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LQD: An American neocon on European neopacifism

by Magnifico Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 12:28:23 PM EST

Robert Kaplan, the resident neocon at The Atlantic, in his essay, "The Fall of the Wall", last week asked:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.

In his latest dispatch, "Let's Go, Europe", Kaplan writes that "NATO staggers on" and that "just keeping Europe on the ground, in uniform, in Afghanistan represents an achievement of sorts" for the Obama administration that "that we should not belittle".

According to Kaplan:

Because the cause of international peace and security sometimes requires a willingness to fight, and humanitarian rescue missions often rely on skills honed in combat, the U.S. has, since the end of the Cold War, had to try to enlist Europe in its grand strategy, despite what some might legitimately consider Europe's neopacifism.

The caveats placed on European troops in Afghanistan aren't the only problem. The anemic level of European military spending in general is also a factor: only four countries (Great Britain, France, Greece, and Turkey) allocate at least two percent of their GDPs to defense--a requirement of all NATO members. And Greece and Turkey are well-armed only in the anticipation of fighting each other. Then there is Europe's continuing failure to form a rapid response force for out-of-area military emergencies.

At home, Europe's social safety net is estimable. But what will the European Union, now with its own president and foreign minister, work toward abroad? After all, a neopacifist Europe is the result not only of the continent's ethical awakening following centuries of war, but of a new strategic context in which Europeans simply face no credible security threat.



Kaplan thinks "Europe's apathy can be worked around" because the United States "can still pressure governments to lead their populations rather than merely follow their wishes." So much for democracy, eh? Since "European publics are specifically averse" to combat, the U.S. can use Europe's military in "more and more ingenious ways". Guess what?

There is much work in Afghanistan that European troops can theoretically perform without alienating citizenries back home who are conflicted about the use of force -- more so now that counterinsurgency will be emphasized over counter-terrorism.

Lucky coincidence for the Obama administration that U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal is making Afghanistan into a counterinsurgency war. With a counterinsurgency taking place, I suspect Kaplan feels Europeans will have one less reason not to join in the occupation. According to Kaplan, "America will have no choice but to yank Europe kicking and screaming into conflict zones, even as America will have to learn to live with all of the restrictions that come with European forces."

He believes the Americans will need to "rely increasingly on European forces to cover the the Atlantic and Africa for them" because the U.S. will be "tied up in the Indian and Pacific oceans". European nations, Kaplan points out, have been building warships. "Since Europe increasingly seeks to avoid conflict and geopolitics altogether, an emphasis on sea power makes sense. Sea power is inherently less threatening than land power," he writes.

"Europe could still help with humanitarian assistance, relieving the U.S. of some of the burden", even if Europeans "continue to hate war". Kaplan predicts, "we are about to see the militarization of disaster relief". So, European navies and air forces meaning "neopacifist Europe could still help with humanitarian assistance".

Ultimately, Kaplan sees Europe as a means of staving off increasing U.S. global impotence.

As the U.S. slowly loses its dominance, it will increasingly need to rely on Europe. For we cannot take on the world on our own.

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European Tribune - LQD: An American neocon on European neopacifism
the cause of international peace and security

European Tribune - LQD: An American neocon on European neopacifism

He believes the Americans will need to "rely increasingly on European forces to cover the the Atlantic and Africa for them" because the U.S. will be "tied up in the Indian and Pacific oceans".

Interesting peace that demands constant war.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 12:44:45 PM EST
Comment made on Matt Y's blog:
I have to protest this mischaracterisation of Robert D. Kaplan's body of work. Kaplan is a hard-nosed realist who doesn't always call for invading other countries. He's successfully carved out his own unique niche in foreign policy writing, which is calling for a new defence procurement programme or the expansion of an existing programme in every single column.

Not a neocon.

More ships = 1,000 ship navy for the 'great game' part of The Great Game and the Long War. Which is the paradigm Kaplan thinks in and much of the US military-industrial complex seems to be thinking in, up to the chairman of the JCS and the US NATO ambassador.

Remember, these are the 'centrists'.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 02:17:04 PM EST
I don't think he fits in your box.

I think the logic runs this way:

Scientists agree resources are running out, which means shortages. Shortages imply conflict or accommodation. Since it's obvious from the various resource treaties that "them as has" ain't gonna share any significant amount with "them that ain't" then the next (unthinkable) step is conflict. Now we're talking about (unthinkable) mass war, for which Europe isn't really ready, mentally or physically, and the USA is.

So we will hear much wishful whining about "why can't we all get along" to which the (unthinkable) answer is: It's who we are, and no one is willing to think about changing the genome, or the culture, so war it is.

There, I fixed that for you.

