Let Europe Fend
In Istanbul, Jacques Chirac, in fine French style, gave
the wet mitten to the face of the president of the United States.
After President Bush had carried out the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq, as
demanded by Old Europe, Chirac gave the "Non!" to French or NATO troops to
help train the new army. Chirac then rebuffed the Bush request for NATO troops
to protect the Afghan people, as they hold their first free elections this
"What alliance?" bellowed The Wall Street Journal in its lead editorial. "If
that's all the help the U.S. can get from our partners, it may be time to
rethink the underlying premise of this 'alliance.'"
Yes, indeed, it may be time.
After demonstrating how stingy are French-German contributions to collective
security – Europe does the collecting, Uncle Sam provides the security – the
Journal rendered this summation:
"For the (last) 60 years, American taxpayers footed most of the bill to
protect Europe, most recently deploying forces to stop the Balkan wars.
Somehow, Europeans appear to believe Americans will continue doing this
indefinitely, regardless of European behavior and attitudes. They are badly
Fine words. But the Journal is bluffing, and Chirac and Europe know it. The
U.S. military is not going to stop subsidizing NATO. U.S. generals in Brussels
enjoy playing proconsul too much. And ever since John Foster Dulles angrily
threatened an "agonizing reappraisal" of the U.S. commitment to the continent,
50 years ago, Europeans have come to see American threats to pack up and
depart as so much bluster and bluff.
How do we know the Journal is engaged in bluster? Logic. The Journal champions
U.S. interventions to tutor the Arab and Islamic world in democracy. It
supports pre-emptive strikes and preventive wars on rogue states to deny them
weapons of mass destruction. It believes in an America that is the world's
policeman, who prevents, repels and punishes aggression wherever it occurs.
You cannot play Globocop without having precinct houses all over the world.
And that is the American role the Journal supports.
Europe understands that the United States keeps troops there less for its
benefit than for our own purposes. They know we Americans want to play empire,
that we need them more than they need us, and that they can continue to get by
freeloading off U.S. defense, as most of them – the Brits and Turks excepted –
have been doing for decades.
Fifteen years ago, when the Berlin Wall came down, the great anti-communist
coalition that had persevered through the Cold War broke apart over foreign
policy. Some of us argued then as the Journal argues today.
With the "evil empire" having collapsed, Eastern Europe free, the Red Army
heading home and the Soviet Union breaking up into 15 nations, the need for
NATO or any massive U.S. presence in Europe was history. We urged Bush 41 to
close our bases, bring U.S. forces home and deed NATO over to the Europeans.
Had we done so, Old Europe would be a more manly and self-reliant continent
The reasons we gave then are the reasons the Journal gives today. Only when
U.S. troops are heading home will our dependents in Europe begin to build the
forces to protect their own interests. They will be easy riders as long as we
If the United States lets lapse Article V of the NATO treaty, whereby an
attack on one member state is considered an attack on all, Europe would be
forced to look to its own security. And as Europe is as populous and rich as
we, and has two nuclear powers, why not let them go, even as parents, at some
point, must let their kids stand on their own two feet?
Indeed, the drawdown of U.S. forces from Europe since 1990, from 300,000 to
fewer than 100,000, suggests that we know there is no real threat to the
continent to justify a huge U.S. presence. As for a revanchist Russia, why
would Moscow reoccupy an Eastern Europe it had just given up as too costly to
maintain and hold?
Handing NATO over to the Europeans would not mean an abandonment of Europe, or
American isolationism. All it would mean is that we restore to ourselves the
full freedom of action to decide when, where and whether we should fight – and
we put that grave decision in the hands of the generation that would have to
do the fighting, not leave it to Acheson, Dulles and statesmen dead, lo, these
The sobering experience in Iraq is causing second thoughts on the Right. If
these thoughts include an overdue questioning as to who benefits from U.S.
commitments to defend every nation in Europe, and who pays, we are at the
beginning of wisdom. As for the Journal editorial writers, they are welcome at
the next gathering of America First.
© 2004 Creators
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