In the column below I briefly touched on the Obama Administration’s decision to drop missile defense for Eastern European countries. This sort of antagonizing of our allies is a curious decision from a president who vowed to rebuild our bridges to the world, and gives rise to wondering who exactly he considers “the world.” A decidedly Euro-centric strain of thought would hold that Western Europe is indeed, “the world.” I thought a liberal president would be the last to ever resurrect such an idea that went into steep decline following World War I.
Of course I don’t really think Obama is Euro-centric is an outlook. But in this particular case he is showing decided favoritism to the nations of the West over and above those of the East. And it really points to a much deeper question the United States must consider—just how serious should we really take Europe when formulating our long-term strategic plans?
It seems unthinkable that we are even in the position of posing this question. After the American Revolution, the newly established United States worked to retain its close ties to the mother country, and even Britain’s attack on the capital in the War of 1812 wasn’t enough to undo that commitment. To put it in perspective, Britain’s attack of 1812 wasn’t matched until 9/11. What are the odds we’re going to seek a long-term friendship with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden within the next ten years? That’s roughly what happened with the American-Anglo relationship in the 19th century.
The U.S. and Britain were allies from the outset of World War I, and it was only a matter of time before we eventually entered that war on the side of England and France. The same went for World War II. And in the aftermath of the latter war, the U.S. committed itself to the complete rebuilding of Western Europe and to its defense. We entered into a variety of multilateral security agreements that were highlighted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, commonly called NATO today. The principle behind NATO was, and remains, a simple one—an attack on one is an attack on all. And a military strike against any member country—which includes all of Western Europe, and now much of the East in the post-Cold War era—must be treated by the United States with the same seriousness as the attacks of September 11. At least if you take the terms of the treaty seriously, which, in the interests of honor, I think we should.
But are those committments we've made really wise? It might have made sense to commit ourselves to the common defense of Europe in the postwar era. The Soviet bear was on the march. Western Europe was devastated. The United States, having been protected by two oceans, save for the attack on Pearl Harbor, was in peak economic and military shape. There was a strong argument for moral obligation and equally strong one on behalf of our own pragmatic security interests. Do those still exist?
My answer is no. The nations of Western Europe are fully capable of defending themselves. They’ve chosen to invest their resources into building socialist states and subsidizing their industries to enable them to undercut American firms on the global market. Furthermore, the decline of religious practice in the West has led inexorably to the decline of the family. We can save philosophical or theological questions for a different venue, but this hard-nosed political reality remains—Europe does not reproduce at a rate sufficient to replenish itself. This is at a time when their need for workers is increasing, to get the tax base they need to provide the lavish state-guaranteed pension benefits to those retiring. Where are they going to get the new immigrants necessary? There’s one demographic whose population is exploding, and that’s the Islamic community. And hence, Muslim influence in places like Paris and London is quietly growing. Anti-Semitism is coming back. Homophobia is on the move—that’s a term I generally dislike, because it’s manipulated in the United States to mean anyone who’s against gay marriage or believes the lifestyle is abnormal, as I do. But to the increasing numbers of hard-core Muslim extremists those things justify the death sentence. And that is surely something none of us want to see.
It all adds up to this—there’s no future for Western Europe, at least as we know it. Those are not words written glibly or without thought. My own roots are in the West, as are the roots of this country. But Western Europe is dying, because it lacked the will to live. It lacked the will to pass on its own heritage to their people and to live for something beyond the present moment. They instead succumbed to materialism and immediate pleasure. I won’t say I can’t understand the temptation. Indeed, as I write this, I realize how much I’ve allowed those attitudes to infect me personally lately. And if it happens to enough people personally, it adds up to nations in decline.
The United States must realize that this is not a problem that one solves. It’s a predicament to which one must adjust. And we need to adjust the prism through which we view the world. Our long-term strategic interests are not served by catering to nations in decline. I don’t automatically ascribe the same gloomy report to Eastern Europe, and a serious examination of our commitments there should take place. But in the West the verdict is clear—it’s time to start cutting them off and loosening ties until they restore their own will to live.