Friday, March 20, 2015

Europe is Weak

Europe is weak militarily and so is this argument that European military might is reviving.

While I thank France for their role in Iraq, this is just nonsense:

When the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, visited the carrier with his French counterpart last week, French officials said that as many as 15 Rafale fighter jets take off from the de Gaulle each day to conduct combat missions.

That is a "significant enhancement" of France's role. Fifteen planes is a rounding error when counting our air power.

Although I must admit that given that President Obama prematurely left Iraq only to find the war really wasn't over, perhaps France in 2003 was less cheese-eating surrender monkey and more prescient about our future leadership. They saved their main effort for now, eh?

Hell, we were late to the game in 1917 and 1941, so what the Hell. Fair is fair (but France was late to our Revolution, too, so we're even now?).

Then the author draws a broader lesson from this factoid. The commitment of France's single aircraft carrier is a sign of the resurgent European military might?

But the characterization of Europe as irrevocably pacifist or weak is more cartoon than reality. In fact, with so many European countries being willing to make meaningful military contributions in the fight against ISIS, we seem to be witnessing a new, more muscular European security leadership. This trend has unfolded quietly during the past several years, with new signs of willingness in Europe to take risks and act decisively. Four years ago this month, France and the United Kingdom joined the United States to lead the charge to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, and many other European countries (such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Italy) made vital contributions to the campaign. In 2013, the French led the effort to stem the unraveling of Mali, keeping the fragile country out of extremists' hands. And today, in Afghanistan, roughly 5,000 European troops maintain a presence to help train, advise, and assist the Afghan government.

Are you kidding me? I'll admit that Europe is hardly irrevocably pacifist. If they were, proponents of the European Union wouldn't be so sure that only the EU can keep those bloody European peasants from forcing their wise leaders into war amongst themselves.

But Europeans are militarily weak despite their economic strength. They spend rather a bit in gross terms on their armed forces, it is true, but they are mostly uniformed civil servants unable to project any real military power.

If the examples the author gives are the best he can come up with, he should give this argument a quick burial right now rather than embarrass himself by defending it further.

Europe's contribution to the ISIL fight is minuscule when compared to our efforts.

I salute France's decisive effort in Mali, but it was a tiny commitment of forces that spoke more of the enemy weakness than French military strength. France showed resolve and skill, but let's not get carried away in inflating it as a symbol of European military power.

And they still needed our logistics help.

Europe's role in Libya was relatively small, too, relying on our initial suppression of Libyan air defenses, our command and control capabilities, and even relying on our resupply of weapons when the war dragged on.

Denmark and the Netherlands had a tiny role, and Italy's "vital" contribution consisted of their geography. They let NATO planes use their air bases.

And about that European "presence" in Afghanistan. That is a carefully chosen word. They provided few troops to actually fight--hence the American nickname for the allied troop presence known as ISAF--I Saw Americans Fight.

I'm grateful for their assistance to train and advise. But that is a limited role that does not speak to real military power.

The author even mentions many of these problems yet still believes that Europe is reviving their military power!

Look, I'm grateful that Europe is helping us against ISIL in Iraq, but the role that is celebrated today is smaller than it was in 2003 (when we allegedly were "unilateral"), which was smaller than the European help in 1991.

Europeans are having trouble getting countries to provide continent-shared capabilities in narrow areas!

Good grief, people, the two strongest European military powers in NATO--Britain and France--are so reduced in strength that they share the single French carrier!

Europe is weak militarily. Don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise.

(Although this delusion is slightly less absurd than the idea that military power isn't necessary to be a great power.)

Sadly for us, their economic, demographic, and technological strength that make them a potential military power means that even when Europe can't help us much in war, we must take care that Europe is not lost to us as an ally.

Just a little help for us now is better than a lot of harm against us in the future.