Why Won’t Europe Defend Itself? — Peter Robinson

 

Back when the United States had no qualms about maintaining an enormous defense establishment, I could see why the Europeans wanted to let us do all the nasty work, maintaining only nominal defenses themselves. But now?  President Obama has devoted the last five years to reducing our commitments abroad, shrinking our armed forces, and making us, withal, much less reliable allies than we used to be.

The European response? To make their defense budgets even smaller.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Obama theory of “collective security” is that as the U.S. retreats from its historic commitments in Europe and the Middle East, allies will step up to deter aggressors and protect Western interests. NATO budget cuts suggest otherwise.

The cuts have created “gaps in meeting core NATO tasks” and resulted in “forces that are not ready, not trained, and not sufficiently equipped,” according to a 2012 study by the U.S. National Defense University. In plain English, this means that if Vladimir Putin sets his sights on NATO’s eastern periphery—by targeting the Baltic states, for example—the alliance may not have the capability to resist even if it has the political will.

European powers in recent years have shelved entire divisions and weapons systems. The British Royal Navy doesn’t operate a proper aircraft carrier. The Netherlands in 2012 disbanded its heavy-armor division, and France and the U.K. each now field a mere 200 main battle tanks. France has cut its orders of Rafale combat jets to six a year from 11. This isn’t even a Maginot Line. 

Most alliance members are also dangerously demobilized: Germany last year announced plans to cut its troops to no more than 180,000 from 545,000 at the end of the Cold War. The French military has shrunk to 213,000 from 548,000 in 1990. The U.K. now has 174,000 armed forces, down from 308,000 in 1990.

It’s not just the “Obama theory” that’s in question here. Lots of people have supposed that, if the United States scaled back its commitments to Europe, then the Europeans would very naturally take on the defense of Europe themselves.

Way back during the late 1980s and 1990s, no less a figure than Irving Kristol suggested that NATO, at least as then constituted (with the United States as very much the senior partner), was close to having outlived its usefulness.  Immediately after the Second World War, Europe needed American protection. But by the late 1970s Europe had not only recovered but become, roughly, just as rich as we—and much, much richer than the Soviet Union. By continuing to permit the Europeans to free ride on our defense budget, Kristol argued, we were infantilizing them.  We should cut back, he insisted, forcing the Europeans to defend themselves—forcing them, that is, to grow up.

The argument made sense to me then—and still does. But in recent years we’ve effectively put it to the test—and instead of taking their own defense upon themselves the Europeans have become…still more infantile. Good Lord.   The United Kingdom—”Hail, Britannia!  Britannia, rule the waves!”—without a single working aircraft carrier.

I just don’t understand. Why should this be?

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  1. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    A US invasion of Iran is obviously impossible, and a Russian invasion hard to imagine (eg. why?) and absent nukes, what would be the motivation?
    But US funded regime change (as was done before) less so. That’s what’s got them freaked.
    If Russia wanted to get right in our faces getting a warm water port on the Persian Gulf, right by the Straits of Hormuz, would be a good way to do it. I agree that it’s unlikely – but if it happened it would be about the US, not about Iran.

    If US backed street demonstrations are what the Iranians are afraid of, then what use are nuclear weapons, the primary cause of US support for street demonstrations? At what point do you think Yanukovych thought “my mistake was using snipers! If only I’d thought to nuke someone!”?
    Russia doesn’t have the ability to take and hold Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni, Iran’s only sizable port. That’s an enormous supply chain passing through multiple countries and perpetually under terrorist threat. Russia’s military is built to bully neighbors and make domestic appeals, not to project force like that.

    • #151
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Zafar:I see Mossadegh’s removal and the (re)imposition of the Pahlavis as a response to the nationalisation
    ….
    I don’t know that you can separate Iranian poverty and social dissatisfaction with the bad deal the country was perceived to be getting for its oil. If it wasn’t a great deal for the buyers why would anybody bother to overthrow a Government in order to keep something close to it?

    It was important to keep the Iranian economy going from an oil perspective, but also from a humanitarian perspective.  More important than either of these, though, was protecting the Iranian people from becoming a Soviet satellite state, and protecting the Pakistanis and such from the existence of a Soviet Iran.
    I don’t deny that the oil business was often a good business to be in (although it’s very easy to exaggerate this; oil has bad years as well as good), but a deal being good for one side doesn’t make it bad for the other.

