Lawrence Kaplan has discovered that our European allies are not much use in a real shooting war. In his latest New Republic article, the reliable cheerleader for American intervention opines:
A campaign devised to showcase the benefits of multilateral action has done exactly the reverse…Leaving aside the question of will—that is, whether the Europeans wish to cooperate in garrisoning the farthest-flung precincts of (what used to be) American influence—is it really necessary to point out that, given the assumption European power alone would suffice to persuade Qaddafi to back down, someone on the Obama team ought to have inquired about European capabilities—that is, whether the Europeans can do this or, more to the point, anything at all? Because, for ten years—or 20, or 60, depending on one’s reading of the international scene—it has been fairly straightforward, obvious even, that the Europeans have left their historical role to history…
Over the past few years, they have gone further, decisively repudiating that role. There is, to begin with, the massive and ongoing wave of defense cuts that has swept the continent. Ten years ago, the U.S. contributed roughly half of NATO’s defense budget; today, it accounts for three-quarters of the alliance’s military expenditure. During the same period, the number of active duty military personnel in Europe declined by more than one third. (The day after he proposed to take military action against Muammar Qaddafi, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government said that it would be cutting 11,000 troops from Britain’s armed forces. Just before the war, he also announced that the U.K. would scrap its only aircraft carrier.) For ten years now, it has been clear that, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has put it, NATO is “evolving into a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect people’s security and others who are not.” What Gates said was true in Kosovo, where 83 percent of the bombs dropped came from U.S. planes; in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops account for two-thirds of the NATO presence (and a much higher fraction of the combat force); and now, in Libya, where, at least before it abandoned the battlefield, America’s strike aircraft were flying more than one half of the sorties.
And why shouldn’t the Europeans slash their defense budgets? With the Soviet Union on the ash heap of history, they face no immediate threats — and even if they did, they could rest easy in the knowledge that they are securely within America’s protective grasp. Much like a man who has lived off welfare for years, Europe has become dependent on military subsidies courtesy of American taxpayers.
Kaplan argues that Europe’s current weakness forces the United States to embroil itself even more deeply in the civil war in Libya (and presumably everywhere else in the vicinity of NATO), but he never seems to consider that the more resources we pour into our military, the more the Europeans will cut from theirs. This is the world American hegemony has created: the stronger we make ourselves, the weaker our allies can afford to be.