From the Wall Street Journal: No amount of pleading and shaming has worked on the continentals. NATO launched the ‘Defense Capabilities Initiative’ in 1999, only to abandon it a few years later. Various attempts to stand up European ‘rapid reaction’ forces have floundered.

Most European countries also commit more than half of what little they do spend on defense to soldier salaries and benefits. Equipment and training are shortchanged. Belgium devotes 74% to personnel; the U.S. 30.6%. Europeans lack cargo planes and helicopters to enable troops to get to, and move within, far-off conflict zones. In 2007, the U.S. deployed 14% of its troops in overseas operations, Europe 4%.

Such relative strategic weakness has made the Europeans more dependent on the American security umbrella, even as they resent it. But it also makes Europeans more disposed to avoid confrontation with adversaries like Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Henry Kissinger has put it, European leaders are no longer able to ask their people to make major sacrifices. (photo: EADS)