    Are you under the impression that Iran suffered from a poor economy under the Shah, because that is really, truly, mistaken. As is normal, the revolution came from prosperity.

    • #152
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Stephen Bishop:
    An interesting video from the Bruges Group.
    Someone Had Blunder’d – The EU and Ukraine

     There’s an awful lot of really embarrassing Russophilia on the Euroskeptic right; I don’t think I’ve seen as violent a rift before as Crimea has caused, with numerous broken friendships. I have a horrible suspicion that if we could find a way to blame Obama for being overly assertive, there’s a fair number of conservatives who’d play Kerry’s Winter Soldier role in a similar manner, supporting enemy propaganda on the basis that the countrymen of ours that it criticized were across a domestic political divide.

    • #153
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    If US backed street demonstrations are what the Iranians are afraid of, then what use are nuclear weapons, the primary cause of US support for street demonstrations?  

    1  Was the Green Revolution against Iran having nuclear capacity?

    2  Was Mossadegh deposed by the equivalent of the Green Revolution, or were there more sinister forces and groups at work? (As in Chile, for eg.)

    3  Can an entrenched regime be removed by a solely people’s movement (let’s say the Green Revolution) or is that unrealistic?  Can regime change in Iran today only come through foreign involvement, in which case is it likely to fall into the pattern of the Pahlavi ascendancy – too dependent on foreigners and not dependent enough on the people of the country?

    • #154
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    It was important to keep the Iranian economy going from an oil perspective, but also from a humanitarian perspective. More important than either of these, though, was protecting the Iranian people from becoming a Soviet satellite state, and protecting the Pakistanis and such from the existence of a Soviet Iran…. 

    From wikipedia (so with that caveat):

    The history of Iran’s oil industry began in 1901, when British speculator William D’Arcy received a concession from Iran to explore and develop southern Iran’s oil resources. The discovery of oil in 1908 led to the formation in 1909 of the London-based Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC). By purchasing a majority of the company’s shares in 1914, the British government gained direct control of the Iranian oil industry, which it would not relinquish for 37 years. After 1935 the APOC was called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). A 60-year agreement signed in 1933 established a flat payment to Iran of four British pounds for every ton of crude oil exported and denied Iran any right to control oil exports.[5]
    In 1950 ongoing popular demand prompted a vote in the Majlis to nationalize the petroleum industry. A year later, the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq formed the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). A 1953 coup d’état led by British and U.S. intelligence agencies ousted the Mossadeq government and paved the way for a new oil agreement.[12][13] In 1954 a new agreement divided profits equally between the NIOC and a multinational consortium that had replaced the AIOC. In 1973 Iran signed a new 20-year concession with the consortium.

    [But then along came the Revolution and all bets were off.]

    • #155
  6. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Wrt Soviet Iran – comparing Iran and Persian Central Asia (Tajikistan, parts of Uzbekistan) it isn’t entirely clear that Iran is culturally or economically ahead.

    • #156
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    Are you under the impression that Iran suffered from a poor economy under the Shah, because that is really, truly, mistaken. As is normal, the revolution came from prosperity.

     

    How very Marxist of you James!!!

    • #157
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:
    Wrt Soviet Iran – comparing Iran and Persian Central Asia (Tajikistan, parts of Uzbekistan) it isn’t entirely clear that Iran is culturally or economically ahead.

    My mother spends a good deal of time on the steppes, and has been to Persia. She doesn’t have an easy time agreeing with you culturally. Economically, Iran has roughly 4 times the GDP/ capita of Uzbekistan and almost an order of magnitude more than Tajikistan, and it’s more evenly spread. There’s a serious middle class in Iran. The mullahs have been far less good to the Iranian people than the Shah was, but he left them with a tremendous talent pool, and while they murder a portion of their citizens, the government is mostly pretty decent domestically, by emerging market standards. The Tajiks and Uzbeks, in contrast, murder few foreigners, plan no genocides that I am aware of, but are domestically terrible.

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    How very Marxist of you James!!!

     I have been explicitly  shilling for Marx on this thread.

    • #158
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    ….

