Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Alliances are Partnerships, not Quasi-Imperial Legions with Auxiliaries

Over on twitter, my timeline yesterday was filled with people collectively hugging each other over Claire Berlinski's Ode to Empire over at DailyBeast.

I encourage everyone to read it then come back.

OK, if your hot-take is, "yes, oh, yes, she is so right," take a deep breath. Walk around a bit. Take another deep breath, then come back. If you raised an eyebrow a few times or rolled your eyes, you're OK.

Now that everyone is back, let's jump in to it.

At first read, I found myself sympathizing with the emotion that Claire brought to her article, but then I started to see a few things that caused my head to tilt a bit and made a note to read it a second time. I'm a NATO guy - I have a great affection for what it has done and hopefully will do. But like anything else you love, you have to love it enough to point out and help it fix its shortcomings.

The second time through the soft-light filter drifted away and the gaps in many of her points broke out in sharp contrast. Here are the ones that had me saying under my breath, "Oh, come on Claire, aren't you being a little overwrought?"

I'm tempted to give the article a full-Fisking, but the paying gig calls and I like Claire too much to do that.
Modern Europe—liberal, democratic Europe—is a creation of the United States.
This global order is in many respects an empire—a Pax Americana—but it is far more humane (in Europe, at least) than the European empires that preceded it.
Wait ... Pax Americana outside Europe may not be as humane as the European empires in the New World, Africa, and Asia? Come on, that is a moral-relativistic cheap shot if I've ever seen one, and Eurocentric to a selfish degree at that.
Power is the only coin that matters.
Of course, but let's go back to POLMIL101. The levers of national power are Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic. We are talking about a military alliance, so it is good to focus on the "M" - but American global power and influence is a lot more than military. Having those on our side, our allies, increase their contribution to "M" does not diminish our power at all. If they do that, then we have more leverage in "D," "I," and "E." If they refuse to pull their fair share of "M" - then the support of the American people will further erode when it comes to us filling in the gap they created. When we shrug that burden off, then all D.I.M.E. will collapse for everyone.

The solution isn't for America to shut up and take it like a soyboi, but for people to do their fair share, as good friends and neighbors do.

The mindset is not all that different than the 25-yr old man still living at home because it is cheaper, easier, and lets him spend his money on wine, women, and song as opposed to being a responsible adult and fully contributing member of society.
The collapse of liberal democracy in Europe would represent the failure of our own ideals. The collapse of European security would mean the end of liberal democracy.
If the only thing holding together liberal democracy in Europe are an occupying American Army forever, then frankly the Europeans don't deserve it. If they lack agency of their own to the point they are content to be vassal states of the USA, then fine - they can send their gold reserves and 10% of all their tax revenue to:

COL Patrick N. Kaune, USA
c/o U.S. Army Garrison Fort Knox
125 Sixth Avenue
Bldg. 1110B room 226
Fort Knox, Kentucky 40121

Pat will make sure it is stored appropriately.

If not, then act like a full partner.
Today, neither Europe nor the United States are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world increasingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy. No European country alone, nor any of the American states alone, can maintain the liberal global order. A United Europe, however, and the United States, are together strong enough to sustain and expand the liberal tradition and democratic values. This is precisely why the enemies of liberal democracy are determined to drive a stake through our alliance.
This is correct and good. We are an alliance, kind of a Defenders of The Enlightenment Superfriends. As friends, who are super, one thing we should understand as a baseline requirement; everyone will carry their fair share of the burden. We will all, inside our national ways and means, contribute as individuals and collectively, to support the advancement of civilization though Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic means. As good friends do, if someone is not doing their fair share, then others should point that out and motivate that friend to lean in. If that friend refuses, then the rest of the Superfriends are well within their rights to ask if that friend is a friend after all.

The next bit was just sad to read. In addition to being wildly Eurocentric in its understanding of the human record of conflict (Mongolians, Persians, Chinese, Arabs, assorted Inca and Aztec descendants, not to mention modern era Rwandans, Japanese and Cambodians are looking at each other in amazement), it is just dripping with European self-loathing that helps no one.
The wars that broke out in 1939 and 1914 were iterations of the wars fought by Bismarck, Napoleon and Louis XIV—Sedan, 1870; Leipzig, 1813; Jena, 1806; Austerlitz, 1805; Valmy, 1792; Turckheim, 1675. The 20th centuries’ wars were bloodier for only one reason: a massive improvement in killing capability. What would the next iteration of this war look like considering the technology we’ve got now?

Postwar, Europe ceased to be the world’s leading exporter of violence because it was stripped of full sovereignty and subordinated to outside hegemons—first the U.S. and the USSR, then the U.S. alone.
Yes, all true ... but the world cannot and should not be set in aspic and stuck in the 'fridge.

This next bit is a bit over the top;
The benefits of this—to the U.S., Europe, and the world—are not just economic, although those benefits are immense. The benefits are in wars not fought, lives not squandered.

