Monday, June 13, 2011

"Blunt Reality"

"Gunter glieben glauchen globen! Better to burn out - than fade away!"

Way back when Great Satan was prepping to knock out the largest Arab army in history in 2o days and commit to a "generational commitment" to penetrate and impregnate the arrested development of the Middle East and raise up a sweet little baby democracy, original Vulcan - then Def Sec - the rowdy, rascally Rumsfeld made an off hand commentary - that in retrospect - was and is highly accurate.

"Old Europe"
Blowing off multilateral minions who panicked that Great Satan had dissed long time Cold War era allies - like Germany and Cold War era frienemies - like France, Rumsfeld gave the impression that certain allies may have feelings too - but like, who cares?

Back in the last millennium, Europa couldn't even take an 8 hour panzer ride to Serbia to put Milosevic out of biz. Great Satan had to take out the trash for them in a humanitarian inspired military intervention that never served any Real - or Macht Politik's definintion of nat'l interests.

NATO Allies were almost useless - in their own backyard. 

And barely two dec, dec, decades (decades) later - NATO has once again found herself in a trick bag requiring the indispensable Great Satan to help out.  

All the cool kids know Def Sec Gates has redux'd the "Old Europa" thang multi times- like das Münchner Sicherheitkonferenz several years earlier:

"Some allies ought not to have the luxury of opting only for stability and civilian operations, thus forcing other Allies to bear a disproportionate share of the fighting and the dying. "

It's one thing to be phat, drunk and stupid with Taliban phobia - but to be totally unprepp'd for a clear cut mission right on the collective's periphery - is sump else and Great Satan's Def Sec shares a few smoking blunt hits:

"...Between members who specialize in “soft’ humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and talking tasks, and those conducting the “hard” combat missions.

"...Between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership – be they security guarantees or headquarters billets – but don’t want to share the risks and the costs. This is no longer a hypothetical worry. We are there today. And it is unacceptable.

"...Part of this predicament stems from a lack of will, much of it from a lack of resources in an era of austerity. For all but a handful of allies, defense budgets – in absolute terms, as a share of economic output – have been chronically starved for adequate funding for a long time, with the shortfalls compounding on themselves each year. The result is that investment accounts for future modernization and other capabilities not directly related to Afghanistan are being squeezed out – as we are seeing today over Libya.

"...I am the latest in a string of U.S. defense secretaries who have urged allies privately and publicly, often with exasperation, to meet agreed-upon NATO benchmarks for defense spending. However, fiscal, political and demographic realities make this unlikely to happen anytime soon, as even military stalwarts like the U.K have been forced to ratchet back with major cuts to force structure. Today, just five of 28 allies – the U.S., U.K., France, Greece, along with Albania – exceed the agreed 2% of GDP spending on defense.

"...Regrettably, but realistically, this situation is highly unlikely to change. The relevant challenge for us today, therefore, is no longer the total level of defense spending by allies, but how these limited (and dwindling) resources are allocated and for what priorities. For example, though some smaller NATO members have modestly sized and funded militaries that do not meet the 2 percent threshold, several of these allies have managed to punch well above their weight because of the way they use the resources they have.

"...In the Libya operation, Norway and Denmark, have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one third of the targets. Belgium and Canada are also making major contributions to the strike mission. These countries have, with their constrained resources, found ways to do the training, buy the equipment, and field the platforms necessary to make a credible military contribution.

"...These examples are the exceptions. Despite the pressing need to spend more on vital equipment and the right personnel to support ongoing missions – needs that have been evident for the past two decades – too many allies been unwilling to fundamentally change how they set priorities and allocate resources. The non-U.S. NATO members collectively spend more than $300 billion U.S. dollars on defense annually which, if allocated wisely and strategically, could buy a significant amount of usable military capability. Instead, the results are significantly less than the sum of the parts. This has both shortchanged current operations but also bodes ill for ensuring NATO has the key common alliance capabilities of the future.

"...Looking ahead, to avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities – in procurement, in training, in logistics, in sustainment. While it is clear NATO members should do more to pool military assets, such “Smart Defense” initiatives are not a panacea. In the final analysis, there is no substitute for nations providing the resources necessary to have the military capability the Alliance needs when faced with a security challenge. Ultimately, nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense.

"...Let me conclude with some thoughts about the political context in which all of us must operate. As you all know, America’s serious fiscal situation is now putting pressure on our defense budget, and we are in a process of assessing where the U.S. can or cannot accept more risk as a result of reducing the size of our military. Tough choices lie ahead affecting every part of our government, and during such times, scrutiny inevitably falls on the cost of overseas commitments – from foreign assistance to military basing, support, and guarantees.

"...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. Nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.

"...Indeed, if current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed, Future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.

Pic - "Yeah, we danced on tabletops, And we took too many shots, Think we kissed but I forgot"


H. Lucien Gauthier III said...

Overt support for military actions is one thing. Tactic support and agreement is another. What we have seen from much of Europe has been tacit support trending to overt support for both Iraq and Afghanistan, from both 'old' and 'new' Europe.

The most significant aspect of the tacit support we receive is that the basing rights we have in Europe is the single largest enabler of OEF there is. If you look at the logistics chain extending from the US into Afghanistan it does not go across the Pacific and into Afghanistan. Rather, it crosses the Atlantic, Europe into the Middle East and into Central Asia. The first stop for severely wounded Service Members leaving Afghanistan or Iraq is in Germany. The only alternative to Pakistan we have for bringing material into Afghanistan is through Russia.

Granted there is much to be said about how much actual war fighting support we receive from our allies. But, this does not mean that one should ignore the contributions already made. In ages prior to this, such tacit support were grounds for war being declared.

While I do agree with the SECDEF that major reforms are going to be required by our allies in terms of their military. I also recognize that there is an additional cause for such rhetoric beyond it being a 'blunt reality'. America is seeing the limits of our strategic abilities. We cannot commit to Europe as we have in the past as well as commit to Asia as the future may well demand. The fiscal crisis we're in is making as much very clear. Anything the SECDEF is saying to our allies is based upon that reality as much as it is any other.