Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Easy Way

     Good morning, Gentle Reader. Yes, I took yesterday off and said nothing about it. However, I hadn’t intended to take yesterday off. In fact, I only realized that I was doing so when 7:00 PM rolled around, I was comfortably ensconced in front of the Rangers / Hurricanes game, and realized that I still hadn’t written the day’s tirade. These things do happen.

     Anyway, before I light off on the day’s serious subject, a few words about blogging and the history thereof. Blogs – originally, “weblogs” – emerged shortly after Web programmers discovered the Common Gateway Interface (CGI), which made it possible to craft a Website that accepts reader input. A few people immediately made use of the original Blogspot facility (since taken over by Google), Wordpress and other blogging-software companies got into the act, and a phenomenon was born. At its peak approximately 60 million blogs festooned the Web. Not long after that, the great majority of blog proprietors discovered that they had little inclination to write and little to say that anyone else cared to read.

     There are still blogs, of course, though not as many as there were back when it was the “in thing.” Among the ones that have persisted, there are many special-interest blogs that confine themselves to one subject (e.g., knitting or cooking), a bunch of rant’n’ravers that exist mainly to vent the proprietors’ spleen, and a number of serious ones that purvey thoughtful analysis and commentary. It is in the nature of things that the last category should be the smallest of them.

     Those serious-commentary sites are the sort I prefer to read. But it is also in the nature of things that they don’t come banging on my door demanding attention. So when I stumble over one, it’s always a delightful surprise...and courtesy of Mark “Mad Dog” Sherman, I have a fresh entry for my reading list:

     Dare we say it, but Europe has a problem. Good old Europe, ancestral home to many of us, is in serious trouble. Not only has it lost Great Britain but its Eastern front is none too happy with the weak sisters of the West. To be more specific, while Western countries struggle to assimilate unassimilable Muslims, the East has closed its doors to migration… and thus, to looting, pillaging, raping and murder.

     As though this were not bad enough, the Trump administration has called out the countries of NATO as freeloaders, as weaklings who depend for their defense on the American military.

     It is not just a question of European nations paying their allotted share of the NATO budget. More importantly, it’s about whether any of them would fight to defend a Baltic nation, for instance, against a Russian incursion.

     Schneiderman quotes Walter Russell Mead on the specifics of Europe’s inanition:

     Europeans often contrast the “nationalism” of backward political cultures like Russia, China and the U.S. with their own supposedly enlightened attitude of cosmopolitan solidarity. Yet if these numbers are accurate, Europeans haven’t replaced nationalism with European solidarity. They have replaced nationalism with fantasy: the belief that one can have security and prosperity without a strong defense.

     That vision leaves Europe vulnerable, and it is threatening to let the West unravel. European leaders believe they are trading parochial loyalties for higher and broader commitments, when in truth their countries lack the solidarity that makes international order possible. Those who dream that they can have security without the willingness to fight for it are slowly turning NATO into the paper tiger that its enemies hope it will become.

     Oh, indeed...but this is not news. Nor is the mechanism at all obscure. We – the United States of America – collaborated in bringing it about. And in keeping with the ancient maxim that “They who are not punished for their sins will surely be punished by them,” today it’s biting us on the ass.

     Let’s have one more snippet from Walter Russell Mead’s essay: specifically, his conclusion:

     This problem won’t be easy to solve. For many Europeans, the essential purpose of European integration was to end war. For centuries, the restless nationalisms of European peoples plunged the Continent into one wretched war after another. The European Union was meant to bury those national antagonisms and end the cycle of war. To love Europe was to enter a posthistorical age of perpetual peace. For voters who grew up in the European cocoon, the military defense of European ideas sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can you build peace by making war?

     In contrast, Americans continue to believe that Europe is worth defending. We must hope that over the next few years more Europeans will come around to that position; otherwise, the prospects for “Westlessness” will only grow.

     There’s a fair amount of question-begging in the above. The key assertions:

  • Nationalism plunged Europe into one wretched war after another.
  • Americans believe that Europe is worth defending.
  • The problem won’t be easy to solve.

     All three of those claims are eminently disputable. However, the last of them (which is actually the first statement in the cited snippet) is the most important of the lot, for it eludes the question of the hour:

What’s “the problem,” really?