    From wikipedia (so with that caveat):

    In general, I don’t think wiki needs caveats, but this article is mostly sourced to leftist conspiracy theorists. That said, I don’t see much to disagree with in the portion quoted, other than “led by”, which attributes too great a role to the West, whose activists were outnumbered more than a million to one by Iranians. What was the claim you cited this for?

    Zafar:

    1 Was the Green Revolution against Iran having nuclear capacity?

    No. Iranian politics is primarily about Iranians. Huh. It’s not letting me quote again. New comment

    • #159
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    2 Was Mossadegh deposed by the equivalent of the Green Revolution, or were there more sinister forces and groups at work? (As in Chile, for eg.)

     I don’t know what you mean by “sinister”. If you mean “leftist” (as opposed to “dextrous”), then, well, yes. The Communists inspired and conducted a lot of the violence and extremism that destabilized Mossadegh’s coup and inspired the Iranian backlash. If you mean “evil”, then while I agree that there were diverse elements on both sides of the coup and counter-coup, I think you present a false choice. The Green Revolution isn’t an unmixed force, either; most political factions include both wheats and tares.

    3 Can an entrenched regime be removed by a solely people’s movement (let’s say the Green Revolution) or is that unrealistic? Can regime change in Iran today only come through foreign involvement, in which case is it likely to fall into the pattern of the Pahlavi ascendancy – too dependent on foreigners and not dependent enough on the people of the country?

    Most historical revolutions have been almost exclusively domestic, although the Soviets shifted that dynamic. Mossadegh’s coup has Soviet backing, but was primarily domestic. Pahlavi’s counter-coup had Anglo-American backing, but was primarily domestic. The Euromaidan crowd was domestic, the Egyptians primarily domestic, and so on. There are plenty of examples of revolutions with more or less foreign backing.

    I dispute your characterization of the Shah’s regime; while being an enemy of the Soviets results in your name being blackened, it does not mean that the country is actually opposed to you. Your analogy to Pinochet is apt here. The Shah lost (sort of; I think the Mullahs much closer to the Shah than Mossadegh was, meaning that the Shah successfully changed the direction of the country as well as enriching and educating it) and Pinochet won, but neither of those things were destiny.

    • #160
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    I don’t know what you mean by “sinister”.  

    I mean hidden – perhaps occult would have been a better word, though at least as open to misinterpretation.  The CIA didn’t put many people on the ground in Iran in 1953, but they did put significant covert resources into bribing members of parliament, funding street gangs and thugs, propaganda. I don’t know that the Green Revolution had a similar external source of funding – or at least we don’t know (yet) if it did. The fact that it failed implies it didn’t.

    Afaik the Islamic Revolution didn’t have that kind of external funding (the US was backing the Shah, the Soviets would have preferred the Khalq e mujahideen or Tudeh) – and only succeeded because the Shah had become so widely unpopular. I’m wondering whether authentic regime change without that kind of (unusual) majority social consensus is possible without an external player, and whether an external player inevitably corrupts the ensuing polity.

    The Pahlavis were crooks – and unforgivably vulgar to boot.  They had few redeeming characteristics.

    • #161
  12. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England

    :My mother spends a good deal of time on the steppes, and has been to Persia. She doesn’t have an easy time agreeing with you culturally. Economically, Iran has roughly 4 times the GDP/ capita of Uzbekistan and almost an order of magnitude more than Tajikistan, and it’s more evenly spread. There’s a serious middle class in Iran. The mullahs have been far less good to the Iranian people than the Shah was, but he left them with a tremendous talent pool, and while they murder a portion of their citizens, the government is mostly pretty decent domestically, by emerging market standards. The Tajiks and Uzbeks, in contrast, murder few foreigners, plan no genocides that I am aware of, but are domestically terrible. 

    I’ve unfortunately never been to Iran and only briefly to Uzbekistan, but what struck me about Bukhara and Samarkand (which are Persophone cities, at least to some extent) was the apparent position of women.  I’m sure you’re correct and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are poorer than Iran (no oil) and the political systems are arguably (even) less representative than Iran’s, but half the population is not systemically oppressed in the same way.  I know Iran claims tremendous cultural sophistication – okay, perhaps justified – but for me that’s hugely undercut by the gender thing.  I would say that Central Asia is more advanced in this area than the rich Gulf States as well. I suspect it’s due to the Soviet war on religion altering society over two or three generations, sort of like Ataturk’s assault in Turkey, and it did come at a cost, but there you go.

