Magazine article The Spectator

Why Europe Must Have the Bomb

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Europe Must Have the Bomb

Article excerpt

America's decision to pull troops out of Europe and the Far East should not be seen as a retreat into isolationism. On the contrary: it is classic 'Rumsfeld-lite' - the downsizing of old-fashioned Cold War units (principally in Germany) and a new emphasis on flexible, mobile, hi-tech forces to be located around the rim of the Eurasian heartland. By redeploying and streamlining its military the Pentagon believes it will be better placed to respond to threats anywhere in the world.

Maybe the Pentagon is right, for the time being. In spite of the streamlining, however, the Bush-Rumsfeld doctrine of 'full spectrum dominance' looks a lot less convincing now than it did two years ago. The 'hegemonic' superpower is now mired in a medium-sized Arab country whose military strength just before the invasion ranked about 50th in the world. And US forces are now so stretched that National Guardsmen and Reservists make up 40 per cent of US troops in Iraq - and a long-term occupation can only be sustained by bringing back the dreaded, and politically suicidal, draft. With the debt and deficits of the US economy rising to dangerous levels, Washington is facing a classic case of overextension.

American power remains unrivalled, of course, and it was greatly to our benefit that the United States maintained fearsomely strong forward bases in Europe during the Cold War. The Soviet Union had real weapons of mass destruction, and they were aimed at us. But the much-touted idea of a future world dominated by the US and run out of Washington and Wall Street - a Fukuyama-ised globe - now borders on the absurd. Classic American conservative realists (those around Bush the father, but not the son) understand this, and even if Bush holds on to the White House may yet persuade him to employ less braggadocio and more real understanding of power.

The new world ushered in by America's limits will be a world of great powers. And, already, as the dust settles on the Middle East imbroglio, we can see the contours of this new great power politics. According to population and economic growth projections, by mid-century the US will be one power among equals, perhaps 'primus inter pares', perhaps not. It will need to adjust to a world of blocs and to multiple superpowers of which the most prominent will be China, India, South Asia and Europe (and maybe even a revitalised Japan).

But what of the short-run? The next ten years? The stark truth here - and it is as unpalatable to the neoconservatives in Washington as it is to those in Whitehall - is that the only new power able to come close to rivalling and balancing the US in the world is Europe. Even now Europe has the dimensions to rival the US. With a population of over 450 million (100 million or so more than the US), the world's largest single market and economy (now, since the fall of the dollar, almost 20 per cent larger), and with the euro firmly established, Europe has already become a civilian superpower. And it also possesses that intangible virtue of economic stability (the obverse side of its alleged 'sclerosis') compared to a US prone to stock market gyrations, debt, deficits and dependence on febrile Asian money.

Washington's hawks are of course right to mock Europe's superpower pretensions while the Continent's military spending remains so low - at about a half of the Pentagon's budget, and falling. Europe will need to spend more, particularly on intelligence. Much more. Although Europe can get a much bigger 'bang' for its existing 'buck' by pooling its resources and finally developing a proper procurement strategy, its politicians need to start a serious campaign to secure public support for defence. …

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