U.S. Secretary for Defense Robert Gates is ... strange:
The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st ...
Let's say that this part of his speech was not written competently, at least not with the European public in mind.
Germany had a discussion since the mid-90's about the steady militarization of its foreign policy and I assume that the topic came up in other continental European countries as well. Gates' speaking about "demilitarization" seems odd in this context.
He cannot really mean military expenditures either.
A look at real world military expenditures in the world shows that five of the top 15 military spenders are European NATO countries. Two more (USA, Canada) are their allies. Five more are friendly or very friendly to European NATO.
Only two of the top 15 - Russia and Saudi Arabia - could play a role in European defence scenarios.
I don't think that the effort of converting the figures into more meaningful purchasing power parity terms is even necessary; it's very obvious that military spending in Europe is high in relation to all reasonable "threats". Europe could easily defend itself against all conventional attacks without American allies and two European powers could retaliate terribly against nuclear attacks.
So what is Gates talking about when he asserts that more military force would achieve more peace and security? The recent U.S. history doesn't exactly support his stance. To have a strong and offensive military entices governments to use it - and the result is not pretty.
Gates seems to assert that you could promote peace and security with military actions in excess of European preferences. There's no evidence and not even anecdotical evidence to support his stance. Europe is not totally averse to military action, but its majority has an aversion against stupid military actions like the illegal Iraq invasion.
What is Gates complaining about? We don't spend our fortunes and don't run into debt to maintain a military for the kind of stupid militarised foreign policy as the Iraq invasion or Afghanistan occupation. I think that's fine as it is.
P.S.: Gates irritated me before.