Strategic Choices: Why Europe Still Matters

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Ondokuz Mayis Universitesine]On: 09 November 2014, At: 05:16Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of theNational Committee on American Foreign PolicyPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

    Strategic Choices: Why Europe Still MattersBlaine D. HoltPublished online: 10 Jun 2013.

    To cite this article: Blaine D. Holt (2013) Strategic Choices: Why Europe Still Matters, American Foreign Policy Interests: TheJournal of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, 35:3, 160-168

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  • Strategic Choices: Why Europe Still MattersBlaine D. Holt

    ABSTRACT Financial crisis in Europe, China rising, and a rebalancing

    United States, against a backdrop of depleted resources, are driving the

    tectonic plates of geopolitics. How the worlds top three economies react

    to these momentum shifts will affect or influence all regions. In making this

    observation, the article examines the historical context of the three and how

    they arrived at the geostrategic crossroads they sit at today. The author

    makes the case that U.S. policymakers should take careful note of Chinas

    economic muscle being flexed on the financially-stricken European conti-

    nent and should craft policies that strengthen the U.S.Europe bond.

    KEYWORDS Asia-Pacific; Bretton Woods; defense; economic A2AD; EU;

    euro zone; foreign direct investment; The Great Recession; Marshall plan; NATO;

    politicaleconomic; rebalancing; SACEUR; transatlantic bond; tripolar

    On a chilly February day in 1992, the European Council meeting in

    Maastricht, Netherlands, completed the final draft of the Treaty of European

    Union, formally creating a new, supra-national structure of sovereign states,

    obligated to common economic, legal, and security standards. Its propo-

    nents envisioned an enterprise certain to achieve and maintain a sharply

    ascendant trajectorya euro zone even greater than the sum of its parts:

    extremely formidable economically, highly influential geopolitically, and,

    contrary to a key concern expressed by its many critics, capable of imple-

    menting economic reforms and effecting social integration within and

    among its 17 member states. The mood was euphoric. After all, the Conti-

    nent had survived two brutal world wars and years of nuclear trauma in a

    cold war, fracturing geographies and ideologies alike, all in less than a

    century. A bright and happy future was at hand. In the heady spirit of

    Maastricht, the next few years added several agreements expanding the

    union, producing a common currency, and building new structures for

    common governance. As the 1990s wore on, Europe developed a new con-

    fidence and influence on the world stage, both economically and strategi-

    cally. War in the Balkans, the 9=11 attacks, conflicts in Afghanistan and

    Iraq, along with persistent financial crises were all in the future, and the past

    seemed firmly buried. Nothing describes the early days of the European

    Union better than Europes anthem: Ode to Joy, an orchestral.

    Fast forward to 2013. The sunny promises of 1992 have yet to be fulfilled.

    Instead, Europe has experienced two decades of conflict and a bruising

    collision with an ongoing, and pervasive, financial crisis. On the surface,

    the numbers are encouraging: the unions reporting body, Eurostat, lists

    This article not subject to U.S. copyrightlaw.

    The views expressed are those of theauthor and do not necessarily reflect theofficial policy or position of the Depart-ment of the Air Force, U.S. EuropeanCommand, the Department of Defense,or the U.S. government.

    Blaine D. Holt is a Brigadier General in theUnited States Air Force and is a formerMilitary Fellow at the Council on ForeignRelations.

    American Foreign Policy Interests, 35:160168, 2013ISSN: 1080-3920 print=1533-2128 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10803920.2013.798188





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  • the Continent as the worlds largest economy with a

    population of 500 million from 27 member states

    producing a hefty $16.566 trillion (USD) Gross

    Domestic Product (GDP).1 Viewed in detail, how-

    ever, complexities mount. National loyalties and

    ethnic rivalries proved more resilient than the archi-

    tects of the union envisioned. Combined with design

    flaws in the agreement establishing the euro cur-

    rency, now used by 17 countries, fissures are emerg-

    ing, conceivably condemning the consortium to

    failure. Long term, another vexing and intractable

    issue is Europes demographic situation. Discounting

    immigration, birth rates in Europe have declined

    dramatically in the post-war era; the economic and

    security implications are alarming. Will the Europe

    of the future have the numbers to produce the

    wealth to care for a burgeoning population of elderly

    citizens while simultaneously providing for robust

    security? And, from the perspective of an America

    embarking on new policies designed to acknowl-

    edge the rising importance of Asia, does it matter?

    Ideally, in todays globalized international com-

    munity, a secure and prosperous Europe is certainly

    in the best interest of all. However, with operations

    in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali continuing to drain

    the Continents under-resourced military forces in

    an era of falling credit ratings and soaring unemploy-

    ment (11.7 percent across the euro zone), the Conti-

    nent could well find autonomous international

    engagement while maintaining domestic harmony

    to be a challenge.2

    The timing could not be worse. The United States is

    clearly facing a world of new international tensions

    and escalations demanding it reexamine priorities,

    especially in view of a rising domestic debt and calls

    for reducing spending. In short, U.S. willingness and

    ability to respond to the European crises on par with

    historic bold initiatives like the Marshall Plan or the

    Bretton Woods agreements are all but nonexistent.

