"The demilitarization of Europe -- where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it -- has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared in a Feb. 23 speech to NATO officers and others at the National Defense University in Washington.
Is Gates right? What exactly does "the demilitarization of Europe" mean for U.S. national security interests? Should Americans care if Europe has to live in the shadow of a militarily superior post-Soviet Russia? Is NATO, alas, a lost cause?
Gates' perspective also suggests that, unless the United States is to go it alone in the world, it will need to cultivate partners among rising nation-states, such as India and Brazil, that are more or less U.S.-friendly (at least not enemies) and, unlike Europe, are rebuilding their militaries. In short, should the U.S. be planning for a post-Europe world? Does Europe still matter? Can we count on Europe any more?
Scheuer's answer to this bears the startling headline "Europe is a wheezing corpse". It demonstrates in stark terms that Scheuer's opinions about foreign policy have become extreme, ill-considered and, on several levels, xenophobic. He writes:
Gates' NATO speech was intended to show the other nations of NATO the importance of their military alliance with the U.S., to raise the spector of that alliance falling by the wayside, and to lobby and shame them not to abandon their commitment to it. By raising the idea that, should current trends continue, the U.S. would increasingly look outside Western Europe for military alliances, Gates attempted to put the fear of God in our NATO allies by implying that NATO is more valuable to Europe than the U.S. Scheuer's column takes this view to its extreme, arguing that the nations of Europe have nothing at all to offer the U.S. as military allies, then counters Gates by arguing that this is somehow a good thing. These ideas, and the others expressed by Scheuer in his column, are ill-considered for several reasons.
Scheuer, unlike Gates, belittles European contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and completely disregards the importance of both European counter-terrorism efforts and intelligence produced by European nations to our counter-terrorism efforts -- subjects with which Scheuer should be familiar from his work with the CIA. Rather than seeking greater support for the U.S. by our NATO allies, Scheuer spurns these allies, saying that we don't want them and don't need them. This assessment of NATO seems to be rooted more in ideologically based isolationist opposition to foreign alliances than in sound analysis of the risks and benefits of cutting off such alliances. Scheuer's ideologically based rejection of Europe, verging on hysteria, contrasts sharply with Gates' pragmatic, cagey approach. Instead of working to build real U.S. strength by strengthening alliances, as is Gates, Scheuer seeks to cut off alliances out of an illusory strength.
Scheuer's utter rejection of U.S. connections with Europe as somehow elitist is based in part on an archaic American cultural xenophobia. The United States is arguably the cultural capitol of the world, and has nothing to fear from cultural commerce with Europe. Scheuer's dismissal of Europe as culturally irrelevant to the U.S. is an echo of the isolationist past, rooted both in a fear of the alien and a sense of cultural inferiority. These views have no relevance at all to the current world which is characterized by ease of commerce and communication over international borders, diminishing the sense of difference. Such commerce has driven a shift of power from governments to corporations and individuals, something which a purportedly small government, laissez-faire conservative like Scheuer should support. Judging by the absurd terms with which he characterizes ties to Europe, Scheuer seems unable to see past his own prejudices to fully consider this issue in pragmatic or coherent ideological terms.
Scheuer goes on to make a series of shocking and false statements concerning Kosovo, citing these as a basis to argue that the U.S. should leave NATO. He writes that the United States tore Kosovo away from Serbia and created an "Islamic state", thus giving the false impression that Kosovo is an Islamist theocracy. Then, he asserts without supporting argument that the establishment of this purported "Islamic" Kosovo" lit a fuse which will eventually blow Europe up. Based on these invented facts and on non-existent logic, he argues that U.S. must withdraw from NATO. Scheuer even goes so far as to say that Serbia (which he describes as "Orthodox Serbia") would be right to invade and retake "Islamic Kosovo". Such fantasies, veering between nightmares of Muslim killing Serb and dreams of Christian reconquest, would be more at home in Serbian or Russian far-right propaganda than in a sane argument about U.S. foreign policy. They of course have no bearing on a serious consideration of whether the U.S. should remain in NATO.
Kosovo is anything but the theocratic threat to secular democracy that Scheuer fears. Read what Michael Totten wrote about Kosovo in the Wall Street Journal (here): that Kosovo is "overwhelmingly pro-American", has excellent relations with Israel, and that most Muslims in Kosovo follow a modern, moderate Islam which sets it apart from most other Muslim nations. In fact, Kosovo has been shunned by most Arab nations for precisely these reasons. Scheuer seems to be following the Serbian nationalist party line in attributing incidents of anti-Serbian violence in Kosova to a government-sponsored jihad rather than to ethnic conflict and backlash for Serbian oppression. Beyond this, and at the heart of his logical fallacy, he also makes no argument whatsoever to support his contention that Kosovo is a tinderbox which will set off a continent-wide Christian-Muslim conflict. That sort of wild-eyed fear mongering does not argue persuasively for the United States to abandon its NATO allies.
