The Difference Is…..

The esteemed Mr. Krauthammer describes the President as a European Social Democrat. Correct as far as it goes. He looks at the evolution of Social Democracy in Europe and correctly identifies taxes and severe cuts in defense spending as the key necessities to execute a Social Democratic system, as Europe has done. In hindsight it is clear that one of the results of WWII and the Cold War was making Europe ‘safe for Social Democracy’.

There is, however, a key difference that goes a step beyond Mr. Krauthammer’s analysis. The U.S. and the U.S. funding of NATO allowed Europe to limit defense spending in favor of social programs. U.S. Cold War spending contained the Soviet Union allowing for continuing evolution of the European Social Democratic model. You may recall that Cold War upgrades of Europe’s defense capabilities under U.S. management were fought every step of the way. The U.S. guarantees freedom of navigation, continues to fund European, Japanese and South Korean defense and is engaged in a wide variety of security arrangements including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Europe’s big three, the U.K., France and Germany average 2% of GDP committed to defense spending. U.S. defense spending is 4.7% of GDP, in terms of dollars no one else comes close; the global average is 2.2% of GDP. As a percentage of GDP it is enlightening to look at which strategically significant states are spending: Russia, Iraq, the Emirates, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman along with Israel.

There is a simple question here. If the U.S. guts defense spending in the interest of the European Social Democratic model, who guarantees our security? France had trouble airlifting 2,500 troops to Mali, NATO nearly ran out of ordinance in Libya, Europe supported the effort in Afghanistan but many countries refused to allow their troops to engage in combat operations; were they all to step up in defense of an America under attack it would likely not be a material contribution; we’re a lot farther away than Mali.

Additionally, what alliances form to take advantage of self inflicted weakness, or even the perception of weakness? After WWI, Britain disarmed. France built a wall, confident that it would de-motivate foreign intrusions from the East. We all know what came next.

Should we re-evaluate defense priorities; absolutely! There can be little argument that new, creative leadership is necessary to identify and prepare for the threats of the future, not fight wars of the past. Does Europe still require the degree of defense spending currently the case; no! Can technology replace a percentage of boots on the ground, no question! Does the military need to be more nimble; yes! Transitions, while cost effective in the long run, require the funding necessary to get from here to there.

When you look at who is spending, it is a long list of states that cannot, rationally, be described as Egalitarian. History teaches that weakness is the most fundamental and powerful provocation of all. The perception of weakness motivates those that would expand their influence in what they perceive to be a zero sum game.

If not us, who??