Monday, October 24, 2011

European Defense

I had two moments today where I giggled at the thought of European defense:
  • I attended a student's practice job talk that was about the campaigns for and against referenda on the European constitution and then Lisbon accords.  The student mentioned that the No folks raised the spectre of a European army as part of a common European defense.  I could only giggle.
  • Then I was teaching my IR of Ethnic Conflict class when the topic moved to Yugoslavia and the "Ice Cream Men" who were the EU observers, whose presence was supposed to deter violence.  Giggle 2.  
Time after time, the idea of Europe confronts the reality that countries conflict with each other not only of how to respond to threats but what the threats might be.  Germany helped to destroy any concept of European foreign policy in late 1991 when it pushed recognition of Slovenia and Croatia even though the Badinter commission considered Slovenia and Macedonia as the viable candidates.  2003 revealed big divides between European countries (Rummy was not entirely wrong about new vs old Europe, except that UK and Spain would be, ahem, old) over how to react to the US invasion of Iraq.  Afghanistan demonstrated that burden-sharing would always be a problem.  Sitting out of the Libyan effort, Germany showed that it will not go along with the rest of Europe. 

Unless it means cutting the defense budget.  Today, there are many tweets and stories about Germany gutting its military in response to the economic crisis.   This coincides nicely with French, British, Dutch, and other defense cuts. 

So, the reality of European defense is actually not a laughing matter.  Forget about European defense--they will not have the capability to do much, even collectively.  While the US will be cutting as well, the disparity between what the US can bring to the battle and everyone else will remain wide and get even wider (the Brits may lack planes for their carriers, for instance). 

This does not mean that other Libya's cannot happen, but the day Europe acts on its own and coherently is farther and farther down the road.  And fears of European militarization are quite laughable, indeed.

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