Taking fear-mongering and xenophobia to a level approaching bigotry, Scheuer next makes a series of statements concerning Europe's Muslim population which attempt to argue that their presence makes European nations incapable of countering Islamist aggression. This argument (such as it is an argument at all -- it's merely an assertion) again ignores the efforts which European nations actually do make to counter such aggression. If anything, the Muslim presence in Europe makes prevention of terrorism a greater priority to Europe than to the U.S. It is true that European nations frequently accommodate Islamist intolerance in the name of countering intolerance of Muslims, but this in no way should diminish recognition of European efforts to balance, firstly, individual liberties with security needs, and, secondly, the interests of its minorities with the interests of the nation as a whole. These are balances to which Scheuer seems indifferent. Worse than that, Scheuer blames ethnic minorities, the vast majority of whom are innocent bystanders to conflicts about geopolitical issues, for decisions and trends far outside their influence. This is the stuff of the National Front or British National Party and has no place at all in a mainstream American forum. Whatever differences exist between the United States and its various NATO allies, attempts to blame European Muslims for such differences verge on bigotry and should be rejected.
Lastly, Scheuer says that United States government's "phone should be off the hook" with respect to Greece -- apparently referring to Greece's current fiscal crisis. The idea that Scheuer proposes -- ignoring the problem because it doesn't effect us -- is the sort of head in the sand approach to foreign crises that, again, seems to derive more from 1930's isolationism than from contemporary thinking. The U.S. and every other country need to pay close attention to economic crises on that scale wherever and whenever they occur -- no one's phone should be off the hook. The argument that we shouldn't care enough to help in any way is so vague and overly broad as to be both meaningless and dangerous. It derives from a fog of ideological bias, and ignores, much as opposition to government intervention to stave off the collapse of the U.S. financial system ignored, the very real risk that a second Great Depression could occur. While current economic conditions may prevent direct intervention by the U.S., the idea that it should not use its still considerable influence in any way to stabilize Greece's currency makes no sense even from the exclusively self-interested American standpoint espoused by Scheuer. The world's economies are simply too inter-connected to endorse the economic isolation he either believes still exists or advocates returning to.
Looking for a common thread in Scheuer's scatter-shot column, each item reflects defeatism with respect to NATO in particular and alliances in general. He frames issues in terms that make every problem seem insoluble, every goal seem unattainable and every common interest seem irrelevant. This school of isolationism is more interested in marshaling arguments in support of predetermined conclusions than they are in pursuing objective analysis and problem-solving policy recommendations. By instilling paranoia about alliances, isolationists such as Scheuer seek to create in the public mind illusory problems that only they can solve. It's a global con game.
Scheuer has previously argued at great length that Israel is "expendable", to use his word -- of no use at all as an ally to the U.S., and without even the right to exist. He has gone so far as to argue that Americans who differ with his extreme views about Israel do so out of disloyalty to their country, calling them "Israel firsters" and a "fifth column". He has recently taken this to a new level by publishing a column in which he argues that the threat to national security presented by Israel compels the U.S. to demand that those dual citizenship or other formal connections to Israel submit their names, addresses and information about their activities to the federal government. He also literally advocates that this information concerning every Israeli-American be published by the State Dept., shockingly singling out Israelis to be subject to an invasion of privacy which would certainly threaten their civil liberties and personal safety. (I hope to write something about that shortly.) Now he has also declared Europe to be "expendable". That he also considers disagreement with his views concerning Europe equivalent to being disloyal to the United States is reflected in the harshness of his language. All of us traitors who care about Europe and Israel just make him want to puke.
While it may be tempting to dismiss Scheuer's ravings as the stuff of talk radio or teaparty rallies, we shouldn't do so. By dint of his former position in the CIA, Scheuer is still regarded as an expert on national security and foreign affairs , writing books and columns, giving interviews to a wide range of media outlets (especially when bin Laden is in the news), and advising politicians, such as Ron Paul, in whose 2008 presidential campaign he played an advisory role. So long as foolish ideas such as his are taken seriously and have influence, they need to be countered.