Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Is demilitarised Europe affecting operations in Afghanistan?

March 1, 2010
German Bundeswehr army soldiers in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Picture by Fabrizio Bensch)

German Bundeswehr army soldiers in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Picture by Fabrizio Bensch)

U.S. frustration with Europe’s unwillingness or inability to commit resources to Afghanistan, both in terms of men and materiel, appears to have boiled over.  Last week U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington that public and political opposition to the military was so great in Europe  it was affecting NATO operations in Afghanistan. The alliance desperately needed combat helicopters and cargo planes, but years of successive cutbacks in defence funding by European nations had left it unable to rise to the challenge. 

 ”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,” he said, addressing military officers from many of NATO’s 28 member countries at the defense university.

If Europe were seen to be weak, it could provide a “temptation to miscalculation and aggression”  by hostile powers, Gates said in the sharpest criticism yet of its ally. The message was that  ”pacifist” Europe had to pull its weight, realise that even if its borders were safe there were threats further afield, and bolster its defences. So far only five out of 28 member nations of NATO had reached an established target of increasing defence spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product. The United States, by contrast, spends 4 percent of its GDP on the military.

But some people are questioning why should Europe  go down the U.S. route? Stephen M.Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University writes in his blog on Foreign Policy that a case can be made to stop subsidising Europe’s defence by itself, but not follow America in its  grandiose nation-building schemes on the other side of the world.  “Europe is peaceful, democratic, and loosely united within the EU, and the danger of serious conflict there is remote. So if the United States is feeling over-extended and looking for a place to cut back, Europe seems like an ideal candidate,” he says.

“Just don’t expect them to start matching America’s bloated defense effort. The EU member states don’t face any any significant military threats, and they aren’t especially interested in our grand schemes for social engineering in various far-flung places. So it’s not clear why they would want a military akin to ours, even if we were no longer protecting them.”

Juan Cole writing in Informed Comment points out that America’s military expenditure hardly seems the model to follow, given that it has spent itself into an increasingly unwieldy national debt. It’s a legacy from the 1980s when Washington overspent on its military, believing the Soviet economy to be twice as big as it was and vastly over-estimating its military, he says. The bloated military budget continues.

 ”If the US cut those back to the level of the European Union and spent the money on promoting solar energy and making it inexpensive, America would have a chance of remaining a great power in the 21st century. If it goes on rampaging around the world bankrupting itself by invading and occupying other countries, the Chinese will laugh at us all the way to world dominance.”







The time has come for the U.S. to give up on the rest of the world, withdraw to its own borders, and let China take over the task of policing, protecting, and feeding (giving aids to) the world.
As to Iran and the Middle East, the U.S. should let them develop their nuclear and other weapons, and use them the way they deem fit, with the full understanding that if they misbehave towards the West and/or Israel, there will be other Hiroshimas.

Posted by Rahomme Delind | Report as abusive

USA is more or less the only capitalist country left in the world. Most powerful countries in Europe have a social market economy, different from the pure capitalist economy of the US.The citizens have a national health system, receive unemployment benefits and state sponsored pensions which they receive after retirement. The US on the other hand spends around one trillion dollars annualy on their military and do not provide health support to their forty million citizens. They are indebted to China, Japan and the Saudi Arabia. Keeping a military on borrowed money is not very sound.

I doubt if Robert Gates is able to grasp this reality at his age. The european citizens have left their two world wars behind and want to have peace. Some of their Govts. are still not able to get rid of their NATO obligations but sooner or later the will of the people is going to prevail. The Europeans are in no way pacifists and have adequate military o defend their countries.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

USA shows more and more features of the late Habsburg empire as at 1910. For the Germanic part of Europe the dominance was definitely over after the stunning defeats in the 1st half of 1940 and in their colonies in 1941/1942 for the nations west of Germany, and for Germany itself in 1941 – 1945. All empires crumbled away, and despite wars to reestablish their clout, never recovered. The Slavic part collapsed in the eighties.
Why there still exists an organisation called NATO? With the enlargement with Slavic countries the 2 hereditary arch-enemies Germans ans Slavs are forced to not only peacefully live together, but also assist each other. To my view, the new members in the east are at best untrustworthy – like the Wehrmacht found out when they were allied to Germany and the going became rough.
And then, if the dismal show in Afghanistan is all NATO be capable of, a rethink of European security is a pressing issue.


Maybe people will understand why America is fighting these wars when a national landmark is destroyed in Europe. I hope this never happens, but it was a wake up call when it happend in New York. America needs its European allies to ensure that something like that never happens again, on our soil or anywhere else.

Posted by Aaron | Report as abusive

I rarely differ with most europeans but if it weren’t for my yankee boys (and allies, somewhat), most, if not all, of europe today would’ve been part of Hitler’s twisted third reich. And, NATO is dragging its feet, yet again? I gotta agree w Gates…I’m not a warmonger but sometimes “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Posted by Darth Ra, Cali | Report as abusive

Americans are so tired of Spending our Blood & Capital on Countries that have no allegiance and never will have. This from a man with 10 years in the Armed Forces, I agree, Enemies of 10,000 years will never be happy until one or the other is destroyed, Man, Woman & Child so no retaliation is possible. If you recall that is Biblical History.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

@D ra
What difference the yankees made in Europe, south America,Vietnam and Indo China?
Europe today is not part of the third reich but very much dependent upon the German reich! The US should take more interest in their hemisphere and sort out the problems of its neighbours Mexico. The Gringos are very much wanted there.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

For whatever reason i’m receiving a blank page as i try post a comment,do you recognize the key reason why its transpiring?i’m employing oprea web-browser


casa Casa


Solar-powered vehicles are, without a doubt, more cost-efficient than the typical cars that run on oil fuel. After all, these cars harness energy from something that is abundant ‘ the energy from the sun.


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