Tag Archives: Great power status

Europe and Modern War

Saw an interesting piece awhile ago on the South African Business Day website called: GIDEON RACHMAN: Threat of war seems unreal in an age of peace. The essential point is that although war seems to have been eradicated in Europe, don’t count it out if the Euro crisis gets as bad as it possibly can.

I think it is naive in the extreme to think that because there has not been a major war in Europe for the past 65+ years that one cannot happen.  We should keep in mind that it was 49 years between the Congress of Vienna ending the Napoleonic Wars and the Prusso-Danish war of 1864 and if you don’t want to count that little war then 55 until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  Just because peace has held for a long time does not mean that is the normal state of affairs.  Just look at the Wikipedia page listing European wars to get an idea of how bloody European history is.

The remarkable thing about the post-World War II period is that the major powers have not gone to war with each other.  That is mainly because of the Cold War dichotomy between the democratic-capitalist western Europe and the communist east.  The fact that the US kept significant forces in Europe along with the British helped ensure the peace too.  That presence, especially the US, is rapidly fading away.  The US Army in Europe (USAREUR) is a fore in search of a mission.  So far they have managed to continue to justify their existence using the conflicts in the Balkans and the War on Terrorism as excuses.  That will not last though as a simple cost analysis shows that it would be much cheaper to keep the troops in the US and deploy form there than do it from Europe, especially given the dominance of the US Navy at sea.  There is also the fact that the US is shifting its geostrategic view to Asia rather than Europe, that is where most if not all new conflicts will come from in the 21st century. I would predict that the US will be for all intents and purposes out of Europe within 10-15 Europe’s except for possibly a training base.  The rest of Europe is going to have to increase defense spending if they want to continue to be taken seriously on the world stage, they can no longer shelter behind the coat-tails of Uncle Sam, he is taking his marbles and going home sooner rather than later.

Next, we should consider the state of European defense spending and the European economy in general.  European defense spending is anemic at best.

Image from: http://blogs.cfr.org/lindsay/files/2011/06/Military-Expenditure-Select-NATO-Members.png

Britain and France spend the most and even they don’t spend but a fraction of what the US spends on defense.  The defense establishments of the rest of Europe are even more of a joke.  I have pointed out before the laughable state of European ,militaries which was demonstrated this past spring in Libya when Europe proved incapable of sustaining an air campaign less than 500 miles away from Europe without massive American logistical support.

Anyone who has been paying attention to financial news this year knows that the Euro is struggling and probably going to fail completely in 2012 or 2013.  What happens then is anyone’s guess.  That is where the specter of a European war comes in.  It is not inconceivable that the war could occur when the poor south gets booted by the not so poor north.  The only country in Europe in good economic shape is Germany but I don’t think that will last if the Euro and euro-zone economy implodes.  WHEN, not if, the Euro crumbles I fully expect runaway inflation in the Euro zone and panic as people see what little spending power they have now disappear.  Most Americans simply do not appreciate how little is left to the average person after big brother takes his share of their paycheck.  Imagine how angry Americans would be if they made $2,000 a month and Uncle Sam took $800 or $900 in taxes.  Taxes of which they see little benefit, but the 30% of the population on welfare does.

When Europeans lose their purchasing power and means of making ends meet what makes anyone think they won’t turn to nationalism again?  Because the Nazis were so bad?  Then how do you explain the rise of right-wing parties in Europe over the last few years and don’t think for a minute that the left is not just as bad.  Ask anyone who had their car burnt by leftists in Berlin this past summer how peaceful the left is, don’t forget Lenin and Stalin were leftists.  Stalin is the single greatest mass-murderer in history too.

As I alluded to at the beginning of this post, Europe has a bloody history, the past half century is the exception, not the rule.  If things go downhill either economically or societally I fully expect Europe to revert to their traditional nationalism and tribalism and take the gloves off.  If that happens, the Muslims in Europe should probably start looking or a way to go home because the first thing Europeans will do is target the other within before they target the other outside of their borders.  I think we are in for an interesting ride over the next few years.  Don’t forget to watch the economic news this year.


The Decline and Fall of the United States?

There has been much talk and discussion both in editorials and on various internet forums about the pending decline of the supposed US “empire” or the USA itself. I was thinking about this on the way back from dropping my wife off at work this morning and the more I think about it, the more I think it could only possibly happen if America lets it happen. The USA is not comparable to the UK prior to their fall from Great Power status post WWII. The disparity between the size of the two nations both physical and in population is too great for their to really be a valid comparison.

Image from http://http://blog.do-business-in-china.com

The USA has no choice in the modern world but to be a maritime power. This is especially true given the importance of trade to the future prosperity of the country. By virtue of the size and education of the US population it is inevitable that any military fielded by the US that is even half-way competently led will be a player on the global stage. America may have to share the world stage as one of the Great Powers with the rising giants of Asia such as China and India, but America will not lose it’s status as a Great power as quickly as did Britain and the European powers of the 19th century. Or, is there anyone willing to say that Britain, France, and Germany are all still Great Powers. I think their inability to sustain a small air campaign in Libya this past spring without significant American logistical support shows how far these nations have fallen. The problem with the countries of Europe is that they still think they matter on the world stage and while they may have some soft power they have none of the hard power they were able to use 100+ years ago.

China is an up and coming power, they are already an economic power although the amount of US debt they hold is a two edged sword that can cut both ways if they are not careful.  They are rapidly engaged in upgrading their military and especially in trying to build a blue-water navy that at a minimum will be able to challenge America for control of the Chinese littoral.  That they want to project power beyond the littoral is evident by their purchase and upgrading of an aircraft carrier.  Aircraft carriers are only used to project power, they are offensive platforms not defensive.  Submarines, destroyers and frigates are primarily defensive platforms.

The Chinese army has also been in a rush of modernization in recent years with a reduction in the number of soldiers in uniform but a concomitant increase in the quality of the troops that are left.  There is also the simple fact that with a population of over a billion, of which the majority are males, they have a huge reserve of unused manpower they can draw on in any future conflict that stayed conventional but involved large land armies.

India must be reckoned on as well.  The saving grace there is that India is a friendly power to the US and has increasingly adopted western ideals of government and freedom as it rapidly modernizes both its society and economy.

The US  looks set to maintain its ability to project hard power for the foreseeable future at least. As long as America can put a carrier battle group off someone’s coast, they are a power to be reckoned with. America may be in decline, but despite the current economic difficulties, a fall is quite a ways off.