What’s the 21st Century solution to our global security problems? You guessed it, the cause of all our 20th Century global security problems.
But this year, far from the headlines, Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, quietly took a radical step down a path toward something that looks like an EU army while avoiding the messy politics associated with it: They announced the integration of their armed forces.
Oh my. Of course, the world was a very different place in the first half of the 20th Century. We didn’t have smartphones, or, you know, an internet. We hadn’t landed on the moon. Major League Baseball regularly took less than two hours. What a different world. And, although we all accept that those things have changed, we still have a nagging fear of the Germans.
Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that we destroyed their country, tore down their society, and rebuilt it. And not in a Frankenstein sense, but in a Six Million Dollar Man sense. Germany is far from perfect, but it’s spent the last seventy years as not just a solid citizen in the community of nations but has become a bedrock of the liberal democratic world order. With the rising trouble from Russia, and with both America and the United Kingdom taking leave of our senses, it’s vital that Germany be strong and ready to defend Europe. As the Business Insider article points out, they’re a long way from doing that:
“Gaps” in the Bundeswehr is an understatement. In 1989, the West German government spent 2.7% of gross domestic product on defense, but by 2000 spending had dropped to 1.4%, where it remained for years. Indeed, from 2013 to 2016 defense spending was stuck at 1.2% — far from NATO’s 2% benchmark. In a 2014 report to the Bundestag, the German parliament, the Bundeswehr’s inspectors-general presented a woeful picture: Most of the Navy’s helicopters were not working, and of the Army’s 64 helicopters, only 18 were usable. And while the Cold War Bundeswehr had consisted of 370,000 troops, by last summer it was only 176,015 men and women strong.
Germany took the whole “peace dividend” error of the early 90s to its logical conclusion. A German led European army, even if it’s only a quasi-European army, is certainly a step in the right direction. The guarantee that America would defend Europe against its threats is not one that can be counted on. Europe needs its own defense, and if that’s spearheaded by people who happen to be the great-grandchildren of people that did some bad things, it’s still better than the alternative.