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.