NATO’s Troubled Future

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, June 9, 2011

From Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia:  Robert Gates’s remarks last summer that NATO faces “a dim if not dismal future” unless European nations pick up the slack and coordinate on defense spending still reflects core US thinking about the future of the alliance.

Americans have been telling Europe for decades now that a failure to maintain their military strength will result in an inevitable decline in Europe’s influence worldwide — and put new strains on the Atlantic alliance.  And for years the Europeans have been blowing us off.

The Americans are right and the Europeans are wrong about this but there’s not a whole lot we can do.  Europe’s century long commitment to decline is something we observe and mourn — but it reminds me of the joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb.

The answer is: only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.  Europe doesn’t want to change, and this is a subject on which Europeans have the last word. Europe’s decline will be gentle and slow for a while, and NATO will slowly dwindle rather than suddenly vanish, but until and unless the Europeans choose something different, Europe will drift idly down the river of time, hoping no waterfalls lie ahead.  (photo: Reuters)

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