Trying to Fight Fire by Setting Another Fire
I was returning from work the other day, and Green Day’s “Holiday” was on the radio. A lot of the kids won’t remember how it was to be a conservative and listen to a left-wing anti-war punk band and feel like you agree with most of the words. Those days are now gone, obviously. The major anti-war sentiment has returned to its natural home, the conservative realist right.
The left, on the other hand, is now the party of forever war and imperial progressivism.
Politico reports: “President Joe Biden has authorized the military to call up 3,000 reserve troops to support operations in Europe after tens of thousands were sent there last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a top general said Thursday.” This comes after the very odd and sudden call by President Biden for reserve troops to be ferried to Europe, “for the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility.”
The move might very well be illegal, as Senator Mike Lee of Utah pointed out over Twitter. “USC 12304 gives the President the authority to ‘augment’ the forces of any ‘named operational mission’ to active duty for NOT MORE THAN 365 consecutive days. Operation Atlantic Resolve has existed since 2014 and is an official ‘named’ U.S. military mission that deploys forces on a rotational basis mainly to the Baltic states and Poland,” he wrote.
But legality aside, this shouldn’t be happening for more structural reasons. Given Russian performance in the Ukrainian theatre, there absolutely shouldn’t be an American force posture increase in Europe. The American nuclear umbrella and naval power presence are understandable, but Europe’s GDP ($18 trillion) is ten times that of Russia ($1.7 trillion). Europe has four times the manpower: The Russian population is around 143 million, and the European Union’s 447 million.
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Europe shouldn’t need American infantry, artillery, logistics, and armor. Europa can defend herself. The only reason they do not is because they feel no incentive to. If you have someone else pay your rent as well as stand guard on the doorstep of your gated community in a rough neighborhood, why on earth would you take their initiative anyway?
So why is Biden doubling down on this strategy that is flawed at best and dangerous at worst? It is flawed, as Europe is the last continent that should free-ride on American generosity. It is dangerous, because it is essentially akin to opening a gas station and fuel depot next to a raging forest fire.
It is in part a stunt—a way to calm some Euro nerves after a fraught NATO summit showing visible rifts within the alliance and the limits to tolerance towards Ukraine’s arrogance and juvenile sense of entitlement. But it is perhaps also the last gasp of overt Atlanticism. Biden is one of the most pro-Europe presidents in modern times. The other side's front runners are all “restrainers.” Consider a recent House vote on a burden-sharing amendment from Ohio’s Rep. Warren Davidson: It failed 218–212. When was the last time it was this close, with so many Republicans voting to slap Euro wrists? And how long will the status quo continue?