    • #162
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    James Of England

    I’ve unfortunately never been to Iran and only briefly to Uzbekistan, but what struck me about Bukhara and Samarkand (which are Persophone cities, at least to some extent) was the apparent position of women. I’m sure you’re correct and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are poorer than Iran (no oil) and the political systems are arguably (even) less representative than Iran’s, but half the population is not systemically oppressed in the same way. I know Iran claims tremendous cultural sophistication – okay, perhaps justified – but for me that’s hugely undercut by the gender thing. I would say that Central Asia is more advanced in this area than the rich Gulf States as well. I suspect it’s due to the Soviet war on religion altering society over two or three generations, sort of like Ataturk’s assault in Turkey, and it did come at a cost, but there you go.

     It’s not just that Iran has oil. Iran has a flourishing middle class engaged in numerous industries. This is partly because your characterization of the Shah is based on decades of anti-Western propaganda, and the truth is that he was one of the developing world’s most effective leaders. Again, compare the culture, erudition, and work ethic of Iranians with central Asians, or with any oil power (any non-western oil power, in case you felt like pulling that move). Services represent about twice as large a chunk of Iranian GDP as oil.

    Iranian women have some unpleasant restrictions, but it would be easy to overstate them. Iran funds the abuse of women abroad, and abuses dissidents, but I worked with Iranian women in high skilled occupations, and they came from backgrounds in which this was common. Tajik women have fewer restrictions on their clothing, but their horizons are more limited. It is true that the legacy of excellent education has been substantially harmed by the ending of the Shah’s regime, but it was not so totally destroyed as it was in Iraq under Saddam during the same time period.

    • #163
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    I don’t know what you mean by “sinister”.

    I mean hidden – perhaps occult would have been a better word, though at least as open to misinterpretation. The CIA didn’t put many people on the ground in Iran in 1953, but they did put significant covert resources into bribing members of parliament, funding street gangs and thugs, propaganda. I don’t know that the Green Revolution had a similar external source of funding – or at least we don’t know (yet) if it did. The fact that it failed implies it didn’t.

     How do you imagine that a handful of Americans would be able to fund large numbers of street gangs and thugs? Indeed, other than the communists, I’m not sure that such things formed too large a part of the counter-coup. The merchants who were upset by their stuff being destroyed behaved a lot like merchants whose stuff is being destroyed generally behave.
    Recall that America’s focus in 1953 was on the Korean War, and on the Cold War in Europe. The Korean War was won, but anti-Soviet rebellions in Eastern Europe failed. There was a major US effort to shore up democracy and French government in South East Asia, an effort that resulted in total failure. It is extremely difficult to influence domestic politics in countries that one is highly familiar with, and Persia just wasn’t that high an American priority (lower than, say, Korea, or East Germany). The various forms of support for the Green Revolution, both from governments and from the now extremely wealthy Persian diaspora didn’t guarantee success because you can’t guarantee success that way. If the US was able to, then Cuba, which is poorer, closer to America and better understood by Americans, dramatically smaller, and in many other ways represented a far easier target, CIA genius amounted to numerous pranks, a failed invasion and a series of failed assassinations.  Mexico is another target of much greater significance to America, much better understood and integrated, but that showed apparent invulnerability to American control through the Cold War.

    • #164
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:
    The Pahlavis were crooks – and unforgivably vulgar to boot. They had few redeeming characteristics.

    I’m not going to defend Pahlavi aesthetics, or restraint from baksheesh, but producing an unparalleled growth in prosperity, along with enormous development for women’s rights, education and culture seem like pretty redeeming characteristics to me.  Being opposed to the Soviets lands you on the wrong side of history (that being the meaning of the term) and subjects you to permanent character assassination, but it behooves us as post-Cold War observers not to adopt the partisan slanders of evil empires past.

    • #165
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    The Shah’s performance is arguable, though certainly he did try and push through some reforms (but not enough to actually threaten his own hold on power – which is why the White Revolution was not such a great success).
    Re the 1953 coup:
    http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB435/
    And re education of women under the Shah and after:
    http://www.mei.edu/content/educational-attainment-iran
     

    • #166
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