181 Comments

Europe is like a 29 year old with a graduate degree in sociology but no job. It has the skills and the ability to support itself, but it insists on working in its chosen field and refuses to take a job as a paralegal. This strategy only works as long as daddy is paying the bills.

If daddy pulls the plug all at once, Europe might have to move in with a sketchy boyfriend. We love Europe too much for that! But if daddy never pulls the plug, Europe will keep doing what it wants to do rather than learning support itself. Supporting oneself is rarely as fun as cultivated leisure.

The US should announce a three or five year time frame for leaving NATO. Europe will keep under investing in defense as long as it has US security guarantees.

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I don't agree with leaving NATO, because there is every reason to be aligned, but the rest of your example is wonderful.

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Take a look in the mirror. America's corrupt military-industrial complex provides security to countries that no longer need it to do so. Matt wrote that after the Cold War ended the US actively pushed against Europe building defence capabilities. Given this backdrop, it has been rational for Europe to under-invest in defence (that is changing given America's democratic backsliding in recent years).

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"Daddy's paying the bill" is a vast exaggeration.

Trump used to pretend that we are all contributing a certain % to NATO and that many European countries don't or didn't do enough. But the agreement is that each NATO member contributes a % of GDP to defence and, at first sight, the US did a much bigger effort. However, that raw statistic only makes sense if the US defence expenses in - say - Iraq and Afghanistan help the common cause. Not obvious, IMO. And subtracting the US expenses in the forever wars reduces the gap by a lot.

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David Abbot to Europe: “Who’s your daddy?!”

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But, apparently, it does that because Daddy insists on continuing to pay the 29-year-old's bills and discouraging him from working. So, we're enabling the behavior.

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I think Germany’s play is a lot like signing up for another graduate degre. $100B spread over who knows how many years isn’t enough to make europe independent. taking the lsat and last school take 4 years, that should be the limit of our patience

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Which is why you announce your intent to stop writing checks/belonging to NATO sometime in 2026.

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You had me up until the end where you seemed to suggest complete withdrawal from Europe. A smaller footprint makes a lot of sense with rich European countries picking up the slack in personnel and technology. However I think we would always need at small but meaningful contribution, including probably our nuclear deterrent, and a seat at the table. Otherwise my bet is it loses coherence fast in the face of various inter-European squabbles.

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My thoughts exactly. We’re doing to need some skin in the game both so that Russia understands that an invasion of NATO members will still bring the US in to swamp them in the end, and so that we can continue to push for effective European involvement with China relations needs.

The latter are mostly economic or diplomatic, but a continued (limited) military presence helping to defend Europe gives us more leverage in getting European nations on board.

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France and the UK have nuclear weapons as such Europe has its own nuclear deterrent.

But much like the US risking New York or Los Angles in response to the nuking of Berlin or Warsaw. Would France and the UK risk Paris or London in response to the loss of Berlin or Warsaw? I’d say no. Poland and Germany need their own, I would say.

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I think this is correct. Were the US to abandon European defense, I bet that the current free-rider problem would repeat itself with the smaller European countries (and the big ones not threatened by Russia) taking advantage of the larger ones.

Also, without the American presence as a unifying force, I'm not sure why it wouldn't be profitable for certain European states to become more Russia-aligned. Presumably the Eastern European countries wouldn't do this, but there isn't really a good reason for France and Italy (for example) to care all that much about future Russian aggression.

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Well, sure, but then the problem is Europe's to solve. The larger countries of Europe would then pressure the smaller ones to do their share.

Also, if France and Italy can't be made to care about Russian aggression despite their proximity, why would the USA have a *greater* interest when we're even farther away? Honest question.

