war by attacking South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. The facts assembled on Tagliavini's desk refute Saakashvili's claim that his country became the innocent victim of "Russian aggression" on that day.

In summarizing the military fiasco, commission member Christopher Langton, a retired British Army colonel, claims: "Georgia's dream is shattered, but the country can only blame itself for that."

Would we really be better off having issued an Article V guarantee to this country and this government?  No.  To the contrary, that truly would have been "a recipe for disaster."

Foreign policy should change to fit circumstances.  During the Cold War a host of friendly, war-torn states needed defending.  Today they are capable of defending themselves.  It's time to cut our foreign welfare dependents loose.

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