Hyperbole Alert! Mark Steyn writes in the OC Register:
On this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan the United States can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.
Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base.
If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.
Well, some European relief agencies are pretty fast as well: German relief experts at work in New Orleans. Still, I agree that the US military is the fastest and biggest provider of emergency help around the world. And Berliners continue to be grateful for the Airlift: During the 15 months long blockade of West Berlin in 1948-49, the US Air Force delivered everything the West-Berliners needed to survive (food, fuel, medicine, hope) in 190.000 flights.
I tend to agree with Steyn's comment on the European "token forces," but I doubt that "the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable," if the US reduced its defense spending. He is exaggerating the influence the United States currently has.
Anyway, Germans continue to have many reasons to be thankful for everything Americans have done for us. And I am thankful for many things, including the constantly growing number of Atlantic Review readers, commenters and guest bloggers. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
Germans probably are not very thankful for Defense Secretary Gates' decision to freeze plans for further reducing Army forces in Europe. It is my impression that Germans don't consider US bases in Germany as a requirement for national security. (German readers, what do think?) The local communities surrounding the bases, however, will probably be thrilled to be able to continue business with the US forces.
The New York Times reports that the US "will maintain about 40,000 soldiers in Germany and Italy, nearly twice as many as had been envisioned under a drawdown that began two years ago, according to senior Pentagon and military officials." This issue was discussed on Atlantic Review last week, when Gates has not yet made the decision: US Forces May Stay Longer in Europe.