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Poland, Ukraine, Romania and the Baltic’s could put up a bell of a fight if they handed together. Imagine Putin trying to invade Ukraine while repelling a Polish/Baltic counter thrust

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My impression was always that the reason that the US has been reasonably easy-going as regards offering wide-ranging security guarantees to EU countries despite their poor military spending and integration is that strategically it was a brilliant way to prevent the emergence of a whole bunch of near-peer competitors. Again, the EU is *big*, especially economically. From the fall of the USSR until the recent rise of China, the core, original EU block (Germany, France, Italy, Benelux) was the only geopolitical entity that could (if it wanted to) generate a military capability that was a peer to the US. There's enough spare GDP, enough manufacturing, enough technical knowhow and enough population there to do the job, especially if, as you say, they can take along a few others (e.g. Spain, UK, Poland) with them. But they're lazy, so in return for a relatively cheap security American security guarantees they didn't even think about doing such a thing. (I would argue that the Germans upping their defense spending by $110bn in a couple of days demonstrates just how much latent financial/military capacity was there). And that meant that America maintained its cherished, and useful, 'overwhelming military number 1' position

Now as a European I think we made a terrible mistake going along with the above policy. It was lazy, cowardly and stupid, and has left us at the mercy of Donald Trump 2024, in combination with Putin. And from America's point of view the costs of this policy in terms of the metal needed to deter Russia, are going up. And now that China is becoming a near-peer competitor anyway, the chance of being indisputably number 1 are shrinking. So from both sides there's a need for change.

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

Come on Matt, there was a real dog that didn't bark in your essay. Not once did I see the words "nuclear weapons". It is Russia's vast nuclear arsenal and ability to use it to threaten the United States (and Europe) that makes caring about them a matter of national interest. Impossible to discuss the US's involvement in European defense without considering that. The only way for Europe to truly take up the cause of their own defense is to have France take the US's place as a credible nuclear threat to Russia. Could France "win" (or rather credibly make both sides lose) a nuclear war with Russia "on its own"? I have no idea, but that's what this pivots around, not the number of tanks or organization of troops.

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I think the US could always backstop the French as far as nuclear weapons go.

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I don't know what this means.

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The US can have a policy of nuclear retaliation on behalf of its European allies, even if the US Army no longer maintains bases on the continent.

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There are a very limited number of circumstances in which the US would commit suicide by inviting a nuclear attack. Not having any skin in the game (large numbers of dead American soldiers) reduces that number by quite a bit.

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Maybe I took your "what does that mean" too literally? I did specify European allies (i.e. members of the EU, NATO, or whatever Europe-only NATO successor we are considering here), not Ukraine.

Isn't US policy already to perform a nuclear second strike in the event of a nuclear attack on NATO? I meant to extend that to post-NATO. The important thing is to have it as an open policy, so the adversary is deterred.

I guess your point is that our "nuclear umbrella" is only credible precisely because NATO puts American soldiers in harm's way in the event of a nuclear attack in Europe? To a rational actor, the decision to escalate a nuclear war is always self-defeating at the time -- it's not a subgame-perfect equilibrium-- but a country might commit national suicide to avenge its own slain citizens. In that case, we could maintain credibility with a "Dr Strangelove" strategy of building an automatic doomsday device with triggers in Europe -- though of course, that movie is hardly a ringing endorsement of such a strategy. But a strategy of purely voluntary use of nukes has also been satirized (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o861Ka9TtT4).

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Yeah the Brexit mess sort of cut "Europe's" nuclear arsenal in half, which isn't ideal in the context of deterring Russia on their own, but France has hundreds of warheads, and enough are submarine-based weapons that they can make anyone not win an exchange with them

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“This just underscores the extent to which Obama was right all along.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but in 2012 wasn’t Obama arguing Al-Qaeda was the biggest geopolitical threat? I don’t recall anyone pre-Trump publicly describing China that way.

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founding

Your memory is correct, Peter S. I checked the transcript:

"Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida's a threat because a few months ago when you were asked, what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia — not al-Qaida, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

Matt's thesis might be correct - China is a bigger rival than Russia -- but that was NOT what Obama was saying in 2012. I just cannot forget how the compliant media used the line about the "80's calling" as a constant cudgel against Romney.

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

I don't think it's compliance. Media coverage seems to focus quickly focus on some absurdly reductive central concept, that once formed, is largely impervious to new information. Romney is out of touch. Hillary is corrupt.

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founding

The way they did that with “binders full of women” was embarrassing.

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I've been wrong about many things throughout my life so I'm proud to say that on that night in 2012 I was on Facebook saying "Guys, this 'binders full of women' thing is stupid."

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Counterpoint - it actually was an extremely inartful-bordering-on-offensively-reductive way to try to burnish your credentials with women as part of the War on Women party.