European free-riding isn’t an anomaly or a trick, as many Americans now seem to believe—it’s the central feature of our postwar security strategy. How is it, then, that suddenly, we’ve become consumed with rage that Europe is “taking advantage” of us? How have we forgotten that this is the point of the system? We designed it this way, and did so for overwhelmingly obvious historic reasons learned at incalculable cost.
Just no. At the height of the Cold War, Belgium spent ~3.25% GDP on defense, but was last over the 2% mark in 1992. She is now under 1%. In the same time period, the USA went from 6.3% to 3.1%.

Even today, EST, GRC, and by some measures GBR are all over 2%. Many other nations will be soon. Again, this is not too much to expect for an alliance that shares not just security guarantees, but also responsibilities. To have one, you must shoulder your fair share of the other. No one is asking anyone to spend 3.1%. Just 2/3 of that at a minimum.
The United States underwrites European security through forward engagement and guarantees based on deterrence. In return, its allies accept the United States’ dominant role in the international system. They contribute—significantly, in both money and blood—toward meeting common challenges. Until now, our statesmen have had the good sense to allow all concerned to save face and to describe our relationship as a partnership, with each contributing according to ability. Unfortunately, it seems everyone who understood what this actually meant—European subordination to U.S. hegemony—is dead.
This is an insult to the Europeans. Just by size, we're the big kid in the alliance, but no one is forcing anyone in to this alliance. A demand for fairness is not killing the alliance, it is only asking for a respectful relationship to strengthen the alliance.

Also, I know Trump derangement syndrome is blinding people, but Trump did not invent this concern. I've been on this for two decades, but I'm just a gnat on the natsec rump, listen to General Craddock in 2009, and SECDEF Gates in 2011.

This is not new - we just have a President who is willing to lead with it in the open.

If our slacking NATO partners will simply do the minimum - which isn't too much - then our alliance will be better, stronger, and better able to promote liberal democracy. 

Claire is 180 degrees out from what is going on.
They were wrong. We’re now cheerfully pissing away the greatest achievement of American history, the work of generations, achieved at incalculable cost in life and treasure: a free, united, secure, and prosperous Western world. The 20th century has been forgotten. No one learned a thing from it.
The present state of events is not good for NATO, The West, or any of its alliance partners.

Regular readers here know I get a kick out of the Norwegian series Occupied because it took the warning I gave to my NATO colleagues the first decade of this century, "We are one election away from the USA seriously looking at leaving NATO if you guys don't start spending more on your own defense." and made a series out of it. They refused to understand that there is a strong tradition in the American culture that started with the first English speaking colonies in North America, "He who does not work, does not eat." We will only take slackers for so long - especially entitled slackers.

The nation that needs to get itself in order first is Germany. Regardless of some people's view of Germany, this is 2018. She is a critical and important leader in the family of liberal democracies. Her economy is a powerhouse and her under-investment in her defense undermines deterrence and the ability of NATO to decisively act.

If you care for Germany and NATO, then you need to be as clear and direct as a Dutchman about it. Case in point, Rich Lowry over at NR;
Germany’s defense spending, or lack thereof, is a disgrace. One would think the country would have been embarrassed into following a different trajectory after German troops — Panzergrenadierbataillon 371, to be exact — had to use broomsticks instead of guns in a NATO exercise in 2014. But Germany evidently doesn’t embarrass easily.

NATO countries, after a long vacation from history after the end of the Cold War, agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense annually within ten years.

The Baltic states, and anyone in the direct line of fire of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are scared and spending, although no one will mistake these countries for behemoths. England is above 2 percent, at least in theory (one think tank says that it’s actually 1.6 percent). France is steadily increasing toward the 2 percent target.

It is the biggest economy in Europe and fourth-largest in the world that is the serious laggard. Germany spends all of 1.2 percent of GDP on defense. As Elisabeth Braw points out in Foreign Policy magazine, its military is short on tents and winter clothes. Its aircraft suffer from missing spare parts, and most of its tanks aren’t battle-ready. It has a shortfall of about 20,000 officers and noncommissioned officers. It is promising to get to 1.5 percent GDP . . . by 2025 ...
It’s not clear how seriously Germany takes the Russian threat (although it sent some troops to Lithuania last year). Germany has been supportive of the proposed Russian pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that would make Europe more dependent on Russian natural gas and bypass Ukraine. It’s Trump, the alleged tool of Putin, who has been complaining bitterly about the project.

With Putin looming to the East, NATO remains a vital tool of Western power. It’s not an imposition to ask that Germany act like it.
Germany needs to get its act together. It is long overdue.

All is not lost. There is good news about NATO when you want to find it. If you push Germany to the side, you can see that many in the alliance get it.

Today NATO issued its latest report of defense spending. Read it all, but these two graphs tell much of the story about who wants to be an adult, and who is content to live in mom's basement.

Note the nations who are just as the cusp of reaching the 2% mark. BZ to them all. Also note the cluster of shame in the bottom left-hand corner. Those are your free-riders - with Germany right in the center of them. Such lost potential.

As you can see, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania all are making the stretch. They get it. Other nations showing merit, Bulgaria, Canada, Slovakia, and The Netherlands. More work to do, but they are heading in the right direction.

UK, France, Croatia, Albania, and Belgium.  My dudes. Are you reading any of your intel reports?

Name 'em and shame 'em. A few decades of begging isn't helping - and liberal democracy isn't quite flourishing to the East.

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