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Neocons and Liberal Interventionists vs. the Debt Crisis and the Realists

Secretary Gates apparently said today that European countries should increase their defense spending, because the United States has a debt problem and is not willing anymore to pay for Europe's defense.

Well, one of many reasons the US has such huge debt is the enormous defense budget, which is so much higher than those from other major powers. European nations are not spending more on defense, because we have debt problems as well and can't afford the US debt levels, because we cannot print dollars.

Besides, the US has not spent a fortune in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to protect Europe, but because of its own perceived self-interests. Thus I take issues with these statements by Secretary Gates as reported by the BBC:

"There will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress - and in the American body politic writ large - to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources... in their own defence."

And the Washington Post:

Without naming names, Gates blasted "nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets." A German foreign ministry spokeswoman defended that nation's contribution and noted Obama's recent praise.

Perhaps Secretary Gates is not a foreign policy "realist" after all. Perhaps the last realists can be found in some European governments? James Joyner argues in "How Perpetual War Became U.S. Ideology" in The Atlantic that Neoconservatives and liberal interventionists have overtaken American foreign policy since the last realist president, George H.W. Bush left office twenty years ago.

Bernd Debusmann writes for Reuters.com:

America's costly efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq came under intense scrutiny this month in critical reports and a gloomy Senate hearing that prompted a memorable assertion. "If there is any nation in the world that really needs nation-building right now, it is the United States."

That came from a Democratic Senator, Jim Webb, who continued: "When we are putting hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure in another country, it should only be done if we can articulate a vital national interest because we quite frankly need to be doing a lot more of that here."

Webb spoke at the confirmation hearing of the veteran diplomat President Barack Obama nominated to be his next ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, who faced questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that left no doubt over the growing impatience of U.S. lawmakers with a military and financial commitment that is producing limited progress.

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