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What is borderline offensive about it?

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What you'd want a former governor to say as they tried to burnish their feminist hiring credentials would be something like "my office took affirmative steps to mentor and develop more female candidates than any previous administration so that my staff would look like Massachusetts."

What Romney actually said was basically "look at me, I'm real feminist; any time we decided we wanted a diversity hire, we had a big ol' binder full of women and we just picked one at random. Not like it mattered who, right? One broad is as good as another."

"Binders full of women" was a gaffe for Romney because it showed how he was completely missing the point. Plus it shows how inept his instincts as an actual politician are, in terms of clearing the incredibly low bar of not talking like a complete weirdo.

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founding

There is probably some truth in both views.

A recent Twitter thread highlights the way the media ran with the Romney-Russia story. It is worth a read-through: https://twitter.com/DrewHolden360/status/1496282315386990596

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Obama couldn't resist a catchy one liner in a debate, but the more substantive military strategy he was actually advocating was the "pivot to Asia". He just wasn't very effective at implementing it. Obama and Trump were both too afraid of the short-term political hits they'd take from the regional chaos that predictably would follow after US withdrawal from the Middle East and Afghanistan, even though it was the right call in terms of US long term interests.

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One thing that's bothered me about this Romney Redemption Tour is the implied criticism of Obama's answer. If Obama had said anything other than "Al Qaeda", the GOP, including Romney, would have spent the rest of the 2012 campaign claiming that Obama wasn't tough enough on terrorism and implying he was a crypto-Muslim fundamentalist.

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I don't know about that... this was a year after Osama had been taken out and a couple years before ISIS emerged. Obama was in a pretty good spot to declare victory over Al-Qaeda.

Anyway, my view of it is not that Romney was obviously right at the time or even in retrospect over the narrow question of "who's public enemy #1", but that Obama's sarcastic retort was wildly off the mark. He tried to paint it as ridiculous to even think of Russia in those terms. You can see in the quote John from FL copies below, Obama kept dragging this answer up as proof of Romney being foolish.

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Just to expand on this a little, in 2012 there was not a lot of concern about Eastern Europe, but where the US was actively engaged—the Middle East—Russia was behind significant conflict in Syria and backing the hostile regime in Iran. I always saw Romney’s comments reflecting that reality at a point in time when Al Qaeda was on the wane and China not yet as active overseas.

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founding

I know "politics ain't beanbag," but the way Romney was treated during that campaign was when my outlook on politics changed. He was - and is - a decent man who successfully governed a blue state (MA), oversaw the Olympics during a particularly tumultuous time and was a very successful businessman.

To see him caricatured by the Obama campaign, called a racist by Biden ("put y'all back in chains!") all while the press fawned over Obama was eye-opening.

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Mitt Romney should have released his tax returns. The underlying suspicion on why he didn't is that he cheated on his taxes. His absurdly large IRA is very concerning. He also, as part of Bain Capital, directly profited off the misery of American workers.

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founding

Thanks for the reminder. Yes, we now know Harry Reid lied - on the Senate floor - about Romney's taxes and proudly admitted it after the election. And things like that don't happen without the tacit approval of the Obama campaign.

Romney did release his taxes in September of that year. Later than he should have, but he did release them.

He isn't beyond criticism, though I would disagree with your characterization of Bain Capital (or any Private Equity firm that buys distressed companies). My point isn't that he was perfect; rather, that his treatment went far beyond what was previously seen as normal.

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Romney is a decent human being who in 2012 sold his soul to Republican conservative shibboleths.

Was he treated roughly, and maybe unfairly by the Democrats? Possibly.

Well, like the Republicans who still cry over Robert Bork, I have a long memory. I still remember 1988 and with what kid gloves the Republicans treated Michael Dukakis. I remember lots of other things too, so I'm not going to bemoan the 2012 campaign.

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Do decent human beings sell their souls?

Also: Bain used to acquire companies, renegotiate prices in not so correct ways and then restructure these companies. Not a great example of decency either.

Romney apparently used every tax loophole available to him to avoid paying taxes. I've read these practices described as illegal but impossible to prosecute (referring to selling non-traded assets within the family).

