Posted by Michael Hiteshew on January 31st, 2005 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
In September of last year, I posted on the efforts of Germany, Japan and Brazil to gain a seat on the UNSC. I wasn’t impressed. Neither, apparently, is David Frum. In his piece, The End of the Transatlantic Affair, he writes:
Over lunch at a Washington think-tank some time ago, a high-ranking German official told the room about his country’s determination to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The reaction? From the Americans present, indifference verging on boredom. For the Europeans, though, it was as if the official had dropped a concrete block on their toes.
It was a fascinating moment of culture clash that demonstrates some ominous truths about American-European relations. The first truth is the traditionalism of American policy elites. Even when the evidence is thrust into American faces, it is hard for them to accept that things have changed in the old alliance. From 1947 until 1991, US-European relations were guided by the rule that America would provide the protection and Europe the deference.
With the collapse of Soviet military power, the deal became obsolete. Yet this large geopolitical change has made little impression on American policy elites. Indeed, John Kerry won the backing of almost all of this elite by running a presidential campaign that promised that the alliance could be restored with just a few sweet words.
So, the colossal fact that Germany is no longer willing to trust the US, Britain or France to represent its interests in the Security Council–that its leaders believe themselves to have achieved a status equal to that of the US, Russia and China–elicits nothing more than a ho-hum from Americans. Despite the confrontation over Iraq, despite German technology sales to Iran, despite the enthusiasm of Germans for the conspiracy theories of Michael Moore and Andreas von Bulow (polls show that one out of three Germans under 30 believe the US government staged the attacks of September 11 2001), Americans continue to believe that the Europe and the Germany of 2005 are the same as those of 1985.
Frum is sounding a lot like Robert Kagan in Of Paradise and Power, which I highly recommend, if you haven’t already read it. Europe is banking on soft power alone to carry the day. It certainly has its place, don’t get me wrong, but when confronted with tyrants and their armies, it’s useful to have alternative methods of persuasion at you disposal. And be actually ready to use them.
It’s interesting how my own views of Europe have changed over the last three years. With the guarded exception of the British, I no longer have any faith in them as allies. None. They are strategic competitors for the most part. They will attempt, by almost any means, to frustrate the goals of the US. This is not unique. It’s the same relationship we have with, say, China or Russia. And it’s closer to the relationship we had with Europe for most of our history.
The French-Belgian axis, on the other hand, is in a category all it’s own. They are outright enemies of the US and should be treated as such. Nothing they say to us should be taken at face value and we should expect them to be actively working against us at all times. It’s time we faced reality regarding our Gallic cousins. Let’s face it, they mean us harm.
All of which brings me to NATO. For most of US history, we kept Europe at arms length, trusted them very little, and certainly didn’t carry their water for them. Since WWII, the US has considered it in our best interest to align ourselves with the Europeans to oppose Soviet expansion. That threat is long past. Yet still, Americans are stationed in Europe and Americans are still pledged to risk their blood and treasure in Europe’s defense.
What does it gain the US to continue this? I claim the benefits we gain are outweighed by the costs. The biggest, larger even than the monetary expense we incur and lives we risk, are the political costs: A) The Europeans are dissuaded (maybe deluded is a better word) from investing in a realistic military deterrent. B) It fuels a dependency based resentment against the US. C) We treat the Europeans as if they continue to need our guidance and protection when they clearly no longer do. In doing this, we deceive ourselves into believing an inaccurate view of the world. In David Frum’s concluding words:
Whatever course America takes, the world has arrived at a turning point. Everybody else seems to realise it. It is time for Americans to notice it too.
I think it’s high time the US began a slow withdrawal from NATO. It’ll be the best thing for both Europe and the US.
Lots more good reading at The New Atlantic Initiative