Saturday, March 18, 2017

Unclear on the Concept: German Defense Minister Edition

The German defense minister wants Germany to get a credit toward meeting the NATO 2% of GDP defense spending goal by counting participation in NATO foreign operations. Excuse me?

Behold!

Germany's defence minister called Friday for changes to the way NATO members' commitments to budget targets are assessed, in the face of bigger demands from US President Donald Trump. ...

"For me the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance," she said.

Von der Leyen proposed using an "activity index" that would take participation in foreign missions into account when assessing budget earmarks for defence.

So the minister believes that sending the German military--with ground and air forces in pitiful condition--into foreign missions even as defense spending is inadequate to make the German military capable of participating in foreign missions makes up for lack of defense spending?

In practice, an inadequately funded military that requires a unit deploying to strip other units of their already inadequate equipment so the deploying unit can function exacerbates the readiness problem by disrupting the non-deploying units and harming their ability to train. So this kind of logic will result in meeting the spending/activity goal while undermining what the goal is supposed to bolster.

The What Planet Does She Live On Index is maxing out, I believe.

But Germany's defense minister is the kind of defense leader a nation that is not serious about defense chooses. Not to pick on her in particular. I'm sure she's a fine person. And I'm reasonably sure she reflects much of Europe's approach to defense staffing and issues. That's the real problem she personifies.

Oh, and I am truly tired of this excuse from that initial article:

Germany, whose militaristic past has led it traditionally to be reticent on defence matters, currently spends 1.2 percent of GDP.

Let me apply the clue bat (again) to pound some common sense into Germany's collective and figurative skull:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

I would rather NATO reduce the defense spending goal to reflect political realities than to debase the standard to technically meet it. The standard is already debased because so many European armies are civil servants in uniform. But their salaries count toward defense spending goals.

I'd rather have capabilities than spending, but how do you measure that across countries? We have the measure we have. As imperfect as it is, it could be worse.

Remember, other NATO countries--like America--would get far more credit for an "activity index"than Germany would get.

So it would actually be very funny to go along with that German notion and then increase the defense spending objective to 3%.

UPDATE: To be fair to the Germans, no:

US President Donald Trump unleashed a diatribe against Germany on Saturday, saying Berlin owes NATO "vast sums of money" and must pay the United States more for security.

It is literally not true. Sadly, it would be in our interests to defend Germany to prevent its vast economic, demographic, and technological resources out of hostile hands even if the Germans spent nothing on defense.

To be fair to Trump, what is true is that Germany is weak and should do more despite the accurate protest:

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's claim that Germany owes NATO and the United States "vast sums" of money for defense.

"There is no debt account at NATO," von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance's target for members to spend 2 percent of their economic output on defense by 2024 solely to NATO.

But hopefully, President Trump's hyperbole brushes the Germans back from the nonsensical notion that things other than defense spending should count toward the defense spending goal that Germany agreed to meed eventually.