Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I don't find the notions of decadence and pacifism to be congruent -- I rather tend to associate decadence with empire. The notion of Kaplan that waging colonial wars proves the moral fibre of a nation is a fine example.

But to put my own 'hard-nosed realist' hat on, I do not buy several of the premises Kaplan takes.

First: military spending. Europe does not like military spending for sociocultural reasons. This is true. The trade-off, though, is not only or even primarily with the social safety net but with taxes. European countries could all be spending the desired 2-3 percent of their GDP on defense easily by raising taxes on the well-to-do or even by just eliminating loopholes that have questionable economic effects. The notion that total state spending is an independent variable is a right-wing tribal myth.

Second: isolationism. If America believes that the principal arena of geopolitics for the next 30 years is the Pacific Rim and yet the principal battles it will fight are against radical Islam (The Great Game and The Long War), it is entirely rational for Europe to pursue an isolationist strategy. Going along with those two schemes has more costs than payoffs. Fighting an extended military campaign against radical Islam abroad creates more radical Islam in Europe. The Pacific Rim is remote, the players will sort out their own balance without much regard to Europe's ability to trade, and we can diversify our demand and source our materials and cheap labour from elsewhere if that is really needed.

I think that a grand strategy focusing on positioning in the Pacific Rim and wars against radical Islam doesn't make a lot of sense for the US either. A lower level of strategic engagement on the Pacific Rim (acting more as a broker and less as a guarantor) would make regional powers find their own balance of power and interests at far lower cost to the US with relatively low risks. A broader focus on the reasons for absence of statehood in 'the gap' -- as Thomas P.M. Barnett termed it-- and a broader range of tactical thinking on asymmetric threats would have bigger long term economic and security payoffs and carry a far larger potential for international partnership than fighting radical Islam. Such a partnership can then be leveraged by the US for other strategic purposes.

As for Europe: The potential for common action is low. Restricted to 'peace keeping' missions in Africa, but those are peanuts with little effect on anything barring a breakthrough in state building strategies (potentially in partnership with a rational US focus). I'd be happy if we can keep North Africa stable, focus on providing security in the Caucasus and work towards a mutually satisfactory settlement of Kosovo and Moldova with Russia over the next five to ten years. We'll see where we can get from there on.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 10:51:04 AM EST
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