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Defending America

This article, from last week's Economist, is a good one, not just for what's in it, but for what it only touches on.

Take this, almost throw-away, remark, about the decision to fund a weapon called the Crusader:

Even more controversially, [the Department of Defense] will proceed with the Crusader, a self-propelled howitzer whose value has often been questioned by radical defense thinkers. Malicious souls cannot help noticing that the Crusader's manufacturer, United Defense, is part-owned by the Carlyle Group, in which some top Republicans, including George Bush senior, are involved.

Those "malicious souls" apparently include Red Herring, which published a lengthy report on the Carlyle Group and its dealings (which, apparently, more than raise an eyebrow). But the essence of the situation is there, in the Economist's one sentence — there seems to be a serious conflict of interest. That's all you really need to know.

Finally, consider the conclusion of the Economist piece:

After years of scolding European governments for their failure to spend enough on defence, there is now a new toughness in the Pentagon's message to its NATO allies. Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defence Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon, says Europe's armed forces have already "atrophied to the point of virtual irrelevance." According to Vago Muradian, a Washington-based observer of the arms industry, America's defence chiefs are all but resigned to the reality that — barring a few pockets of excellence, such as special forces — "Europe's military capability is bankrupt." And they have given up wasting their breath, and energy, on galvanising feckless European friends. They have a war to fight, and fretting over incompetent allies is too much of a distraction.

Here, in one paragraph, is neatly summarized the sum total of thousand and thousands of words of hand-wringing and indignation, published on dozens of "warblogs" and in political opinion pieces. Bashing Europe's lack of perspective is fast becoming a pastime, among American political self-publishers especially. (Take a look at to get an idea of what I mean — you'll be sure to find a few links on the subject (though it by no means predominates the site).) And European political leaders do indeed lack perspective. But is that really so interesting as to merit such endless attention, and so many countless, defensive reactions? No, not really.

Though it is amusing to see how much effort people will go to to explain why they don't care about what someone else says, I guess.

Addendum: The New York Times offers a longer overview of Europe's feelings about America's recent actions here.

February 21, 2002 4:28 PM

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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer


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