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The Pacific Century

Stop complaining about Europe. Rather focus on Asia. That's the advice from Richard Haas (David), president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, in response to Secretary Gates' speech.

Asia is increasingly the center of gravity of the world economy; the historic question is whether this dynamism can be managed peacefully. The major powers of Europe - Germany, France and Great Britain - have reconciled, and the regional arrangements there are broad and deep. In Asia, however, China, Japan, India, Vietnam, the two Koreas, Indonesia and others eye one another warily. Regional pacts and arrangements, especially in the political and security realms, are thin. Political and economic competition is unavoidable; military conflict cannot be ruled out. Europeans will play a modest role, at best, in influencing these developments.

Yes, Europe is finally at peace. The transatlantic mission has been accomplished. Asia, however, is more dynamic and more dangerous. This continent will be at the US center of attention in the 21st century. The US will fight wars over there and needs to build new partnerships, which will be difficult and vital, especially since Europeans do not want to play a global role in support of the US.

America's Asian allies are according to Haas "likely to become more relevant partners in the regions that present the greatest potential challenges. In Asia, this might mean Australia, India, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam, especially if U.S.-China relations were to deteriorate; in the greater Middle East, it could again be India in addition to Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others." Good luck with getting Japan, India and Turkey to send troops to Asian missions.

I agree with his criticism of NATO's European members:

Certainly, one reason for NATO's increasing marginalization stems from the behavior of its European members. The problem is not the number of European troops (there are 2 million) nor what Europeans collectively spend on defense ($300 billion a year), but rather how those troops are organized and how that money is spent. With NATO, the whole is far less than the sum of its parts. Critical decisions are still made nationally; much of the talk about a common defense policy remains just that - talk. There is little specialization or coordination.


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