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 06:55:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way, shape or form is the US ready for a mass war? We are no more ready for a mass war than the British at the beginning of WWI ... less, in fact, since our logistics for a mass war depend critically on crude oil, 2/3 of which we import.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 09:01:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by asdf on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 12:47:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're projecting your own analysis on Kaplan. He doesn't think in terms of a global struggle for resources that are running out. He does think in terms of third world wretches being hurt by environmental degradation, but that's a different matter.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 05:22:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would have normally written Kaplan rather than neocon, but neopacifist need some balance. In retrospect, perhaps neorealist would be more apt now. Kaplan's writings have evolved over time. I think during the early Bush years he definitely veered more toward neocon thinking, but he is quicker to finesse and change his thinking that the current group of neocon deadbeats.

Anyway to put labels aside, do you agree with his many assessments, among which are Europe is decadent and neopacifist? Kaplan is prodding Europe to get involved:

At home, Europe's social safety net is estimable. But what will the European Union, now with its own president and foreign minister, work toward abroad? After all, a neopacifist Europe is the result not only of the continent's ethical awakening following centuries of war, but of a new strategic context in which Europeans simply face no credible security threat.

In some ways, attitudes of Europe today reminds me of American isolationism at the onset of World War I. Since most Europeans do not see an external threat, they seem content to not meddle. Kaplan sees this as "Europe's apathy".

The subtext that Kaplan, I think, is arguing is the following: America cannot stop being involved militarily around the world,

Because the cause of international peace and security sometimes requires a willingness to fight, and humanitarian rescue missions often rely on skills honed in combat, the U.S. has, since the end of the Cold War, had to try to enlist Europe in its grand strategy, despite what some might legitimately consider Europe's neopacifism.

"Grand strategy" could be described by others as imperialistic goals.

For the last half of the 20th century, the U.S. has shouldered the burden because of the "anemic level of European military spending", but now "the way the world is shaping up, America will have no choice but to yank Europe kicking and screaming into conflict zones".

So, while the U.S. continues to fight the wars, Kaplan advocates Europe take responsibility in "humanitarian assistance", "rescue missions", and the "training of indigenous forces".

Ultimately, I think Kaplan believes European foreign policy is still a part of the larger American foreign policy. He wants Europe to reengage with the world, but also it seems under the direction of the U.S.

I think this means continuing to let the United States be the West's lightning rod and thus allowing Europeans to mostly not get involved in the messy parts of wars, have a social safety net instead of a large military, and be the people the world likes instead of being the 'great Satan'. In exchange, I think it would mean the EU/NATO show a deference to the U.S. in foreign policy matters.

As an American, I'm not in favor of this. But, then maybe I'm misreading what this "hard-nosed realist", as you describe him, is advocating.

by Magnifico on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 09:30:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't find the notions of decadence and pacifism to be congruent -- I rather tend to associate decadence with empire. The notion of Kaplan that waging colonial wars proves the moral fibre of a nation is a fine example.

But to put my own 'hard-nosed realist' hat on, I do not buy several of the premises Kaplan takes.

First: military spending. Europe does not like military spending for sociocultural reasons. This is true. The trade-off, though, is not only or even primarily with the social safety net but with taxes. European countries could all be spending the desired 2-3 percent of their GDP on defense easily by raising taxes on the well-to-do or even by just eliminating loopholes that have questionable economic effects. The notion that total state spending is an independent variable is a right-wing tribal myth.

Second: isolationism. If America believes that the principal arena of geopolitics for the next 30 years is the Pacific Rim and yet the principal battles it will fight are against radical Islam (The Great Game and The Long War), it is entirely rational for Europe to pursue an isolationist strategy. Going along with those two schemes has more costs than payoffs. Fighting an extended military campaign against radical Islam abroad creates more radical Islam in Europe. The Pacific Rim is remote, the players will sort out their own balance without much regard to Europe's ability to trade, and we can diversify our demand and source our materials and cheap labour from elsewhere if that is really needed.

I think that a grand strategy focusing on positioning in the Pacific Rim and wars against radical Islam doesn't make a lot of sense for the US either. A lower level of strategic engagement on the Pacific Rim (acting more as a broker and less as a guarantor) would make regional powers find their own balance of power and interests at far lower cost to the US with relatively low risks. A broader focus on the reasons for absence of statehood in 'the gap' -- as Thomas P.M. Barnett termed it-- and a broader range of tactical thinking on asymmetric threats would have bigger long term economic and security payoffs and carry a far larger potential for international partnership than fighting radical Islam. Such a partnership can then be leveraged by the US for other strategic purposes.

As for Europe: The potential for common action is low. Restricted to 'peace keeping' missions in Africa, but those are peanuts with little effect on anything barring a breakthrough in state building strategies (potentially in partnership with a rational US focus). I'd be happy if we can keep North Africa stable, focus on providing security in the Caucasus and work towards a mutually satisfactory settlement of Kosovo and Moldova with Russia over the next five to ten years. We'll see where we can get from there on.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:51:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, Robert "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" Kagan, too!

