Gates keeps irritating me

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.

Sven Ortmann



  1. Gates is complaining about European Countries not owning up to their NATO obligations.

  2. The only thing that would come close to "not owning up to obligations" is that the 2% GDP goal wis being missed by some European states (not Europe as a whole).
    Such goals were missed routinely during the Cold War as well and the arms racing still proved to be more than enough.

    Gates should be quiet about NATO obligations, though. The USA has violated the North Atlantic Treaty more than any other member.


  3. I suspect anonymous talks about Afghanistan?

    Maybe he/she doesn´t remember what actually happened there?

    In late 2001/ early 2002 the US administration (Rumsfeld) didn´t accept any then offered European NATO troops except for some special forces under US command (remember: want a free hand, don´t want any consultations?).
    After a time they reluctantly allowed some European NATO troops to deploy to Afghanistan but restricted them to Kabul only.
    And then some time later they warmed to the idea of some NATO "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" I think they were called.

    Always months or even years too late because all the attention was on Iraq. Remember that the Bush administration didn´t even ask for any civilian aid money for Afghanistan in their 2003 federal budget?
    Is it any wonder that European governments by now are a bit skeptical?

    And now after 8 years of messing up Afghanistan, the USA seems to look for a scapegoat. :)

    It´s all the fault of the "sclerotic", "pacifist", "socialist" Europeans "from Venus". And never ever the fault of "manly" Americans "from Mars".

  4. That's actually irrelevant as article V does no require us to do more (or anything) in Afghanistan.

    The original regime that gave a safe haven to religious-political criminals who attacked the U.S. - that regime is long gone. NATO somehow forgot to make the end of article V activation official in 2002, which means nothing.

    I have yet to see a present or historical alliance that demands its members to hunt down all party followers of the leading party of a power that was friendly to non-state actors who attacked an alliance meber ... and continue to do so even long after that party lost power.

    The claim that European NATO does not fulfill the North Atlantic treaty by not provinding mroe auxiliary troops for U.S. adventures appears sometimes and it's simply ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, the war of aggression against Iraq was a clear violation of the North Atlantic Treaty.

  5. Gates follows the same old rhetoric which Europeans have grown accustomed to ever since the end of the Cold War. It shows once again that the guy is (was, actually) much flash and not very much substance. He certainly is not the savior of US military capabilities planning as some folks have painted him.

    European countries having their own say and ideas about their defence policies is an impediment to just one issue, namely US unipolar political ambitions. Sure there are interests shared by "The Western World". And they will remain common interests, as long as the members of this ill-defined sphere adhere to them. If eventually some of them are getting different ideas, the globe wont stop spinning around.

    Every time someone connects NATO-obligations to some colonial war in some far-flung corner of the world, I want to ram my forehead against some nearby wall.

  6. What get's me irritated is this kind of attitude in Europe.


  7. The article author ignores completely the most important factor:
    The cooperation between Europe and U.S. is at a completely different level and more closely than between Europe and Russia.

    (Besides, the latter tends to have less requests and attempts of domination that could piss you off.)

    It's completely natural to expect better from someone you're cooperating closely with than from someone with whom you cooperate little and just hope to get a closer cooperation.

    Furthermore the Russians are coming from a totalitarian regime and have a broken economy and national pride as well as serious trouble to prevent further disintegration. It's again natural to expect less from them than from a well-established Western power than pretended tirelessly that it's a (the) good example for the world.