- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

"Royal Air Force may recruit Luftwaffe pilots." No, the London Times report isnt a joke employment ad intended to boggle Battle of Britain survivors.
The RAFs talent search, however, exemplifies Europes general decline in military effectiveness and European NATO members specific failure to meet modernization commitments. Ultimately, it offers insight into the European Unions chronic case of collective political weakness, illustrating why even the most sanctimonious of Washington-taunting Euro-promoters secretly rely on U.S. leadership.
Facing a pilot shortage, the RAF is scouring the globe for hi-Mach skills. This spring, when New Zealands irresponsible little government decided to defund its own air force, the RAF immediately approached unemployed Kiwi jet jockeys.
But recruiting from the Luftwaffe was too ironic for the press to ignore. In the six decades since the London Blitz, both history and Hollywood have kept alive the memory of Spitfires and Messerschmidts tangling high above the Thames.
Dont confuse hiring German pilots as indicative of increasing European cooperation. Its poaching indicative of desperation on the part of the RAF and disenchantment on the part of Luftwaffe pilots disgruntled by Germanys aging air fleet and declining training time.
Euro politicos have decided their militaries can shrink and make-do with old equipment. The Soviet threat is kaput, and economic prosperity is what really binds Europe, right?
This political decision, however, abrogates NATOs 1999 "force goals" agreement, forged after the Kosovo War revealed a growing gap between U.S. and European military capabilities. Europeans agreed to improve in five areas: logistics, command and control, survivability of forces and infrastructure, mobility, and "effective engagement" a buzzword for precision-guided weapons.
But the goals simply havent been met. Actually, Britain deserves credit for attempting to meet its commitments. Germany has faltered. France, as usual, has invested more in anti-Washington invective than in modernization.
At last weeks NATO defense ministers conference, Secretary General Lord Robertson assayed the failure to pursue military reform. "Elections are rarely won or lost on questions of defense policy," he said. "These are complex and sometimes dry issues … hard to package in a sound bite." While globalization offers "our societies the opportunity to become … more prosperous, it also makes them more vulnerable," particularly to "states developing weapons of mass destruction."
Lord Robertson warned Europeans, "If crisis comes along, the capability wont be there." If Europe doesnt deliver, the result will be a "trans-Atlantic capability gap and a European credibility gap."
The Eurocorps, the "go it alone" force some Americans perceive as a threat to undermine NATO, looks like another Euro-tout turned to Euro-flop. Lack of funding is one reason, European rivalries another. Greece rejected Turkish participation in a joint European defense force. On June 8, Irish voters rejected EU expansion. Like other Western Europeans, many Irish believe an enlarged EU costs them too much money. More than a few also fear that EU "institutional reforms" would require Ireland to participate in the EUs military force, compromising Irish neutrality.
Frankly, Europe already suffers from other credibility gaps. The euros decline against the U.S. dollar was the free markets comment on Europes economic weaknesses. Though Europeans recognize the need for structural and social reform, the will to tackle vested interests and embedded problems is utterly lacking. While crack German pilots may jump to the RAF, ask a Greek engineer about intra-EU labor mobility if he applies for a job in Munich.
American liberals chatter about European "credibility" on environmental issues. Thats another hoo-hah. Romania remains the only European nation to ratify the flawed Kyoto Treaty. However, hammering President Bush about the Kyoto Treaty shields European leaders from the wrath of their domestic greens. Germanys left-wing government is making extensive use of this bit of guerrilla theater the eco-freaks generate great sound bites and satirizing Mr. Bush deflects attention from the deterioration of the Luftwaffe.
Lord Robertson understands, as do other European defense specialists, that emerging threats require modernization and preparation. However, among key European leaders, only British Prime Minister Tony Blair has publicly acknowledged the merit of the Bush administrations missile defense proposals, new approaches to arms control and new "strategic framework" for collective defense.
But dont tell that to the crowds of protesters greeting Mr. Bushs European tour. Check their posters its all sound bites, adolescent angst and smug duplicity. The United States is the bogey man, faulted for Middle East conundrums, energy policy, environmental degradation and incredibly impoverishing Cuba. Apparently, some European socialists still cant criticize communism.
If the defense of the Free World is to remain credible, the United States has to lead its all too obvious Europe cant.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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