    The U.S. strategy document released last year, Sus-

    taining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st

    Century Defense, acknowledged Europe while call-

    ing for a rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region:

    Europe is home to some of Americas most stalwart alliesand partners, many whom have sacrificed alongside U.S.forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Europe is ourprincipal partner in seeking global and economic security,and will remain so for the foreseeable future. At the sametime, security and unresolved conflicts persist in partsof Europe and Eurasia, where the United States must

    continue to promote regional security and Euro-Atlanticintegration. The United States has enduring interests insupporting peace and prosperity in Europe as well as bol-stering the strength and vitality of NATO, which is criticalto the security of Europe and beyond.3

    Europe has been our key and most reliable ally for 70

    yearsand is irreplaceable. Can and should a United

    States facing economic trials and intense budget

    shortfalls maintain its leadership and partnership

    roles on the Continent? What is important is to con-

    sider the dynamic nature of foreign policy and the

    modern integration of diplomatic, commercial, and

    military spheres of influence. Certainly, a substantial

    decline in U.S.European involvement would engen-

    der the type of vacuum that could be viewed as a

    strategic opportunity by other powers or regions.

    For example, China is emerging as a European stake-

    holder with compelling economic interests in the

    Continent as its second-most-important trading

    partner.4 Might not the malaise in Europe present

    the Beijing leadership with strategic options that

    mesh well with their vision of a rising China? The

    same could be said of Russia, currently involved with

    the intricacies of the Cypriot banking debacle. Seen in

    that light, todays Europe could not matter more.

    Nonetheless, it is useful to examine the issue from

    various points of view before new policies reach a

    final Rubicon. With historical, cultural, economic,

    and security issues tightly interwoven, getting it right

    with Europe is vital.

    Modern Europe has one constant, missing from the

    Europe of every other era since the fall of Rome

    namely, a partnership with the United States of

    America. After a disastrous retreat from the inter-

    national stage in 1919, postWorld War II America

    made a courageous bet that a prosperous Europe,

    well-financed for rebuilding, would be well-

    positioned to defend against communist aggression.

    In the early post-war period, this initiative eclipsed

    virtually every other in the national interest as the

    Soviet Union sought to consolidate and expand its base

    in Eastern Europe. The policy led to seven decades

    now almost universally viewed as the Pax Americana.

    Throughout, American taxpayers funded military

    bases in Western Europe, all under the umbrella of

    one of the most successful international alliances in

    history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    (NATO). The first NATO secretary, General Lord

    Ismay, was pithy in defining the early goals. NATO

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  • was established to keep the Americans in, the Russians

    out, and the Germans down.5 Todays NATO, globally

    engaged in operations from Kosovo to Afghanistan, is

    only a reflection of its humble, yet perilous, beginning.



    The rationale for Americas bold and unpre-

    cedented moves after World War II was firmly rooted

    in the early years of the twentieth century. Americas

    entry into World War I in April 1917 marked a signifi-

    cant departure from a sharply limiting foreign policy

    and military action supporting American commercial

    interests. It took significant aggression delivered by

    the German U-boats to persuade President Woodrow

    Wilson into entering the killing fields of The Great

    War. The Wilsonian school of diplomacy was born

    as war ended, and, for the first time, an American

    president assumed a world leadership role, specifi-

    cally at the Paris Peace Conference, in defining the

    peace and in forming new international peace initia-

    tives. The new spirit of internationalism was short-

    lived as Wilsons health rapidly declined and the

    isolationist Senate formally rejected the cornerstone

    of his post-war policy: The League of Nations. The

    turning away from Europe was so complete as to

    form the entire basis for the next administrations

    campaign for the White House. Warren G. Harding

    coasted to a comfortable win with one simple slogan:

    A Return to Normalcy.6 U.S. influence in Europe

    faded almost immediately after the official signing

    of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Poorly crafted

    and badly implemented, the treaty gradually broke

    down over two decades, as the Weimar Republic

    gave way to Hitlers Wermacht, with tanks and men

    racing across the Continent in a new type of warfare.

    Reluctantly, the United States entered World War II

    from a position of almost scandalous weakness.

    When Gen. George C. Marshall assumed command

    in 1939, the U.S. Army was seventeenth largest in

    the world with just over 200,000 regular soldiers, an

    outdated and limited supply of weapons, an aging

    officer corps, and an almost nineteenth-century con-

    cept of war.7 At the wars end, the United States

    emerged as the sole power with an intact domestic

    infrastructure, a vast arsenal of modern weaponry,

    an innovative and modern command structure, and,

    above all, having learned an indelible lesson about

    the costs of unpreparedness in both lives and treasure.

    Unlike the war to end all wars, the agreements

    ending World War II were carefully crafted with an

    eye toward history and the potential folly of human

    hubris. The United Nations essentially reincarnated

    the old League of Nations, while the Marshall Plan

    and the Bretton Woods Agreement dealt with the

    post-war economies of all the war powers, enemies

    and allies alike. This time, the United States accepted

    the role of Great Power and the responsibilities that

    come with it; the world slipped easily and seamlessly

    from nineteenth-century Pax Britannica to twentieth-

    century Pax Americana almost overnight.

    Challenges in Berlin and later in the Korean

    Peninsula slowed American demobilization under

    President Harry Truman and provided the first chal-

    lenges to the post-war agreements, while bringing

    into sharp relief the new bipolar world. The Cold

    War and the hot proxy wars that followed galvanized

    containment strategies, such as those found in docu-

    ments like NSC-68.8 Through the 1950s, as Western

    Europes economies prospered, a tense peace held

    while 450,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines, and

    airmen stood alongside NATO forces to guarantee

    stability. European institutions, including the European

    Economic Community (EEC), the Western European

    Union (WEU), and eventually the present-day

    European Union (EU), took rootallowing transat-

    lantic commerce to soar.

    On a parallel track with German and Italian

    democracies, American investment solidified pros-

    perity and capitalism. By the 1960s, the publicly

    funded security apparatus that included the incred-

    ible success of the $13 billion ($115 billion adjusted

    for inflation) Marshall Plan, which spanned 1948

    1951, along with the post-fascist development of the

    rule of law, attracted U.S. private capital in a sort...