Robert Gates, Afghanistan, and Your Laugh For the Day

24 02 2010

Robert Gates With Friend

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has criticized the unwillingness of most European countries to get involved in the Afghanistan war, claiming that the new-found aversion of Europeans to war threatens world peace. Gates’s claim is astonishing and laughable on many levels. I literally burst out laughing when I read his comments.

First, the cowboy attitude of the last US administration was itself a major threat to world peace. Second, anyone familiar with twentieth-century history should rejoice if Europeans are inclining towards a more pacific, post-nationalist frame of mind. Third, the death of European militarism has been greatly exaggerated: France continues to intervene militarily in its former colonies. The UK refused to participate in the Vietnam War, but then fought its own war over the Falklands, a conflict in which the US ambassador to the UN sided with Argentina. Moreover, most European countries have mandatory military service for young males, a policy that involves a tax in time that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stats on military spending as a percentage of GDP. Fourth, do we really think the world would be better off if Greece spent more on its military, or indeed any other branch of its bloated public sector? Fifth, can the US still afford the luxury of fighting these essentially recreational wars overseas? In the Bill Clinton era, the US was on track to discharge its national debt. The US budget deficit is now huge. Perhaps Angela Merkel should be put in charge of US public finances. Either that or the US has subscribe to the EU growth and stability pact.

What Gates’s statement amounts to is a plea for European taxpayers to bail out the US military. What the US needs to do is to let its military downsize and restructure in the same way General Motors is doing. When Gates opens his mouth, we hear the mating call of the spendthrift. One hopes that this is one mating call that echoes through the woods and goes unrequited.

Holdings of US Govt Debt By non-Americans are indicated in red, which is coincidentally the primary colour of the Chinese flag.

The basic problem with the imperial posturing of the US is that it wants to play at being an Empire, but it has a tax-averse population that objects to its current level of taxation, even though it is one of the lowest in the western world. Britain was able to defeat Napoleon because its wealthy classes were more patriotic than those of France and more willing to pay income tax. That willingness contributed to Britain’s ability to become a superpower while maintaining a low debt-to-GDP ratio. The United States of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Tea Parties can only be a superpower by using its credit card. That can’t last for long, and arguably that’s a good thing in the sense it would restore the US to the principles of laid out in Washington’s Farewell address, which was delivered at a time when the Americans were even more anti-tax than they are today. In any event, fighting little wars overseas is a distraction from the things the Americans are really good at, like integrating lots of immigrants and making nifty consumer products

A Symbol of the True Source of America's Greatness

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I’m not saying that European countries are blameless. They do endanger world peace in a number of ways.  Preventing second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants from becoming citizens is a recipe for social disaster. Having established churches (as in England and, until 2000, Sweden) and crucifixes in government offices (as in Bavaria) is a formula for social exclusion. Voting for neo-Nazi and anti-immigrant parties is also a threat to world peace. Nominating the Danish politician associated with the Mohammed cartoon controversy to head NATO (!!!) is also a measure likely to exacerbate tensions between Christendom and the Muslim world. What the European need to do, however, is to imitate the multiculturalism of Canada and Australia, not America’s neo-Disraelian imperialism.

The US is obviously bullying its allies into sending more young men and/or money to Afghanistan. Canada has made it clear that its troops are coming home, its government having recently developed vertebrate tendencies in its relations to the Pentagon. Let’s hope that Canada’s government stays strong and tells the US to bugger off when it asks for more of our money!


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One response

24 02 2010
Andrew

Great rant. Your best post so far.

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