October 22, 2003,
The Euromob in Brussels is putting the finishing touches on the thousand-page constitution for the European Union. One of the many mischievous tasks they've undertaken is to create a European defense establishment that will weaken, if not destroy, NATO. The Cold War is over. Do we really care if NATO joins the Evil Empire on the ash heap of history? We do, and whatever Brussels brummagem results, we must work hard to reform and maintain NATO.
NATO is our strongest military alliance, and the only one that actually functions (despite the presence of some disagreeable Gallic and quasi-Gallic nations). NATO remains important because its members still have common defense interests which they do not share with others. Among the serious nations of NATO, there is a general commonality of operational doctrines, strategies, and even some in weapon systems. It's no accident that many of the NATO nations send their soldiers and officers to our military schools, and we send ours to theirs. We have the ability to act together built over decades of planning, joint training exercises, and a soldier-to-soldier bonding that enhances tremendously the ability to fight together. And, as mainly Western, central European and near Eastern nations, NATO members are all primary targets of the terrorist network and the nations that support it.
The EUnuchs those nations of Old Europe who opposed our determination to remove Saddam from power were mightily frustrated that the American cowboys didn't behave as our betters instructed. We were supposed to abide by the judgment they drove the U.N. Security Council to last fall. To many of those nations especially France, Germany, and Belgium it is vastly more important to rein in the power of America than it is to deal with the threats we (and they) face. Their failure to control the action through the U.N. may have discouraged them, but they haven't given up. Not by a long shot.
The EU began as an economic union, intended to combine many weak economies into a larger, more potent force without solving the problems that made them weak. That same logic is driving their extension of the economic union to create a European "superstate," intended to compete with America not only economically but politically. NATO in recent years by virtue of the yeoman efforts of its outgoing secretary general, the U.K.'s Lord Robertson has managed to operate and cooperate well in places such as Kosovo. It did so by dint of throwing the French off the Defense Planning Committee, where all significant defense cooperation and planning occurs. That, of course, drives the French and their cohort to try to structure an EU military establishment independent of NATO, and subordinate NATO to it.
The problem which the EUnuchs are incapable of addressing is that when you combine many weak militaries the same result obtains as when you combine weak economies without addressing the basic problems. The result will only reflect the weaknesses you started with. For decades, most of the EUnuchs have failed to spend on defense at anything approaching an adult level. Even so, they see no reason why their inability to perform seriously in military operations should reduce their influence in the world. When they have spent, the results have been less than impressive. France took almost 15 years to build the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle because when it was almost finished, some French genius finally figured out that the deck was too small to accommodate an airborne-control aircraft like our E2-C Hawkeye. No Hawkeye, no eyes for the fighters who will just end up milling around in the sky (as fighter pilots are genetically wont to do) looking for something to shoot at. D'oh. So they went back and spent a few years building a new flight deck.
Belgium as Dave Barry often writes, I am not making this up wasn't even scandalized when it was revealed that its army was carrying toy guns on parade. You don't like getting that smelly old solvent on your hands when you have to clean a real rifle? No problem. Toy guns, toy army, toy country. Another strong advocate of the separation of the EU military from NATO is Luxembourg, a nation whose fearsome military would be easily defeated by the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
A number of NATO members France, Germany, and others do have forces capable of conducting serious military operations. In one way or another, they usually depend on integration with American assets to get where they are going, and combine to operate (or even train) effectively.
First, the EUnuchs want to subordinate their treaty obligations under the NATO treaty to a similar mutual-defense obligation among themselves. Back in the 1960s, the original Gaullist pulled French military forces out from the NATO command structure, but managed to do so without destroying the alliance. His progeny have no such scruples. One of NATO's finest moments was after 9/11, when for the first time the mutual-defense obligation was invoked. This will not happen again if the EU's decision makers will be able to decide on an ad hoc basis how and when any of the EU nations will defend any NATO ally, or fight any NATO foe.
The second danger is in splitting the EU from the NATO command structure. The French and Germans apparently are advocating a military command headquarters and structure separate from NATO. Prior to this week's meetings, Burns called this idea, "...the greatest threat to the future" of NATO. Burns is right to be concerned. Last week U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns called an emergency meeting of NATO to deal with the direct challenge to NATO's future posed in the newly drafted EU constitution. That meeting began on Monday, and so far the results are not at all satisfying.
A variety of reports from the past year indicate that the French, leading the pack, want to make the mutuality of defense obligation in the EU superior to the obligation to NATO, thus blockading American participation in decisions on military deployments. A separate command structure again independent of NATO is being advocated strongly.
The seriousness of the issue is demonstrated by Tony Blair. Though Blair insists that Britain won't do anything to endanger NATO, Blair is reportedly trying to craft a compromise that would accommodate the separate EU command structure. We have to oppose the idea, and do what we can to thwart such a compromise.
Ambassador Burns should express strongly that any nation that will subordinate its NATO treaty obligations to the new EU constitution/treaty can no longer consider itself a NATO member. Signing the latter, in such form, is a breach of the former. Concomitantly, Burns should tell the EUnuchs that those who participate in the separate EU command structure cannot be members of the NATO Defense Planning Committee. Being isolated from the military confidences of the United States is not something many will choose.
And the stick should be applied only in light of the carrot. Those NATO members, especially new ones such as Poland, who have serious governments and militaries to match, should gain entry into NATO's inner sanctums.
NATO will evolve, and that is a good thing for it and for us. As Lord Palmerston said in 1848, a nation has no eternal allies, and no perpetual enemies. Its interests are perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. So let it be with those members of NATO who choose to be our allies by action, not pretense.