The European nations are finally stepping up to the table to pay for their own defense. Rather than rely on American soldiers, via NATO, to defend against…well, against somebody bad…the nations of Western Europe have announced the formation of a Eurocorps to guard ex-Christendom against…somebody.
This is great news.
American soldiers can come home from Germany (or, I suppose, they could stay and work in Germany if they felt like it), and the US tax burden can go down proportionately to what we no longer have to spend on protecting Paris from whoever.
I say "whoever" because that is who Nato now defends against: whoever might be inclined to attack Europe.
Gone is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, gone is the KGB. In their place are Russia, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and other assorted nations.
Gone is the Warsaw Pact. In its place, the recently free nations of Eastern Europe — Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Romania — struggle to establish free societies, grounded upon private property protected by law.
So who is Nato hanging around to fight? The Russians?
Russia appears to have no immediate designs on France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, or England. Russia also appears to be bankrupt, kept afloat by loans from the International Monetary Fund, i.e. from the United States, and fighting an independence movement in Chechnya at considerable cost in human lives and war materiel.
Given the shrunken Russian military, it would appear that the Western European nations would be able to handle the Russians in the bizarre and illogical event that the Russians decided to attack through Byelorussia and Poland in order to stay off boredom.
Thus, General Colin Powell has praised the formation of the Eurocorps.
Predictably, the US military establishment is ganging up on Powell, and blathering about the need to keep Nato fully-funded.
Regarding the preservation of Nato and the isolation of Colin Powell, it must be asked: Cui bono?
Who benefits from the continued existence of Nato is not the American soldier. Paid below-poverty wages, sent away from their families (in many cases) for months at a time, the life of the soldier is a difficult life. And for an added bonus, the soldier lives with the constant threat of war and terror attacks, death and maiming.
If the European nations are willing to perform their duty of self-defense themselves, what’s the problem?
This is not to be flippant. I would greatly enjoy an opportunity to read a well-reasoned defense of the continued existence of Nato. So far, I have not read anything convincing.
It might be argued that America has learned from history. Rather than struggle to get ready for war, as we did in World Wars One and Two, Korea and Vietnam, the hawks argue that we must stay ever locked and loaded, armed to the teeth for eternity as a deterrent.
The problem with this theory is that it is unworkable in practice. No nation can afford, over the long term, the sort of investment in military equipment that is required to deter every possible enemy. It is possible to equip a well-armed, well-trained force for effective defense, but it is another thing to fund a global police force with the actual power to kick the butts of all possible enemies.
It is of course inadvisable to reduce one’s defenses to the point of ineffectiveness, but the Eurocorps does not appear to be such an event. Even if the Eurocorps were not wholly effective, removing American troops from Europe, and dismantling Nato, would not preclude American involvement from a European war, if such involvement were actually mandated by US interests, i.e. by the need to defend American homes and lives. In such a rare event, so long as we can cross the Atlantic, we can come to the aid of Europe.
It is often argued that the United States were correct to fight Hitler in Europe because, after conquering Europe, Hitler would have menaced the United States.
The problem with this argument is that we did not defeat Hitler and then sleep the sleep of the blessed. We utterly destroyed the German nation, and then had to stay on edge for forty years guarding against an attack from a nation that we armed — our "allies" the Soviets.
What was gained by substituting the fear of Soviet missiles for the fear of German invasion?
America still has no defense against ICBM’s. If the military is going to spend money, why not spend our money on a missile defense, instead of on Nato? If we are going to spread our troops all over the world in order to scare bad guys big and small, we had better be able to defend ourselves.
The Europeans, interested in defending themselves instead of relying on Uncle Sam, have the right idea. And therein lies the real issue in opposition to the Eurocorps: the American establishment fears a loss of influence in Europe, and in the world.
To which it can only be replied: if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.
As Western Europe, Eastern Europe, India, and Asia become more prosperous, there will be a corresponding decrease in the need for American aid, whether military or economic. That is a good thing. It is known as "self-reliance," and the US ought to encourage such notions, rather than discourage them.
In the name of keeping our global prestige, we are opposing a move toward European self-reliance that we ought to encourage.
Mr. Dieteman is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2001 David Dieteman