Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No Two-Front War

This article seeks to explain "Why Europe no longer matters." It doesn't, however, actually argue that point. It just notes that Asia is rising in importance while Europe declines. Point accepted. This has been long discussed. But the author argues we should stay in NATO and get what we can from our allies there without complaining that the world is changing.

He's right.

NATO is worth keeping. And we need to stay in NATO:

American involvement in NATO keeps Europeans from threatening each other, keeps NATO members from fearing a united Germany, keeps even a weakened but aggressive Russia from thinking about recapturing eastern NATO countries, sets the standard of democracy and rule of law in member countries (and candidates for membership), provides the infrastructure and command relationships to intervene in the arc of crisis from Morocco to Afghanistan, and allows NATO countries to train together so that when a coalition of the willing is needed to intervene outside of the defense of NATO territory, NATO countries can join together and fight effectively. I've written about the value of NATO before (here and here, for example). So what if NATO no longer has the huge military task of stopping the Red Army? That means we succeeded! We don't want a military mission that vital, remember? Accept that less dramatic objectives are appropriate and remember that trying to find a new mission as dangerous and dramatic as stopping the Soviet Union will wreck the alliance and undermine those other less dramatic objectives.

Face it, even if European military power is feeble, the economic, military, and scientific assets would be formidible if in the hands of a hostile power. Europe may not be powerful allies, by they are a powerful asset that it is worth struggling over to make sure it is not organized against us.

Rather than complaining that NATO doesn't help much, maybe we need to help willing allies gain the ability to plug units into our military. If we can add a Polish brigade to an American division or a German battaliion into a brigade, we'll do better than hoping the Poles or Germans will develop the power projection capacity to send a brigade into battle with us. Better to have plug and play allies for coalitions of the willing in distant lands.

Yes, the main front is shifting to Asia and we are shifting our focus to Asia. But as we emphasize Asia we need to hold Europe secure. We don't need to fight on two fronts, and with Europe friendly and neutralized as a threat we need to keep it that way. We've fought in two world wars and a long Cold War over the last century to keep a hostile power from organizing and commanding the resources of Europe against us. You can think of Europe as our economy-of-force operation, but we should still struggle to win this theater so that it we don't face a two front war as we are forced to once again send resources there to protect our interests just as a rising China forces us to seriously expand our presence in Asia and the western Pacific to compete with China.