Thursday, May 3, 2012

UK Defense Minister to Germany: Time to get over World War Two

Today I can still remember being recalled on alert status in central Germany in September 1983 when North Korea shot down KAL 700, and pretty much everybody in the US Army Europe thought we were about to go to war.  It was a scarey feeling.

What I also remember was watching the company of German Leopard tanks attached to the US 4/73 Armored Battalion pull up into Panzer Kaserne in Boeblingen FRG, attaching themselves to the 1st Infantry Division (forward) as required by treaty and under NATO war plans.  Back then the Bundeswehr was carrying a major part of the load of its own defense, and even though most of the soldiers were short-timers (two-year draftees and enlistees) they were highly professional, and we were damn glad to see them.

(They were also good drinking buddies and loved to go bowling at the base bowling alley.  More importantly, they love to drink while they bowled, and were terrible at sending the ball down the lane.  Even more importantly, they loved to bet on their non-existent prowess, so if you got them into  game you almost never had to pay for your drinks for the rest of the day.)

When NATO's mission began to change in the 1990s, with Desert Storm and interventions in the Balkans, however, Germany's role changed.  The Bunderepublick constitution, adopted in the 1950s to reassure the West during Germany's rearmament, forbade the use of the German armed forces outside the country under all but the most stringent conditions.  The Japanese postwar constitution did the same. While understandable, these two institutional barriers allowed two of the world's foremost industrial economies to take a "free ride" in defense alliances, and that explains a lot about how Germany's economy and social welfare state grew during the 1990s, and how politics in the FRG took an increasing turn to the Left.

Now The Telegraph reports that UK Defense Minister Phillip Hammond has issued a strong call for Germany (and by extension, Japan) to “pick up the burdens that go with a globally-important economy," because World War Two "was quite a long while ago."

“In the case of Germany and Japan, two of the worlds biggest economies, both of them spend a significant amount on defence but have been reluctant historically to engage.”
Don't misunderstand me:  I am not in favor of rampant global interventionism.  I opposed the Iraq war and have long championed getting the hell out of Afghanistan.  Military intervention in places like Libya or Syria, if justified at all, should be undertaken by our far closer (and far more directly affected) European allies--you remember, the nations whose economies we propped up and rebuilt, and whose borders we defended for over forty years.

On the other hand, when there is genocide in Kossovo, or Bosnia, or there's a Joseph Kony to be neutralized, and there is consensus in among the NATO allies to intervene, then Germany should no longer be given that free ride.

Curiously enough, that's exactly what Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson says,

  • Decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American troops remain scattered throughout Europe. It is time to reevaluate these deployments.
  • The U.S. must make better use of military alliances which allow greater sharing of the human and financial burdens at less cost of protecting national interests.

If we ever expect to be able to cut back the bite that the military industrial complex takes out of our economy, then we have to pressure our allies into shouldering more of the load.

And you've got to ask yourself, why is it that the Brits are calling for this, but from President Obama and Govenor Romney on the subject . . . . crickets . . . .

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