Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Let Europeans Take Own Responsibility

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Let Europeans Take Own Responsibility

Article excerpt

A British politician once summarized NATO's purpose for Western Europe: "Americans in, Russians out, Germans down." By those criteria, the alliance has outlived its usefulness. The Russians have left by their own choice. Keeping the Germans down is no longer necessary or possible. All this raises the question: How long will the Americans stay in?

The belief among German politicians and military leaders seems to be: forever. Why, pray tell, should the United States remain? Because it's agreeable to Germany and the other countries of Western Europe and because it's in the American interest.

What interest? Here the Germans tend to lapse into vague references to maintaining the "geo-strategic balance" and "projecting stability into the East." But as a matter of history, the United States has never involved itself militarily in Europe except to prevent a single power from dominating the continent - first Germany, then the Soviet Union. No such prospect can be conjured up today.

As a matter of policy, the permanent American role lacks any convincing rationale. The fate of Yugoslavia should have demolished the idea that the West can avert instability in the East, at least without taking military action. Taking military action, on the other hand, would only dramatize the real risks and dubious benefits of entanglement in the quarrels that abound in the old Soviet bloc.

In a world where economic strength means more and military power means less, Americans are entitled to ask why they should endlessly deplete their resources to shield other countries against indefinable dangers. No one has come up with a good answer to the crucial question: Who are we protecting, and from whom? In Europe, there is no peril on the horizon of grave concern to the United States, nor any that the Europeans shouldn't be able to handle on their own, should they desire to.

Of course the impulse to leave will not, and should not, assert itself immediately. Everyone in Europe needs time to prepare. But it's hard to imagine that the United States would need troops here 10 years from now.

NATO has not lost just its mission; it has lost its glue. Military alliances are generally unstable and short-lived. …

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