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Arming for the future

Europe needs to get its security and defense act together. What would have happened if the Sept. 11 attacks had targeted La Défense in Paris or London's Canary Wharf? Would the United States have waged war on their behalf in Afghanistan? Could the Europeans have done it themselves? Neither is probable. So what could the Europeans have done and what in the future should they aim to be able to do?
The realities of the trans-Atlantic relationship require Europe to be able to do more, within NATO and without. First, the United States is becoming increasingly unilateralist in its use of military power, even if it uses the language of multilateralism. Second, NATO no longer works very well. The United States has planned and executed the Afghan campaign through its national procedures; even if it had been willing to do that for its allies, they might not have been content to have a war waged on their behalf with no say in what was done.
For 50 years the United States provided the hub to which the Europeans attached themselves. The experience in Bosnia and Kosovo saw the progressive dismantling of this, not by the Europeans but by an America increasingly convinced of its own power, and with its own vision. The Europeans themselves have perpetuated the myth that NATO is effective for all their major military needs. This has made it hard for them to develop the capacity to act autonomously.
For too long the European Union has focused on the institutional structures of defense rather than the threats in the world beyond. The role of European defense was more to prepare Europeans for the concept of a "hard" EU rather than actually to do anything in particular. The West has thus found itself with several security "products" that do not serve the threat "market." Worse, except for the United States, it has not thought about what it does need to respond to the actual threats. So what can be done?
<br />First, Europe needs to start thinking more concretely about the threats it faces and the appropriate responses to them. There are huge disparities in the understandings and efforts of various European countries, too many of which have brushed aside the security challenge for too long. Second, there is a need to promote greater understanding among publics and political leaders about the role and utility of military power. In some countries there is a generation, or even two, who have never served in the armed forces and who have little understanding of what is militarily possible or necessary. Third, politicians need to explain to their respective publics why they have to increase defense expenditure. Europe is full of restructuring plans that look attractive on paper but which lack one vital ingredient: money. Modernization and professionalization do not come cheap, and effective force projection, the vital element of modern military effort, is very expensive.
Until Europeans have a security and defense product which meets current requirements, Europe will remain unprotected against current threats.
Fighting terrorism is also about intelligence, police work and judicial cooperation. But there is a real need for military capabilities, little of which Europe has at present. Simple reliance on the United States is not the answer. Public opinion will not forgive leaders who fail to take adequate measures in the wake of Sept. 11.