And he spoke like this of his compatriots: "there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what" because they are "dependent upon government ... believe that they are victims ... believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... these are people who pay no income tax.""

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Romney didn't release all of his tax returns, in sharp contrast to his father when he ran for President. He released two years, and then "summaries" of the remaining years. We still don't know what he was hiding in offshore tax shelters. There is also the matter of the $102M IRA (doubtless much more now) that he somehow acquired. It's particularly galling considering he criticized 47% of Americans as takers who don't pay income tax, when he (who has been given everything from his rich family in this life) dodges taxes himself.

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“…directly profited off the misery of American workers”

What was he selling?

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Layoffs.

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How does one profit from layoffs?

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You make good points as usual, but I think you overstate US agency regarding Europe. National defense strategies executed by European countries reflect each country's autonomous decisions, and the US plays only a minor role. IMHO Europe has demonstrated a long and appalling disregard for the threats posed by Russia. Fortunately, this has (at least temporarily) reversed dramatically over the past week; let's hope the lesson remains.

I also think you here under-state the importance of "democratic values" as an abstract idea worth fighting for per se, though I agree with what I take as your main points (that viewing the world exclusively through the lens of "democracy good, autocracy bad" leads to problems, and that the primary long-term strategic concern of the US should be China, not Russia)

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

This is a common criticism that I have of Matt's foreign policy takes. For instance, he often says that the Nato intervention in Libya helped encourage Syrian dissidents to escalate into rebellion. However, it seems like other factors, like the slaughter of hundreds of protestors and mass defections from the army, played a bigger role.

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The US's role in Europe could be reduced to two main things, but could not be eliminated entirely without a lot of risk.

1. The US operates the only single-nation military on the scale of size and sophistication comparable to the future European military, so it can provide guidance on the sorts of things that the Europeans will need and act as a sort of honest broker between the European national interests (so it can say "yes, you will need big transport aircraft and AWACS and JSTARS, but no, you don't B-52s"). If the US is going to assume that the vast majority of European equipment will be built in Europe (after all, the vast majority of US equipment is built in the US), then it should be relatively easy to ensure that there isn't a rotating door between the US military and European defence contractors, and that means you have actual neutral experts available in procurement and planning.

2. The US can provide a strategic nuclear deterrent without needing European nations to build one (yes, the UK and France are nuclear powers, but they have minimal deterrents). This will mean that some US forces need to be located on the front line to reassure everyone that the US commitment to nuclear deterrence in Europe is real.

In the end, all of the small European nations are always going to want to have some infantry for ceremonial and peacekeeping duties, but there really is no reason that non-frontline states couldn't be mostly naval (an obvious role for Portugal and the Netherlands, which have strong naval traditions) or mostly focus on their air force, or any of a dozen other specialised roles.

The bigger states are going to want to have some ability for independent action - both Britain (Falklands, Sierra Leone) and France (several in Francophone Africa, for instance) have done operations in living memory where they were wholly or largely alone, and the ability to operate without needing assistance from allies is one that neither would give up. But Belgium has no meaningful independent military capacity, so why not have a few infantry that you can contribute to a UN peacekeeping operation, and then have the rest of your military budget spent on one specific role that is only meaningful as part of a larger European military?

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You don’t need infantry for ceremonial duties. A marching band should suffice.

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True, but they will still want some for UN peacekeeping type jobs, and also having a large number of trained infantry across many countries would bulk out an otherwise specialised army if needed in a big war (e.g. against Russia).

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What do you mean by “an otherwise specialized army”?

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What I mean is that there will be some countries that have specific specialised forces - like one country's entire military might be tanks (and armoured infantry), another would be engineers, another reconnaissance, another helicopters, another fighters, another tactical bombers, another signals (command & control), etc, etc.. That military would combine into a small number of heavy (ie armoured) divisions, one or two airmobile divisions and air/naval support. That would be great for offensive operations, for something like Iraq.

But in a larger war, you can't cover everywhere with those powerful units; you need lighter units to cover a broad front line, and lots of relatively cheap (to equip; they get paid the same) infantry is the best way to do that. Obviously, these infantry would have anti-tank and anti-air missiles and artillery support and so on, but they wouldn't have tanks and probably not heavy IFVs, just lighter "battle-taxi" type APCs/light IFVs. They'd be able to hold ground against anything short of a full-scale armoured assault (which you'd hope and expect the European air force would be able to blow to bits if it was tried), but wouldn't be designed to seize ground.

