Undependable Europe

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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The execution of convicted murderer “Tookie” Williams sparked “outrage” across the European Union, where capital punishment is no longer used. Tookie, a founder of the brutal Crips street gang, was found guilty of killing four people during armed robberies. As usual, much more concern was shown for the welfare of the murderer than for the memory of his victims.

There has also been “outrage” among European chattering classes about whether the CIA held terrorists in secret prisons in Poland, Romania or elsewhere on the continent. When the story first broke in The Washington Post, there were threats of EU sanctions against current and pending member states if they had cooperated with the CIA. There has been a steady drumbeat in “antiwar” Europe about prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. As in the Tookie case, “progressive” opinion has shown sympathy and concern for the worst, most violent enemies of civilization in the name of the enlightened values of civilization. The practical effect of this form of decadence is an erosion of society’s survival instincts.

The EU is often promoted as having a greater capacity for world leadership than the United States. Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid made this explicit in his 2004 book “The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy.” He wrote of a “geopolitical revolution of historic dimensions” that would create a new order based on the utopian aspirations of 19th century liberalism: economic integration, disarmament and world government, with a hefty dose of democratic socialism in domestic policy.

In aggregate size, the EU has a larger population and economy that the U.S., but per capita income is lower and the gap is widening due to anemic growth. Europe has had to rely heavily on exports to tap into more vibrant markets. It is questionable how long Europe can maintain its competitiveness, given the “pervasive technophobia” that even Mr. Reid could not ignore. British Prime Minister Tony Blair told him that “there’s been a loss of faith in science, without any doubt, in Europe.” A Dec. 9 report by the European Commission showed that American and Asian firms are spending more on research and development than are European companies. The Eurostat agency has reported that total R&D; spending is falling in the EU.

The EU suffers from what historian John Brewer defined for the 18th century as “the Dutch disease, a malady that prevented a nation enjoying unequaled individual prosperity and extraordinary commercial sophistication from remaining a state of great influence and power.”

The EU social model eschews the use of force. International law, embodied in multilateral organizations like the United Nations, is the progressive way to conduct politics. And law is to be exercised in humane ways that can only signal weakness to the barbarians gathering both outside and inside the gates.

The United States can avoid being entangled by paper organizations. As President George W. Bush declared “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” But the country could still find itself crippled if it does not guard against a material interdependence with foreign entities which may not be willing or able to provide what American needs.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America proclaims “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” It also states “the foundation of American strength is at home. It is in the skills of our people, the dynamism of our economy, and the resilience of our institutions.” Yet, there has been a growing trend to outsource the production of military equipment and weapons components overseas, especially to Old Europe.

European defense firms want access to the U.S. market to offset the collapse of post-Cold War continental military programs. But it is not sound strategy for the Pentagon to bail out overseas firms at the expense of the American defense industrial base. There is also the dangerous trend of American firms fronting for foreign firms, looking for profits without doing the work and helping to give away U.S. capabilities. Northrop Grumman giving cover to the French-German EADS Airbus bid for Air Force refueling tankers is a particularly distasteful example.

New warships, aircraft and vehicles are planned that will serve for decades, too long to forecast shifting diplomatic alignments, or how foreign industrial restructuring will evolve. Production vulnerabilities must not be designed into these systems. Trends in Europe are not favorable to a military-industrial partnership. Capabilities lost in the U.S. are unlikely to be maintained or advanced in a decadent Europe. Yet, budget pressures are promoting “penny wise, pound foolish” foreign procurement decisions that put America’s long-term security at risk.

Continued high investment in domestic industry is necessary to assure it develops in ways that sustain America’s military superiority. Ideally, foreign weapons producers should wither away or stagnate, leaving the U.S. with the only cutting edge military-industrial complex on the planet, able to do things no one else can imagine. While that may be too much to hope for, given the number of rival powers who desire to erode American hegemony, any policy that aims for a less favorable outcome is deficient.

William Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, D.C.

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