     Mark Sherman doesn’t see one – at least, not one that demands a solution of the sort Mead would favor:

     The answer is to let Europe go. It is past time to update our allies and let go of those old alliances which cannot hope to provide real protection going forward. We need to drop Europe and look more to the Anglosphere. This means not just walking away from NATO but cutting US ties and our role in the UN and the other international agencies. We need to recreate those same functions which have been corrupted within a new international entity focused on Anglospheric concerns and goals.

     I concur: it is time to “let Europe go.” Virtually from the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, Washington’s political elite worked to turn the Old World into an American welfare client. It was the doing of George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, and others in the Truman Administration to render Europe dependent upon the United States. Whether it was their conscious aim cannot be definitively answered, but the worst consequence of their policies – the military infantilization of Europe – is indisputable today.

     There was a Transatlantic constituency for those policies. I hope I need not enumerate the many institutions, public and private, that garnered departmental, provincial, or institutional benefits from encouraging the process. Suffice it to say that until the tax burden on ordinary Americans began to swell uncomfortably – say, during Lyndon Johnson’s second term – very few persons not in the political elite or some allied organization were much concerned with NATO and what it was doing to Europe.

     NATO’s cost to the United States as a percentage of Defense Department spending peaked in 1988 when it brushed 50%. It may be a smaller percentage today, but the absolute cost has only increased. Throughout, the nations of Europe have free-ridden on our defense commitment. They funneled the funds they would otherwise have spent on their own militaries into their welfare states.

     Needless to say (though, as is my wont, I shall say it anyway), there would be considerable resistance to the notion of extracting America from NATO, especially from the political class. Some of the objectors would claim that an American withdrawal from the Atlantic Alliance would leave Europe defenseless. Certainly a Europe suddenly wholly bereft of American arms would present a tempting target to Russia. But our extraction from the defense of the Old World need not be a swordstroke. It can be phased in, if sufficient resolve is applied to making sure it happens.

     Some of the resistance would be of this form:

     “You don’t remove someone from an alliance,” General Barcena said. “It’s simply...not done. Everyone needs allies!” [John Ringo, The Hot Gate]

     I have no doubt a State Department careerist, and no small number of the political appointees therein, would say exactly that. But that which is “not done” can be done – and in this case, it must. No other measure would compel the nations of Europe to fulfill their responsibilities to themselves. They’ve shirked those responsibilities for several decades, preferring to fund month-long vacations and outrageously early retirement on government pensions for their workers, while they pacify their unemployed and shiftless with generous welfare payments.

     Americans might like Europeans “in a general ‘they seem like nice people’ sort of way” – John Ringo again – but we’re hardly more inclined to foster international good-for-nothings than we are to coddle our native variety. Not to mention that among the unanticipated consequences of Transatlantic military welfarism are envy and resentment: a steady increase in the willingness of Europeans – with the smiling concurrence of their political elites – to blame America for every condition, and every development, they find not to their tastes. Were it necessary for Europe to work to stay on our good side, they might talk smack about us a good deal less.

     We could choose the easy way. We could cover our eyes and refuse to see the real problem – Transatlantic welfarism and the concomitant infantilization of Europe – in favor of a stubborn insistence that we must defend “our allies” as we have done since 1945. But that course is no longer tolerable in the face of the aggression of Russia to the east and the Islamic states to the southeast. Europe must be made to take its defense into its own hands.

     Muad’Dib tells us “The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.” And always, he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning “That path leads ever down into stagnation.” [Frank Herbert, Dune]


furball said...

"pacify their unemployed and shiftless with generous welfare payments"

A nice turn of phrase. But do we not do the same?

Tim Turner

Francis W. Porretto said...

To some extent we do, Tim, but the European nations make being "poor" almost as comfortable as earning a middle-class income. It's hard to believe unless you've seen it at close range...and once you have, you can never forget it.

HoundOfDoom said...

Ah, another John Ringo fan. What good taste we both have!

evilfranklin said...

The EU fought furiously to retain Britain. Now that they've lost that war they find that they are losing yet another. With Britain extracting itself the EU now finds that not all of its' current members want to step up to fill the void; several billion Euros worth.

Sam L. said...

I have said elsewhere that Mr. Trump should tell the Euros that A) They are grownups; B: They're on their own; it's not the US's problem(s); C: Your problems are YOURS, not ours. (i.e., suck it up, buttercup).