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I think that scheme is completely unworkable. Units (a division, say) need to be constituted as they will fight, not cobbled together at the last minute when needed out of the constituent parts.

An airmobile division is an infantry division. It needs not only infantry and aviation units, but also its own engineers, artillery, signal, transportation, medical, logistics, etc.

What you describe as “relatively cheap infantry” sounds to me like light infantry, and that is also a specialized force. Or at least it is if you want to get some bang for you buck. Like armored forces, light infantry has its own niche on the battlefield. It is far easier to deploy, has far more flexible logistics (because they carry everything they need to operate for reasonably long periods and have a very low fuel and repair overhead), and can operate on any terrain.

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I wasn't proposing cobbling them together at the last minute at all - I was proposing that there would be permanent multinational divisions, not that they would only combine when needed. I just figured it would be easier if all the tanks came from a few countries and then another country contributed helicopters, and another artillery and so on. The big countries (France, Germany, the UK, etc) would obviously have a military that would cover all specialities so it can operate independently.

Perhaps I'm picking the wrong ways to split up the jobs - perhaps it should be that a country supplies a whole formation with all the different types of unit, rather than one country providing a specific troop type. I'm certainly no military expert. Maybe some countries have a division and others have no land forces but an air force or navy contribution to the main fighting force (but everyone has some infantry for peacekeeping and the like)

Units that are primarily used for peacekeeping tend to be relatively light and very much "boots on the ground" infantry. If those are then constituted into fighting formations, they're not going to have a ton of offensive punch, but they should be able to hold ground on a front line. So yeah, I guess they are "light infantry".

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“…because American support is truly needed in Korea and Japan and Australia and the Western Hemisphere while it’s dispensable in Europe.”

Is it though? This seems like a very weird time to make that argument.

American security guarantees in Europe work _because_ they don’t require the creation of a coordinated transnational army that’s actually capable of fighting, and because we have nuclear parity (and thus MAD) with Russia. Unless the plan includes a nuclear Germany (!) and Spain (?!) and scaling up France’s deterrent and Britain’s Trident fleet (with what money?) _and _ creating a credible trans-EU military command structure, I think the most likely outcome of pulling back American commitments here is Putin pissing himself laughing followed by immediately invading the Baltics.

In a world where we’ve actually managed to fix our relationship with Russia somehow (this probably requires Putin dying of old age)… maybe? But I’m not seeing how this works any time in the next 30 years.

And then we come to the _other_ issue, which is that a Europe where the major states all field competent and autonomous militaries is a situation we have a great deal of experience with, historically speaking. The record here is… how shall we say… not inspiring?

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If your best pitch against Europe building a reasonably effective, continent-wide defense apparatus and policy is that it’ll cause them to revert to 1914 and kill one another en masse, I think we can safely rule that out.

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*points meaningfully in the general direction of current events*

There are times when you could make a plausible argument that europe is done with internal wars of expansion and aggression. This week is a weird time to do it.

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I would never have made the claim that *Russia* was done with them. But I think I can pretty safely make the claim that Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK most certainly are, which is what would matter.

Also, if the EU isn’t going to become a federal state overnight (and it won’t), most of these nations’ spending will go to the military equivalent of jigsaw puzzle pieces, not a whole picture. Hard to go to war when your infantry’s artillery support is on the other side.

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

At the risk of being tediously pedantic, Russia was rather deeply involved in more than a few of Europe's major wars: you can't treat them as some sort of weird outlier.

And Matt's idea of a federalized military is very solidly in "citation needed" territory. The only way you make that work is with a unified command structure; I'll believe it when I see it demonstrated and not before.

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

As for the federalized military, it’s happened with NATO to an extent, but anyway, we’ll see.

And I’m sorry, but there’a just no other way to interpret this:

“And then we come to the _other_ issue, which is that a Europe where the major states all field competent and autonomous militaries is a situation we have a great deal of experience with, historically speaking. The record here is… how shall we say… not inspiring?”

