Troops who fight & troops who won’t

The more-generally-acceptable war in Afghanistan is being waged by NATO.  The problem is, some of the NATO troops there–e.g., the Germans–are not allowed by their governments to risk casualties in combat.  This creates all kinds of command and control problems, when whole units will not participate in what they may be needed to do.  Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had some undiplomatically harsh words for our allies:

“I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect people’s security, and others who are not.”

 

We had a faculty candidate on campus who gave a lecture on his specialty, international relations, who made the case that much of the pacifism and the easy-going welfare state mentality of the European Union are luxuries made possible by the American forces who, through NATO, have been protecting them, relieving them of the expensive burden of high military spending.  Should we pull back, especially if the other members of the alliance are not pulling their weight, or is the current practice better than Germany going all militaristic again?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I believe Norwegians serve in the alliance on the same terms. Shameful, in my opinion.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I believe Norwegians serve in the alliance on the same terms. Shameful, in my opinion.

  • Bror Erickson

    It has long been true that western Europe has nutured its pacifist ideals under the protection of the United States. And then has the gaul to criticise the United States. I remember visiting my homeland a few years ago. A group of Swedish speaking Islands in the Baltic that belong to Finland. They pride themselves on not being able to be drafted, and their peaceful existence. But it is naivety. The Finns are smarter they know living next door to Russia they can’t be naive about peace and the necessity of a military.
    I don’t think pulling back is the answer though, conscription maybe, but not pulling out.

  • Bror Erickson

    It has long been true that western Europe has nutured its pacifist ideals under the protection of the United States. And then has the gaul to criticise the United States. I remember visiting my homeland a few years ago. A group of Swedish speaking Islands in the Baltic that belong to Finland. They pride themselves on not being able to be drafted, and their peaceful existence. But it is naivety. The Finns are smarter they know living next door to Russia they can’t be naive about peace and the necessity of a military.
    I don’t think pulling back is the answer though, conscription maybe, but not pulling out.

  • The Jones

    I wish the Swiss could join NATO. They pride themselves in being able to whoop anybody who is dumb enough to step on their territory. They understand that peace is predicated on the fact that all the bad guys know you mean business if it comes to blows. With such an awesome military and nobody to fight, I bet they would be itching to test out their toys if not for that darn neutrality thing.

  • The Jones

    I wish the Swiss could join NATO. They pride themselves in being able to whoop anybody who is dumb enough to step on their territory. They understand that peace is predicated on the fact that all the bad guys know you mean business if it comes to blows. With such an awesome military and nobody to fight, I bet they would be itching to test out their toys if not for that darn neutrality thing.

  • Joe

    The problem for Germany is that its luxury very well may becoming to an end. Poland has agreed to allow us to put our missile shield there. Once that is up it will only make sense for the US to shift its European forces to Poland to better protect its interests. Germany will still benefit generally from NATO but there will no longer be free defense forces actually sitting on German soil. The economic benefits of having our military there will also disappear.

  • Joe

    The problem for Germany is that its luxury very well may becoming to an end. Poland has agreed to allow us to put our missile shield there. Once that is up it will only make sense for the US to shift its European forces to Poland to better protect its interests. Germany will still benefit generally from NATO but there will no longer be free defense forces actually sitting on German soil. The economic benefits of having our military there will also disappear.

  • S Bauer

    Germany would have a hard time now catching up to the United States in militarism.

    The attitude of the German military is shameful. But if it is an attitude of dependency, then we only have ourselves to blame. Not only has our military acted as a shield that has taken the pressure off, but our paternalistic attitude toward the NATO allies has insisted that we call all the shots (since we’re the only “super power”), rather than acting as partners. I’ve got to get hold of the book that was discussed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, “Daydream Believers” that argues that this administration’s lack of historical perspective has led to its appalling performance in foreign policy.

  • S Bauer

    Germany would have a hard time now catching up to the United States in militarism.

    The attitude of the German military is shameful. But if it is an attitude of dependency, then we only have ourselves to blame. Not only has our military acted as a shield that has taken the pressure off, but our paternalistic attitude toward the NATO allies has insisted that we call all the shots (since we’re the only “super power”), rather than acting as partners. I’ve got to get hold of the book that was discussed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, “Daydream Believers” that argues that this administration’s lack of historical perspective has led to its appalling performance in foreign policy.

