While the Washington intelligentsia is all atwitter about Niall Ferguson’s article in Foreign Affairs warning of the end of the American “Empire,” Europe is leaving the world stage. The continent that created the modern world has decided that it no longer wants to be part of its creation. As described in a recent Newsweek article, “Take the worst economic crisis in 60 years. Combine it with the erosion of the West’s predominance. Add apocalyptic warnings of climate change. What you’ll get are some radical new ideas. One of those now swirling through the European zeitgeist turns out to be a very old one, albeit in new garb. It’s the revival of the assertion that economic development is and should be finite — limited today by scarce resources, overpopulation, and rising sea levels.”
When you decide to limit growth, you must also limit your population and your expenditures. Immigration must be restricted because new citizens want jobs and jobs require growth. You must also control technological and scientific development because it is both costly and disrupts the goal of economic stability. Europe will be the bonsai tree of the international system: beautifully sculpted, elegant, but with its growth forever stunted. Nice to look at but providing not shade, fruit nor building material.
No growth also means that you have neither the manpower nor the resources to maintain a military capability. Many U.S. European allies already refuse to fight. The lack of manpower and resources will just give them another excuse for not acting to protect themselves or the Free World. This is the so-called free rider problem on steroids. It is also intolerable to a United States that is trying to address a growing range of security concerns on a diminishing resource base. The United States speaks of building partner capacity; a no-growth Europe will have to shed what it has and not acquire more.
To compound the problem — if that is really possible — a report by the Foreign Relations Committee of the British House of Commons declares the more than sixty-year-old special relationship between the Great Britain and the United States is over. “The perception that the British government was a subservient poodle to the US administration is widespread both among the British public and overseas. This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.” Actually this is a bad rap on poodles, a brave and loyal breed. It seems to Europe that the United States is like those crazy relatives that you hope don’t come to visit during the holidays.
So, the United States finds itself saddled with a Europe that won’t fight its own wars, can’t grow its economy, doesn’t want to have babies, dislikes the United States and would just rather be left to sink into senility. The United States needs to rethink its alliance strategy. Simply put, those nations who will not undertake reasonable measures to defend themselves and contribute to the security of the community of free nations cannot be considered allies. If they won’t shed blood to defend themselves or their neighbors it is unconscionable for the United States to commit to shedding blood on their behalf.
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