Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Comment made on Matt Y's blog:
I have to protest this mischaracterisation of Robert D. Kaplan's body of work. Kaplan is a hard-nosed realist who doesn't always call for invading other countries. He's successfully carved out his own unique niche in foreign policy writing, which is calling for a new defence procurement programme or the expansion of an existing programme in every single column.

Not a neocon.

More ships = 1,000 ship navy for the 'great game' part of The Great Game and the Long War. Which is the paradigm Kaplan thinks in and much of the US military-industrial complex seems to be thinking in, up to the chairman of the JCS and the US NATO ambassador.

Remember, these are the 'centrists'.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 02:17:04 PM EST
I don't think he fits in your box.

I think the logic runs this way:

Scientists agree resources are running out, which means shortages. Shortages imply conflict or accommodation. Since it's obvious from the various resource treaties that "them as has" ain't gonna share any significant amount with "them that ain't" then the next (unthinkable) step is conflict. Now we're talking about (unthinkable) mass war, for which Europe isn't really ready, mentally or physically, and the USA is.

So we will hear much wishful whining about "why can't we all get along" to which the (unthinkable) answer is: It's who we are, and no one is willing to think about changing the genome, or the culture, so war it is.

There, I fixed that for you.

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 06:55:13 PM EST
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In what way, shape or form is the US ready for a mass war? We are no more ready for a mass war than the British at the beginning of WWI ... less, in fact, since our logistics for a mass war depend critically on crude oil, 2/3 of which we import.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 5th, 2009 at 09:01:20 PM EST
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by asdf on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 12:47:15 PM EST
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You're projecting your own analysis on Kaplan. He doesn't think in terms of a global struggle for resources that are running out. He does think in terms of third world wretches being hurt by environmental degradation, but that's a different matter.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 05:22:33 AM EST
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I would have normally written Kaplan rather than neocon, but neopacifist need some balance. In retrospect, perhaps neorealist would be more apt now. Kaplan's writings have evolved over time. I think during the early Bush years he definitely veered more toward neocon thinking, but he is quicker to finesse and change his thinking that the current group of neocon deadbeats.

Anyway to put labels aside, do you agree with his many assessments, among which are Europe is decadent and neopacifist? Kaplan is prodding Europe to get involved:

At home, Europe's social safety net is estimable. But what will the European Union, now with its own president and foreign minister, work toward abroad? After all, a neopacifist Europe is the result not only of the continent's ethical awakening following centuries of war, but of a new strategic context in which Europeans simply face no credible security threat.

In some ways, attitudes of Europe today reminds me of American isolationism at the onset of World War I. Since most Europeans do not see an external threat, they seem content to not meddle. Kaplan sees this as "Europe's apathy".

The subtext that Kaplan, I think, is arguing is the following: America cannot stop being involved militarily around the world,

Because the cause of international peace and security sometimes requires a willingness to fight, and humanitarian rescue missions often rely on skills honed in combat, the U.S. has, since the end of the Cold War, had to try to enlist Europe in its grand strategy, despite what some might legitimately consider Europe's neopacifism.

"Grand strategy" could be described by others as imperialistic goals.

For the last half of the 20th century, the U.S. has shouldered the burden because of the "anemic level of European military spending", but now "the way the world is shaping up, America will have no choice but to yank Europe kicking and screaming into conflict zones".

So, while the U.S. continues to fight the wars, Kaplan advocates Europe take responsibility in "humanitarian assistance", "rescue missions", and the "training of indigenous forces".

Ultimately, I think Kaplan believes European foreign policy is still a part of the larger American foreign policy. He wants Europe to reengage with the world, but also it seems under the direction of the U.S.

I think this means continuing to let the United States be the West's lightning rod and thus allowing Europeans to mostly not get involved in the messy parts of wars, have a social safety net instead of a large military, and be the people the world likes instead of being the 'great Satan'. In exchange, I think it would mean the EU/NATO show a deference to the U.S. in foreign policy matters.

As an American, I'm not in favor of this. But, then maybe I'm misreading what this "hard-nosed realist", as you describe him, is advocating.

by Magnifico on Sun Dec 6th, 2009 at 09:30:15 AM EST
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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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