Than to say you believe there’s a significant risk of the Western European powers shooting one another if they have capable militaries.

Russia *already* has such a force and uses it, so unless you think the Germans and French will act the same, there’s no increased risk of war from their arming up.

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So your assertion is that Russia, having an independent military, eventually succumbing to the temptation to use it to implement policy is evidence that Germany and France would _not_ succumb to that temptation if they had the means?

Okay.

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I mean Poland and Hungary are also in the EU and Le Pen is (was until a week ago?) a viable candidate in France.

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Ok?

Was Le Pen advocating for a Rhine border for France in some interview that I missed?

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What do you imagine Hungary wants to invade? Austria?

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

Seems like more discussion should have been given to the nuclear capabilities of Russia vs the EU countries. Which would've folded into the specialization point, as France is the only member that has a full Nuclear force.

I also think we're giving a bit too much easy credit to the deterrent part of the nuclear deterrent. The deterrent works by inciting fear in the potential enemy, but of course that can backfire and escalate into panic if intentions are misunderstood, which leads to the nightmare scenario of one side or the other launching to prevent the other side going first.

Matt and the other commentators seem to be talking about our nuclear umbrella as some kind of cost-free favor for the EU. But the small, but hard to quantify risk of something going very, very wrong means it's anything but costless.

I'll add two things: the Russians continue to upgrade and modernize their nuclear forces, while orientating them into more of a "war-fighting" posture and less of a strictly deterrent posture. Meanwhile our minutemen ICBMS are from 1969 and behind schedule for upgrades. And in general all our plans and responses for nuclear war seem to believe that our deterrent is sufficient and so we plan as if it can't really happen, and I'm not sure if the Russians are on the same page with that, or not. We used to put much more emphasis on a survivable chain of command, preparing the populace, and just prioritizing nuclear forces within the military in general.

Also the risks here fall the more the Russians seem to be rational and rise when they seem to be less rational. I'll leave it at that.

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Minuteman is an unreasonably good missile is the reason. We haven’t developed anything since that’s worth replacing the Minutemen.

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Interesting. How is that possible that something from 1969 is still so good?

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

The most critical reason is that a ballistic missile is much more like artillery than it is, well, missiles. The flight speed is so high that it’s hard to alter its trajectory both on accident and on purpose. So a lot of the post-Minuteman advances in missiles aren’t really relevant, since you’re not going to be doing a lot of guidance anyway.

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thanks

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We dumped an ungodly amount of money into the military. The US spent 8.63% of GDP on military in 1969, which would be roughly 2.4 trillion dollars today.

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I would definitely support spinning the strategic nuclear forces off into a separate strategic force: take the ICBMs out of the Air Force and the SSBNs out of the Navy, stop having people rotate in and out between the conventional combat arms and the strategic nuclear force.

This would protect both conventional and nuclear budgets from getting raided for each other and would enable the creation of a proper esprit de corps in the strategic force, and the very distinctive psychologies and command styles needed for strategic nuclear use could be developed and improved on.

The freefall bombs are obviously going to be dropped by the strategic bomber force, ie the B-52s, B-1s and B-2s, but the primary role of those bombers is in the conventional military, so they should remain in the USAF. The actual bombs themselves should be under Strategic Force control, though, and it should be made very clear that they can't be deployed to the bombers without a specific public alert process - this ensures that USAF planes can't be mistaken for a nuclear attack when they are being used conventionally.

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I think the problem with that approach is that anyone making a career in the strategic force is prone to fall victim to a “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” mentality

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To respond to China's new status as a peer competitor we need to work more closely with democratic India, not retreat to a good-neighbor policy of focusing on democratic Latin America.

This is why Matt's comment the other day about "owning Cuba" was so odd. Does anyone really think that should be a priority for US foreign policy?

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I think "owning Cuba" was just Matt's slightly trollish way of suggesting that a focus on Latin America was not strictly about humanitarianism but also compatible with traditional conservative goals.

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I still think focusing on India dominates on either of those criteria. China is a strategic rival and Cuba is not.

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A lot of Cuban-Americans do, and they are reliable voters.