  • Joe

    The US is not alone to blame in NATO, Europe also happens to suffer from a complete inability to do it alone. Exhibit A – the former Yugoslavia. That was supposed to be the European military break out moment. Where they would show the world they could do it without us. How’d that work out? I seem to recall the US basically taking that over. Next Europe was going to take the lead in ending (slowing?) the conflicts in Africa. After all these are their former colonies. So, how is that going? As long as we are in NATO, we are going to have to call the shots because other than Britain none of the other members is qualified to do the job.

    As for the current administrations “appalling” record on foreign policy, I disagree. I’ll even grant you Iraq as a mistake (even though I think it was the right call but executed terribly), but aside from that what is so appalling about it? Libya agreed to disarm without being asked, Afghanistan is going pretty well, the negotiations with Korea have yielded fruit, we are doing what “world” wants with regard to Iran (i.e. letting Europe take the lead; don’t hold your breath); despite the missteps in Iraq we have actually been able to convince the Turks not to invade the north. But Europe is made at us; I guess we must really be screwing everything up.

  • Joe

    The US is not alone to blame in NATO, Europe also happens to suffer from a complete inability to do it alone. Exhibit A – the former Yugoslavia. That was supposed to be the European military break out moment. Where they would show the world they could do it without us. How’d that work out? I seem to recall the US basically taking that over. Next Europe was going to take the lead in ending (slowing?) the conflicts in Africa. After all these are their former colonies. So, how is that going? As long as we are in NATO, we are going to have to call the shots because other than Britain none of the other members is qualified to do the job.

    As for the current administrations “appalling” record on foreign policy, I disagree. I’ll even grant you Iraq as a mistake (even though I think it was the right call but executed terribly), but aside from that what is so appalling about it? Libya agreed to disarm without being asked, Afghanistan is going pretty well, the negotiations with Korea have yielded fruit, we are doing what “world” wants with regard to Iran (i.e. letting Europe take the lead; don’t hold your breath); despite the missteps in Iraq we have actually been able to convince the Turks not to invade the north. But Europe is made at us; I guess we must really be screwing everything up.

  • Bror Erickson

    Well said Joe.

  • Bror Erickson

    Well said Joe.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    Bear in mind also the fact that the current German population in general has a strong aversion to their militaristic past. And they have been dealing with the cultural and economic challenges of integrating the former East German population, a comparatively backward and untrained–not to mention unsophicsticated and perhaps even unmotivated–bloc.

    I think the time is well past for the U.S. to let the European Union defend itself. The risk is that they will turn on us in some way, and that by withdrawing our economic support and presence, we will lose any influence we have remaining there. But this is a more complex international question than we may be qualified to answer. Every move has huge consequences, and we may have to be thinking five moves ahead (in a gigantic complex chess game) in order to know what ought to be done now.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    Bear in mind also the fact that the current German population in general has a strong aversion to their militaristic past. And they have been dealing with the cultural and economic challenges of integrating the former East German population, a comparatively backward and untrained–not to mention unsophicsticated and perhaps even unmotivated–bloc.

    I think the time is well past for the U.S. to let the European Union defend itself. The risk is that they will turn on us in some way, and that by withdrawing our economic support and presence, we will lose any influence we have remaining there. But this is a more complex international question than we may be qualified to answer. Every move has huge consequences, and we may have to be thinking five moves ahead (in a gigantic complex chess game) in order to know what ought to be done now.

  • fw

    we should probably start considering other nations as sovereign in the same way we are protective of our sovreignty. how did it feel for other nations to want to send foreign aid for katrina? how would it feel for others to have permanent bases here? how would we react if another nation invaded us, even IF we had a ruthless dictator governing us?

    in alot of ways, relations to other countries look like relations between persons. best not to meddle. better to talk rather than get physical. and if we DO get physical, preemptive strikes are NEVER a noble or moral idea. and always best to treat others as peers and not as wards or minions or children.

  • fw

    we should probably start considering other nations as sovereign in the same way we are protective of our sovreignty. how did it feel for other nations to want to send foreign aid for katrina? how would it feel for others to have permanent bases here? how would we react if another nation invaded us, even IF we had a ruthless dictator governing us?

    in alot of ways, relations to other countries look like relations between persons. best not to meddle. better to talk rather than get physical. and if we DO get physical, preemptive strikes are NEVER a noble or moral idea. and always best to treat others as peers and not as wards or minions or children.


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