Therapy's End

Therapy's End

Mini Teaser: NATO died with the Soviet Union. Get over it.

by Author(s): E. Wayne Merry

The consequence is grotesque: a European defense establishment in
which the whole is significantly less than the sum of its parts. Many
of the parts are excellent, with Europe fielding high quality units
and capabilities that, in some cases (such as paramilitary units),
are superior to those of the United States. Yet, except for Britain
and France (and increasingly even for them), the lack of scale, the
fragmentation and duplication, and the sheer waste of resources
within European defense establishments vitiate what could be the
world's second-strongest concentration of military power. That Europe
fields two million personnel in uniform is not an achievement but the
heart of the problem. Half the number--even one-quarter--properly
led, equipped and trained in modern operational skills, would produce
a whole much greater than the disparate national parts deployed today.

The problem is not really one of money, and the United States has
done ill service by so often measuring "burden-sharing" in financial
rather than operational terms. True, most European countries spend
far less of their national income on defense than does the United
States, but this is a doubly false comparison. First, the aggregate
of European defense spending is vast and dwarfs the resources
available to any power center on earth other than the United States.
Without spending another euro, Europe has a combined military budget
beyond the dreams of Russian, Chinese, Indian or other military
planners. Second, America spends defense money in ways Europe need
not, as Europe has no pretensions to being a global military power
with the attendant--and costly--instruments of global force

The problem in Europe is that the bulk of defense spending has little
to do with defense, but is allocated to create direct and indirect
employment and to retain a pattern of redundant, if ineffective,
"balanced" national force structures. To spend more money in this
context would produce little in the way of additional usable
capability. The obvious answer is greater integration of European
defense efforts and forces. The leading edge of this process today is
integration of Europe's defense industries, where there has already
been considerable progress under the force of necessity from reduced
acquisition budgets, as in the creation of the European Aeronautic
Defense and Space multinational conglomerate.

There is nothing novel about multilingual and cross-border defense
cooperation in Europe. If European units can cooperate within NATO,
they have the talent to do so within a European rubric. The challenge
lies in outgrowing the heavy hand of American tutelage and learning
to do things without always asking for American guidance. That this
can be done was shown in the Balkans, where Italian- and Belgian-led
operations in Albania and Eastern Slavonia performed as well as, if
not better than, U.S.-led missions, while the non-U.S. peacekeeping
districts in Bosnia and Kosovo are well-run without Americans. The
necessary next step is to expand this experience to a broader
European context.

Three special issues will complicate European defense integration.
First is the role of the two European nuclear powers, Britain and
France, with their residual Great Power capacities and instincts.
While the so-called Saint-Malo initiative--which British and French
leaders undertook in late-1998 to broaden and deepen their bilateral
defense cooperation--is currently at a standstill, it demonstrated
that London and Paris can cooperate in the military field, as they
often have in the past. Accommodating their forces to a larger
European structure will be difficult, but they can also provide
essential leadership and staff talent. Second is the role of the NATO
members not now in the European Union--above all, Turkey. Recent
events have so undermined previous assumptions between Ankara and
Washington that Turkey's future security standing and its
relationship to Europe must change almost regardless of other issues.
Third is the role of the European neutrals, those EU members not
currently in NATO, or what is often called the security "free
riders." They will need to transfer their United Nations "Blue
Helmet" experience into European cooperation. These issues will not
be simple to resolve--if, indeed, they ever are "resolved"--but they
can also become catalysts for greater European security integration
in a post-NATO Europe. In any case, these are intra-European, not
transatlantic, questions.

For Europe to move beyond the existing national-parochial military
structures means moving beyond NATO to a European collective defense
and security organization. The experience since the 1991 Maastricht
Treaty suggests the process will be slow and halting, but it also
shows how detrimental is the continued presence of the United States
as the leading player in European security affairs. To restate an
obvious point, the United States is currently a European power, but
it is not a European country. It is not invited to participate at the
European Council of Ministers or European Parliament when other
issues are discussed--nor will it ever be.

European integration has now proceeded so far that Europe must take
over full responsibility for its security if the European project is
not to become fatally imbalanced. Europe will not likely follow the
American federal model, but it is worth asking how the young United
States would have developed if Britain had overseen U.S. defense
policy well into the 19th century. It is quite unlikely that the
phrase "United States of America" would have evolved from a plural
into a collective singular had American security been decided in
London. Nor can a "United Europe of States" emerge while Washington
guides Europe's defense.

To any citizen of Europe, the basic stakes are huge. European
integration cannot attain maturity without Europe taking full
responsibility for its own defense. Much of the public skepticism
within Europe about the developing pace of integration stems
precisely from a widely-held understanding that a united Europe is a
sham so long as it remains subordinate to the United States in the
most fundamental area of public policy. It is therefore wrong to wait
until other major integration issues are resolved. The building of a
union does not proceed in neat and distinct stages, but in a
synergism of parallel developments in many fields. Security policy
cannot be placed into a desk drawer while a European constitution is
on thetable. Indeed, the creation of a common European security
system to replace NATO--and incorporating much that NATO has built
over the years--will go a long way toward persuading its citizens
that "Europe" is a genuine concept worthy of their support and

Dependence and Its Cure

Underlying all other problems is the European psychology of
dependence on the United States. This is now so much a matter of
habit and experience that few diplomats or soldiers on either side of
the Atlantic can recall a time when the sense of inferiority in the
security realm was not pervasive among Europeans, or when Americans
did not automatically assume they must take the lead to get anything
done. Both sides have forgotten why the dependency began and that it
was never intended to become permanent.

European capabilities already far exceed European self-confidence.
Europe will remain inferior to the United States in power projection
and logistics, but that would only be important if Europe were to
emulate America's global role. Europe played that game once and lacks
the will to repeat it. Nor would the Continent's weak demographics
support that. Nonetheless, an "Europuissance" able to maintain
Continental stability, participate successfully in peacekeeping
operations and project power into regions proximate to Europe is well
within Europe's grasp. None of these duties requires the global air
and sea lift capabilities, the bombardment capabilities or the scale
of America's military establishment. What they do require is European
self-confidence and a willingness to proceed without always looking
over the shoulder for instructions from Washington.

Many Europeans admit they want to maintain NATO so that the Americans
will pay a large share of Europe's security costs. This is a classic
problem of welfare dependency--the mentality of the dole. Few refuse
a subsidy, even when they recognize they would be more independent
and productive without it. Free money has a narcotic effect on
governments, especially finance ministers, but narcotic dependency is
widely recognized to be unhealthy, producing lethargy and leading to
gradual deterioration of the organism. The reality stands in sharp
contrast. Europe has a larger population than America, a total
economy of comparable size, a modern industrial and technological
base often very competitive with America's (and certainly beyond
those of any other part of the world), and a vast wealth of relevant
military and political experience. The notion that, somehow, Europe
is "not ready" for security independence is nonsense.

Europe's psychological dependency is similar to that of a person who
uses crutches for an extended time after a serious injury. Though
they provide both physical and psychological support during the
healing process, crutches should be abandoned when self-sufficiency
is again attainable, lest the patient's full recovery be jeopardized.
The European organism suffered massive trauma during the 20th century
through two suicidal wars and two brutal ideologies. Europe was
fortunate to have an American doctor who propped it up first with the
Marshall Plan and then with NATO. These were vital for the healing
process, but the American doctor failed to wean his European patient
off of the crutches when the time was right.

Essay Types: Essay