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Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans are the worst! Nothing personal; they have totally legitimate human rights concerns about their ancestral countries and many of them are also really hot. But they're using their leverage in a swing state to keep both parties tied to some very unproductive policies. Chinese-Americans get it: they understand that isolation almost never works and that trade is mutually beneficial.

If we have to keep the Cuba embargo in place because of the Electoral College and "popularism" then so be it. But I don't think there's massive demand among these voters for the good-neighbor policies that Matt supports for the rest of Latin America. They want a bad-neighbor policy for one country and we should try to avoid humoring them any further than that. If necessary it would be better to have preferential immigration policies for Cuban nationals, which allow people to opt out of the communist system if they don't like it.

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"Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans are the worst!"

Good food, though.

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Mar 3, 2022·edited Mar 3, 2022

Cuban-American here. Much of my generation really does support the Obama-era thawing of relations, which seems like something we should pick up on again now that we're facing off against a very angry Russia that would love nothing more than to reenact the missile crisis and bring the confict to our "sphere of influence". And those new policies substantively improved the lives of our relatives still in Cuba. But I gotta be honest: popularism for Cuban voters doesn't work on any generation of Cuban when you start paragraphs by calling us the worst (or by praising the literacy programs in Cuba, or the other snide remarks progressives can't help themselves from making).

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Military/security cooperation with India, sure. But when it comes to trade and economic ties, it does not make sense to prioritize India or any other faraway low-wage countries over our own neighborhood. The nice thing about the Western Hemisphere is it's a pretty peaceful place and internal military security considerations (vs security against the rest of the world) don't need to be a big consideration.

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Sure, but the effectiveness of military cooperation with India is limited by India's GDP, which is currently much smaller than China's. Matt thinks "one billion Americans" is one way to prevent Beijing from dominating international politics in the next half-century, and it probably is. But getting India on track to emulate China's rapid economic growth is the other one.

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Implicit in the idea that the United States can meaningfully influence the economic development of India (or any country), is that we control a valuable commodity -- preferred access to the US market and the flow of outsourced manufacturing and service jobs, know-how, and capital that go with it -- and by intentionally directing that access to particular countries, we can bestow a (hopefully mutual) benefit on them.

If that's true, India, as a country that dwarfs the US in population, is effectively a bottomless ocean we'd be pouring our resources in. If we can materially benefit a country as large as India that way, imagine how much more impact we could have in a much smaller region like Central America, and how many more ways that would redound to the direct benefit of the US, than with India. There's always the century after that, to turn to India. But this century, let's work on the Americas.

India, even more than the China, is a country that could truly rival the US as the global superpower, in cultural power as well as economic, due to it's open, multicultural society and democratic values. If it's capable of realizing that potential, it doesn't need US help to do it.

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founding

The Indian film industry is already far more globally relevant than China’s. The fact that a country as small as Korea is also passing China in the influence of their music and television industry shows something about cultural power.

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I don't think America's ability to influence India's growth rate is nearly as substantial as its ability to influence China's growth rate twenty or thirty years ago. The US share of global GDP is much smaller than it was and the issues are different: China mainly needed Western technology and markets, whereas the barriers to rapid growth in India have to do mainly with underinvestment in health/education and with domestic interest groups resisting deregulation.

But what we can do, we should. The unmet needs in India's health and education sectors are much more severe than in Latin America's, and although Africa's needs might be comparable or greater there's still a security interest in prioritizing India. So the allocation of foreign aid has a role to play here... trade policy not so much, since the global trade regime is pretty well liberalized anyway.

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Promoting more trade and investment with India AND Latin America are good and need not be in competition. Where would a neutral policy do the most good is debatable. If proximity matters a lot, then LA will benefit more than India. But if Indian supply response is much higher, maybe India will.

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Owning Cuba shouldn't be a high priority, but if you can do it without too much effort, you should. And we can.

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Mar 2, 2022·edited Mar 2, 2022

Ike was complaining about the Europeans not spending enough on their own defense. Somethings never change.

Why would they when they have Uncle Sucker to do it for them?

It also gives the Europeans something to cluck their tongues about because they can be First World countries without having to shoulder a lot of the responsibility so they can say, "tsk...tsk..." to the US all the time.

