In 1918, a Killeen woman wrote to the Temple Daily Telegram. Listing her name only as “Wantogo,” she asked how she could go to France to assist in soldiers serving during World War I. The Temple Daily Telegram editor replied, “The only paths open to girls for actual war service are as telephone operator or nurse, and she must have special qualifications in either case. To become a telephone operator with the signal corps, she must be able to speak French fluently …”
Strategika Issue 56 is now available online. Strategika is an online journal that analyzes ongoing issues of national security in light of conflicts of the past—the efforts of the Military History Working Group of historians, analysts, and military personnel focusing on military history and contemporary conflict.
I think the question (Will Europe ever fully partner with the U.S.—or will the European Union and NATO continue to downplay the necessity of military readiness?) is lagging the reality of European acknowledgement of their military shortfalls. Europeans are no longer downplaying the necessity of military readiness.
Are there circumstances in which the European Union and NATO will partner fully with the U.S.? At the moment, they don’t. In 2017, for example, only a very few European countries contributed more than 2 per cent to defense, in spite of a 2014 promise to do so. Meanwhile, the U.S. contributed more than 4 per cent.
The Hoover Institution at Stanford University posed this question—Will NATO Europe fully partner with the U.S., or continue to downplay military readiness? The brief answer is that the leading economic powers in Europe have moved beyond national defense into a never-never land of post-military globalism. The liminal leap into self-induced delusion assumes that major conflict will never again embroil the European continent. So there isn’t enough money for a credible military force in Europe because there is not the political will. The moral is to the physical as four to one in battle, and Europe lost the spirit to fight long ago.
The notion of an Atlantic alliance consisting of Europeans and Americans as full partners was once a useful fiction. Today it is a dysfunctional one, an obstacle to all sides’ understanding of what useful cooperation may yet be possible.
The United States should never expect to achieve full burden-sharing with the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Even in the most balanced alliances, the most powerful member will pay some premium for ensuring its credibility and effectiveness. The United States can strive plausibly to minimize but not eliminate the massive degree of free riding and strategic incoherence that has become politically untenable and strategically unwise.
Clio, the muse of history, has a fabulous sense of irony: As the human pageant unfolds, she delights in confounding our intentions and expectations. Thus, two public enemies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (whose acronym, NATO, sounds like another Greek deity) promise to be the unwitting saviors of the alliance, rescuing it from complacency, lethargy, and diminishing relevance.
Europe was never a full partner in its own defense. The very question—Will Europe ever fully partner with the U.S., or will the European Union and NATO continue to downplay the necessity of military readiness?—is no longer meaningful as posed, because the political energies of Europe’s elites are absorbed as they try to fend off attacks on their legitimacy by broad sectors of their population.