Why America Prefers a Weak and Peaceful Europe

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Why Amer­ica Prefers a Weak and Peace­ful Europe

U.S. para­troop­ers de­scend upon Ho­hen­fels Drop Zone

From my and Matt Elli­son’s ar­ti­cle pub­lished in The Na­tional In­ter­est.

The United States has a very large mil­i­tary — its bud­get is nearly four times greater than China’s (al­though China is four times as pop­u­lous and main­tains nearly twice as many ac­tive per­son­nel). The U.S. mil­i­tary bud­get is nearly two and a half times greater than those of all of Europe’s North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion coun­tries com­bined. Wash­ing­ton’s defense bud­get is greater than the com­bined defense bud­gets of China, Saudi Ara­bia, Rus­sia, the United King­dom, In­dia, France and Ja­pan. Fur­ther­more, many of the sol­diers in this enor­mous mil­i­tary are sta­tioned out­side of the Amer­i­can home­land.

The U.S. mil­i­tary main­tains over eight-hun­dred bases in for­eign coun­tries — the largest num­ber of any coun­try in the world. Some were in­her­ited from prior hold­ings of Euro­pean em­pires such as Spain and Bri­tain. Others were gained over the course of wars the United States fought. Some oth­ers were at­tained via ne­go­ti­a­tion with a host gov­ern­ment as part of an al­li­ance or in ex­change for Amer­i­can se­cu­rity guaran­tees.

This global mil­i­tary pres­ence is nor­mally ex­plained with the fol­low­ing nar­ra­tive: peace­ful democ­ra­cies around the globe — not in­clined to threaten each other — have given up solv­ing their prob­lems through vi­o­lence. They no longer wish to build and main­tain fear­some mil­i­taries. In­stead, Amer­ica benev­olently pro­vides them a se­cu­rity um­brella within which they thrive, and which, in turn, en­sures the sta­bil­ity of the global econ­omy and world or­der.

An ex­am­ple of this can be seen in Europe’s rel­a­tively peace­ful his­tory since 1945. The com­mon re­frain is that Euro­pean cul­ture, once ex­cep­tion­ally war­like and com­bat­ive, changed due to the Se­cond World War. Reel­ing from the death and de­struc­tion of World War II, former im­pe­rial pow­ers sup­ported the es­tab­lish­ment of new in­sti­tu­tions, such as the Euro­pean Union and NATO, in or­der to pre­vent an­other war from break­ing out on the con­ti­nent. The last sev­enty-five years of Euro­pean peace — for the most part — is thus ex­plained by this mem­ory of mid-cen­tury dev­as­ta­tion and the ad­vent of new poli­ti­cal in­sti­tu­tions.

If this ex­pla­na­tion were true, then why is the United States sub­si­diz­ing Euro­pean se­cu­rity?

Read the rest here.