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This glorification of Mitt Romney is getting out of hand. The man was perfectly willing to work with Trump when it suited him, and only turned against him when he didn't get a job in his administration. He refused to release his tax returns, and almost certainly cheated on his taxes. We can give him credit for not behaving as badly as some other Republicans, but that's a low bar. I expect better from someone who has had every possible advantage in life, who claims to serve his country while raking in ridiculous amounts of money through the destruction of American companies.

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I'm interested to know the specific trade-offs between U.S. involvement in Europe and U.S. involvement in Asia. Is the former actually preventing the latter?

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Military assets are zero-sum: A soldier / tank / drone / bullet used in Europe cannot simultaneously be used in Asia.

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Not true. They act as a deterrents in both theaters merely by existing.

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Reread my comment.

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"Russia’s spending goes up with the PPP adjustment, but the PPP concept is only partially applicable to defense issues. For personnel spending, the fact that a dollar goes further in Russia than in Germany is a big deal. But for defense hardware, the market rates matter more"

This is a nitpick, but Russia has a mostly domestic arms industry, right? So wouldn't PPP be more relevant than market rates here? To my understanding Russia is building most of its weapon systems locally and not purchasing them from other countries.

On the topic of the defense-industrial complex- I think one of the quieter issues is that a future European military would be building some of its own weapons in Europe, which would lead to less sales for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. So this is why the US defense industry has lobbied behind the scenes against a European Army

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Before the shooting started, a good negotiated outcome would have been the US out of NATO. It's a makework program for American arms manufacturers and has not contributed to American safety in the post-Cold War. Indeed, just the opposite, as this war shows. During the Cold War, there was a credible threat of MAD for the NATO countries. Now there is no credible threat of MAD if Putin, say, hacks the Latvian election. So what exactly is the point? If we want to fight a war for Poland, we can do it without a poorly conceived treaty obligation. We have no treaty obligation to Taiwan and yet there is some semi-credible threat there, so China has avoided an invasion. That's the outcome we want!

This was a frustration of mine during the Trump years. He was mad at NATO because the Europeans weren't paying their share or whatever, but the point was that he should have been exploring ways to amicably dissolve the whole thing. Unfortunately, he's grossly incompetent so even when he was the hint of a good idea, there's no possibility of execution.

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Matt doesn't really make the threat argument here in any coherent manner. I think right now it's closer between Russia and China than Matt makes out.

Sure China is larger and long term seems like a more plausible competitor, but the Putin regimes aggressiveness in the last 8 years, in which the Ukraine invasion is only the current capstone, is quite in another category, and needs to count their hybrid war conduct as well.

Even Matt's mumbled call for withdrawal from NATO wouldn't be enough to pull us out of Putin's sites unless we move to a position of true neutrality in regards to Russian attempts to expand their dominance westward and undermine liberal democracy in Europe.

I assume there's a subtext in this to stave off nuclear proliferation in Japan and South Korea, but if so it's worth actually stating.

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The difference is in our allies, not in our enemies. Russia *is* a threat, but it is a threat that a competent and well-funded European military (or militaries) should be fully capable of handling on its own, maybe with some operational support by the US military but certainly no major commitments of force.

Our Asian allies, even fully militarized and tightly linked, could not deal with China on their own.

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If Asia were as tightly linked as Europe, I think they'd be okay. Or at least a credible defense on their own. After all Vietnam alone fought of an admittedly half hearted Chinese invasion within living memory.

But they are nowhere close to that. Vietnam and Taiwan and South Korea and Japan aren't exactly cooperating in any meaningful way as far as military goes. I've never even heard of joint drills.

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The difference between Russia and China is that if China attacked Taiwan, our bringing SWIFT and Chinese central bank sanctions against them would plunge the globe into an economic catastrophe not seen since the 1930s.

Russia invading Ukraine is somewhere on the spectrum with China/Taiwan on one end and Saddam/Kuwait on the other, and probably closer to the latter than the former.

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Let a thousand green, glowing, carnivorous flowers bloom.

By which I mean, I fucking wish we would let Seoul and Tokyo build some nukes. And someone needs to facilitate a dozen nuclear-tipped cruise missiles with mobile launching platforms finding their way into Taipei’s hands too.

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Sounds like a nice world.

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