I want to highlight one thing said by outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates today:
"Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more," Gates said.I wish I could have been in Brussels today to hear his speech. I think it spells the end of the NATO alliance. Decades from now, it might be considered the most important American statement on U.S. and European relations of our time. Gates is making the case that America doesn't really need a pacified Europe anymore as a partner. Yes, we need the bases. Do we need the hassles?
The 2 million troops in uniform here in Europe and Canada constitute a reality that few have been able to comprehend. Europe is almost completely demilitarized. There are no real armies anymore, nor are there significant military assets. There are weapons, yes, but they exist because the various European countries that make them sell them on the world market.
There are hundreds of thousands of draftees in Europe who serve for brief periods of time and do not ever serve again--this is the fallacy of a reserve army that brings in young men, makes them live a quasi-military lifestyle for less than two years, and kicks them back into society without any real skills or abilities. And this speaks to the problem that the Israeli military has right now--it has plenty of draftees but few, if any, professional non-commissioned officers who are willing to serve the twenty-plus years necessary to create an army that can mobilize, deploy, and sustain operations. Without NCOs, you have bullies, punks, and slackers. You can't send two thousand draftees who have, collectively, a year's experience anywhere without having their incompetence, inexperience, and inability to accomplish basic tasks exposed for what it is--the end result of effectively ending the military tradition of service and professionalism.
Do you know where the professionals are? They're in the domestic police forces in Europe. They're in the riot police forces that have to keep restive populations in check and they're in the counterintelligence forces found all throughout Europe, where they are struggling with some of the worst organized crime elements in the world.
Now, Europe knows what militarization means, more than any other region on Earth. And Israel knows what pacifism leads to. Israel doesn't have to tow the line with NATO, but Turkey does, and Turkey does have a standing military that rivals any in Europe by the sheer will of its government to create a fighting force that can defend it and secure its territory. Turkey does not have the same issues that Europe has, but I think that, one day very soon, Europe will wish that it has what Turkey has, and that's a military with which it can defend itself with. Notice that I don't bring up Russia. Why talk about irrelevancies?
Strict pacifism leads to problems on the international stage. Right now, NATO cannot even effectively deter a sociopathic computer hacker movement. You can probably win an argument about how reduced military spending is a good thing, up and until you're confronted with the fact that we have a pretty clear example as to how a stateless entity can openly challenge multiple nation/states without really worrying about the consequences. This is what weakness leads to.
A national commitment to demilitarization is sort of well within the rights of countries that have no existential threat to their existence (thanks again, nuclear weapons). Yes, the Europeans have the right to sit on their small stockpiles of nuclear weapons and turn their military forces into badly-dressed constabulary forces. But Gates is right. Without the national commitment and will to create effective fighting forces, none of the NATO partners can provide much in the way of support. This, in turn, means that their treaty obligations are a joke.