A chillingly Orwellian New York Times headline on Tuesday read “Gates Calls Europe Anti-War Mood Danger to Peace.” Apparently for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, peace sentiment promotes war while war-mongering guarantees peace. Not surprising logic for the former top spy whose agency, the CIA, commissioned the writing of author George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.”
The article reported the defense secretary’s speech at the National Defense University as part of a major rethink of NATO policy led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
“The demilitarization of Europe,” said Mr. Gates, “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.”
The description of Europe’s 40-year-old peace majority as a blessing is, indeed, curious in light of the GOP’s longstanding polemic against the world peace movement, particularly during the campaign to place medium range nuclear weapons in Europe. But what has historical truth to do with the verbal somersaults and logic gymnastics of CIA wordsmiths if a higher goal is at stake?
The greater aim in this case, apparently, is the war against terror, and securing adequate funding and logistical support. NATO countries, which provide 40 percent of the troops, if not finances, have been rocked recently by the Netherlands decision to withdraw its troops. NPR reports “In the Netherlands, for example, the coalition government collapsed this month over the issue of troop contributions; the 2,000-strong Dutch troop contingent is to begin withdrawing in August.”
It should be noted, to their credit, that the Netherlands socialist’s vote collapsed the government.
To the near north of the U.S., Canada plans to withdraw its troops next year.
Germany politely rebuffed Gates’ sharp rebuke apparently experiencing little or no untoward dietary effects. The Morning Star writes “Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has insisted that the EU ‘is well positioned to deal with new security risks. I’m very relaxed about this criticism,’ the German concluded.”
German low blood pressure was matched by other European officials. NPR says, “Norwegian Undersecretary of Defense Espen Barth Eide told The Associated Press that Gates’ criticism was ‘understandable,’ but that increased funding from European NATO members was not a viable solution.”
At the heart of the dispute may be Afghanistan. NPR continues, “Kees Homan, a former director of the Dutch military college and now with the Clingendael Institute, a think tank in The Hague, said Gates is only partly right about the popular aversion in Europe to war. Europeans will fight when they see it to be in their self interest, he said. The problem in Afghanistan is that the war lacks consensus.”
Two related issues also seem to be at the heart of Gates’ angst. Europe’s defense spending is only a fraction of the U.S.: $289 billion compared to $711 billion. U.S. military spending began during the Cold War has not been reduced even with the collapse of its reason for being. This spending of course goes to the heart of the second issue: the attempt of U.S. imperialism to remain the world’s policeman and keep Russia and China within its gun sights.
President Obama suggested another course last year and an alternative framework for international relations, to the relief of a world waiting to exhale, which won him a Nobel Prize.
Notwithstanding the president’s making good on his ill-advised campaign promise, the troop surge in Afghanistan is tragic misstep in another direction. Moving up and guaranteeing a date for withdrawal has never been so urgent.
Gates’ bellicose rhetoric suggests the debate is not over and, perhaps in more rarified heights, is just beginning. No matter though, for the issue will be settled at the ballot box and in the streets.