- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

BERLIN — George W. Bush arrives in Berlin today as the commander in chief of military forces whose power, relative to both contemporary allies and current and former adversaries, is at its apex.
Indeed, after Mr. Bush departs Berlin, he travels to Moscow, where he will sign an arms-control agreement drastically reducing long-range nuclear weapons even as he prepares to take the initial steps to deploy what he envisions to be an extremely robust national missile defense system.
On the conventional warfare front, American superiority today is just as extreme. Consider recent operations in Afghanistan. U.S. military forces simultaneously attacked with strike aircraft from carriers stationed in the Arabian Sea, with B-52 bombers deployed on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and with intercontinental bombers flying from Missouri. All three platforms dropped laser- and satellite-guided bombs, hitting targets identified by Air Force Special Operations "forward-based air traffic controllers" riding horseback throughout the Afghan countryside. At the same time, CIA operatives destroyed other targets with Hellfire missiles fired by remote control from the Predator, an unmanned reconnaissance vehicle.
In the wake of both the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict, European allies committed themselves to bridging the capabilities gap. In both cases, however, the gap only widened. And that will surely be the case following the Afghan conflict.
Writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, James Schlesinger, a former secretary of both defense and energy and a former director of central intelligence who now is a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, identified a major negative consequence arising from the growing military capabilities gap between Europe and the United States. "This gap has brought an interesting division of labor," Mr. Schlesinger observed. "The U.S. does the heavy lifting in combat, while Europe provides the critique. Continental Europe," Mr. Schlesinger added, "appears to becoming a larger Sweden, moralizing about the defects of American actions."
For all the hand-wringing in continental Europe in recent years over the widening capabilities gap, it is not for a lack of money that the military power of America's wealthy European allies is woefully inadequate. It isn't because Germany, France, Italy and other European allies cannot afford to finance precision-guided munitions, strategic airlift, effective special forces, secure communications networks and other capabilities critical to fighting the unconventional wars of this century. The money is clearly available; but political leaders choose to spend it on matters particularly the funding of the welfare state that are unrelated to defense.
Moreover, when money is appropriated, it is done so as much to fund political pork as it is to develop a weapons system. At a briefing on the Eurofighter, for example, executives of part of the four-nation consortium (Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain) building the 620 warplanes rhapsodized about the comparative advantages they were exploiting. Using their expertise in carbon fibers, Italy (with a "production workshare" of 19.5 percent) and Spain (13 percent) would produce the wings. British Aerospace (37.5 percent) would manufacture the cockpits. Germany (30 percent) would produce the fuselages. Some quick-and-easy math established the fact that the "production workshares" precisely correlated with each nation's warplane purchases. Italy and Britain were buying 19.5 percent and 37.4 percent, respectively, of the total output, for example a fact that the executives attributed, laughingly, to mere "coincidence." In other words, the primary force behind the Eurofighter was jobs.
At a briefing for reporters in Berlin, Rolf Schumacher, the deputy director of the political department of Germany's Foreign Office, insisted that the "technology gap cannot be diminished simply by increasing the defense budget." (According to a recent study by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Germany spends a paltry 1.5 percent of total economic output for defense.) Besides, he said, "Germans feel entitled to more of a peace dividend." Mr. Schumacher further argued that "nowhere in Europe is there a desire to increase the defense budget by 14 percent, as in the U.S." Well, OK. But those aren't acceptable arguments for spending as little as Germany and other European nations spend.
In the final analysis, both the United States and its European allies can afford to spend comparable amounts for defense. Each has a wallet. But only the United States has the will. In the meantime, it would be helpful if Europe contributed as little self-righteous moralizing to the alliance as it does military capability.
David Dickson is an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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