An interesting thing happened on the way of the door of the office of Secretary of Defense. Gates addressed NATO and was, as they say, “a little prickly”. He wanted the European members of NATO to pull their weight. It seems that the British and French strike forces launching air assaults on Colonel Ghaddafi’s forces are already running out of ammo.
“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.
Gates also criticized allies who were “willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”
Good morning Mr. Gates. Here’s your wake up call. It must appear strange to American leaders that a modern NATO country would not happen to have a stock pile of munitions in enough supply to leisurely conduct a protracted operation just sitting around. It must also surprise American leaders to see European NATO members that don’t have hundreds of bases located around the world. And it must surprise American leaders that not every allied nation out there is building force projection like the kinds of air assets that we are putting up during a global meltdown; or that an ally might develop a single new carrier idea and not three carriers and a perpetual and relentless production in a stay ahead of everyone else in warfare forever frame of mind. It must surprise American leaders that these NATO countries can afford to strike Lybian targets and maintain a fair social safety net inside their own borders because they actually invest on something beyond weapons.
Gates was unwavering. He went on to say “Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more.”
Yes, warfare is very expensive and our leaders are always aghast at how much our allies are wont to join in the affair. What amazes me is the single-minded focus on combat readiness sans any other kind of readiness. Yes, we are willing and able to send people into the maw of battle, but rather timid about funding their health care when it turns out tragically. We have forces around the world but at home Americans suffer.
It occurs to me that the level of anti-American zeitgeist that floated through Europe during Bush II’s reign has not dissipated. In fact, it still burns. Europeans often play the United States like a violin. “Sure we’d love to make airstrikes on the dictator. Oh yeah, we only have enough munitions for two weeks. Do you have any Mk.-82 bombs? And can you pay to ship them out here?” There is a notion in conservative circles that if you do something for a man for free, he will not lift a finger to do it for himself. How about defending Europe on our dime? Or Japan? Japan’s people want us to remove the base in Okinawa. Why then do we persist in keeping it there? Perhaps it’s time to close down some of these bases and ask the Europeans to defend their own skies and sea-lanes. May be it will be better for all concerned if we stopped picking up the tab for war period. At the very least, we should wake up and see that the rest of the world thinks we are crazy.
Who am I kidding?