We discussed this new foreign policy paradigm of Empire Light, in which the hegemon believes it needs the manpower of its vassals, in nanne's Power Void in Europe. Of course, Kagan is much more explicit.

I this the most noteworthy thing about this piece is that the realisation of/panic about power loss for the superpower is spreading in the foreign policy elite.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 02:47:09 PM EST
Damn, I should learn to read... Kaplan, not Kagan...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 02:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though the one is a neocon (Kagan) and the other, well, just loves war.

Needless to say they hate each other over the finer points of how and why to wage war.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 03:33:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
(T)he realisation of/panic about power loss for the superpower is spreading in the foreign policy elite.

Unfortunately, these geniuses don't seem to grasp the danger to their beloved power posed by the ongoing economic decline and/or collapse. They don't seem to grasp the danger to the ability of the USA to fight a war without a manufacturing sector.

Perhaps their brains are so busy trying to track all of the complex geo-political threats and opportunities that they do not have time or energy to devote to consideration of the implications of the industrial infrastructure eroding from beneath their feet like the sand under the pilings of a Carolina Outer Banks beach house.

In my dreams the Chinese government would buy the "think tanks" for which they work. I wonder if they would feel obliged to resign if that happened.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 11:41:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, these geniuses don't seem to grasp the danger to their beloved power posed by the ongoing economic decline and/or collapse. They don't seem to grasp the danger to the ability of the USA to fight a war without a manufacturing sector.

They labour under the delusion that empires are powerful because of the legions they maintain. The truth, of course, is that empires maintain legions because they are powerful.

In my dreams the Chinese government would buy the "think tanks" for which they work. I wonder if they would feel obliged to resign if that happened.

And give up that wonderful gravy train?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 11:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are glorified lobbyists, and as such will work for anyone.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 03:23:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, has everybody got over the attack of the shits they had with the financial crisis and the end of Bush, and now it's just business as usual all over again? (See Foreign Policy and now this?).

Oh, message from the Moustache of Understanding who was in Europe recently and heard the same message from his taxi driver and the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and some guy on a blog called ET:

Kaplan: Suck.On.This!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 03:55:20 PM EST
He said that Iraq was attacked "because we could" (and thus as a demonstration of force for others). I think he is right that US policy has been as simple-minded as "suck on this" - except that it has even failed to achieve this.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 06:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kaplan:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system?


despite what some might legitimately consider Europe's neopacifism.

My comment:

Herr, schmeiss Hirn ra!

Lord, throw down some brains!


Kaplan is talking utter nonsense :-( He's living in his private dreamworld.

Schau in mich, Harno

Make it as simple as possible but not simpler (Albert Einstein)

by harnoes on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 05:25:51 PM EST

only four countries (Great Britain, France, Greece, and Turkey) allocate at least two percent of their GDPs to defense--a requirement of all NATO members. And Greece and Turkey are well-armed only in the anticipation of fighting each other.

Maybe France and Great Britain are also spending in anticipation of fighting each other :)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 06:53:25 PM EST
Is that really a requirement or is he just making stuff up?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 07:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the former NATO head, the 2 percent is an informal guideline.

Only six of the allies meet the informal, admittedly informal, two percent GDP benchmark. Only half of the allies make the 20 percent they should spend on new equipment.

Aviation Week reported earlier this year that NATO Funding Disparity Persists:

European NATO members continue to spend, on average, well under 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, according to new figures provided by the Atlantic alliance.

The average for European allies is 1.7 percent, whereas the U.S. GDP allotment in 2008 was 4 percent, NATO says. The U.S. spends by far more per-capita on defense than any other NATO members. In fact, the U.S. last year spent about 44 percent more on defense than all other NATO members combined.

by Magnifico on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 11:43:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An informal one, but one US diplomats have hammered European NATO allies over -- since Clinton I at least. Usually in the context of orders for the US mil-ind complex; and the US's assuaging by European vassals usually took the form of pointless fighter jet orders. Things got more complicated when the preference in jets became Eurofighters or Gripens.

I wish though that our NATO-member governments would stop playing tricky vassals who go along in US adventures but sabotage the effort, and just stopped going along, now THAT would deserve to be called neopacifism...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 01:38:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is the result not only of the continent's ethical awakening following centuries of war

So he's saying that it is only moral and right that Europe should spend so little?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 08:07:42 PM EST
I imagine that this is what passes for sarcasm at Beltway cocktail parties.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:40:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a cradle-to-grave social welfare system

For some strange curious reason this does not inspire to read further. I guess Kaplan writes these sort of sentences to preach to the choir and raise blood levels of his opponents in the hope they die off quicker.

Bullshit bingo overload... Time for a new game...

Can we raise Kaplan's idiocy and double the stakes with a European buffoon?

by Nomad on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 05:20:01 AM EST


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