SecDef Gates: Old Europe's Lack of Participation in America's Global Policework Is "Unacceptable"

Outgoing United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just gave NATO a tongue-lashing in his farewell address to the transatlantic alliance. The speech is a ringing example of the bipartisan lack of self-awareness when it comes to the consequences (especially in allied countries) of having one state dominate the accumulation and deployment of hard power around the globe. Excerpt from the Armed Forces Press Service write-up:

"In the past, I've worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance between members who specialize in 'soft' humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks and those conducting the 'hard' combat missions -- between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership, be they security guarantees or headquarters billets, but don't want to share the risks and the costs," the secretary said.

"This is no longer a hypothetical worry," he added. "We are there today. And it is unacceptable."

In Afghanistan, "NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops," Gates said. As for our latest North African adventure, "while every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission....Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can't. The military capabilities simply aren't there."

"I am the latest in a string of U.S. defense secretaries who have urged allies privately and publicly, often with exasperation, to meet agreed-upon NATO benchmarks for defense spending," Gates said. "However, fiscal, political and demographic realities make this unlikely to happen any time soon, as even military stalwarts like the [United Kingdom] have been forced to ratchet back with major cuts to force structure."

Today, just five of the 28 NATO allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Greece and Albania – exceed the agreed-upon 2 percent of gross domestic product spending on defense. And that probably won't change, Gates said.

Worst of all, there might come a day in some theoretical universe when the American public might finally demand and even effect a slowdown in the eternal growth of military spending:

"As you all know, America's serious fiscal situation is now putting pressure on our defense budget, and we are in a process of assessing where the U.S. can or cannot accept more risk as a result of reducing the size of our military," the secretary said. "Tough choices lie ahead affecting every part of our government, and during such times, scrutiny inevitably falls on the cost of overseas commitments – from foreign assistance to military basing, support and guarantees."

Gates said he and Obama believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to withdraw from its global responsibilities, noting that he discussed expanding U.S. engagements in Asia last week at a regional security conference in Singapore. [...]

"The blunt reality," he continued, "is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense -- nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets."

It never ceases to amaze that America's ruling class cannot wrap their heads around one obvious fact: When you assume an ever-greater share of responsibility for the world's affairs, other countries will become increasingly irresponsible (or non-responsible, if you prefer). You want to make allies a bit more concerned with their own defense, let alone with foreign military adventures? Remove your troops and bases from their soil, and let them know that you are no longer in the business of being a first-responder in the guarantee of their security. Meanwhile, it might be worth beginning to consider whether intervening in far-flung civil wars really qualifies as "defense."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    OK that dude is clearly talking out the side of his mouth again.

  • Contrarian P||

    I'm surprised there isn't a mention of market failure in here somewhere.

  • ||

    Pardon me, but I'm going to repost part of a comment from yesterday:

    I'm listening to an audio course, "The Tiber and the Potomac: Rome, America, and Empires of Trust."

    Really good stuff, and the lecturer's talking about how similar the U.S. situation is to the later Roman Republic's. Very compelling case being made for the U.S. having a proto-empire, particularly in regard to Europe, which is presented as our equivalent to Rome's Greece.

    Kind of scary to think what this could mean for the future. I've usually dismissed claims that the U.S. is really imperial, but what this guy is saying makes sense--we, like the Romans, don't think we have, nor do we want, an empire, but we may end up with one, anyway.

    The empire of trust concept is based on the idea that our allies are letting us police the world, to the point where they are basically letting their militaries diminish to almost nothing. Despite their very vocal anti-Americanism, they still trust the U.S. with the insane power we have.
  • ChrisO||

    Haven't listened to the audio course, but the Romans seemed pretty aware of having an empire, particularly during the late Republic. Only Romans and Italian foederati were eligible for citizenship, and the Romans sent out tax farmers to seize the wealth of all those recently conquered territories. While it's true that Rome often expanded its borders initially for defensive purposes, there was a very clear distinction in the Roman mind between "themselves" and "the conquered people they ruled over." I don't know how you characterize that as anything but an empire.

    If anything, the distinction lessened over time during the Principate, as the conquered regions eventually became provinces with full Roman citizenship. Something, it's worth noting, that the British never did in places like India and Africa.

    Although America can be said to be imperial in some ways, the fact is we really suck at it. A real empire would divert all the oil revenue in Iraq and the opium revenue in Afghanistan to the mother country, as well as brutally putting the locals to work for the benefit of the rulers.

  • ||

    The lecture focuses more on the period up until the end of the Punic Wars. At that time, even Italy wasn't part of Rome (the Social War wasn't until 91 B.C.). Romans tended to win wars, install someone friendly to Rome, and leave. In fact, Rome was considered safe enough that kings would die and attempt to leave their kingdoms to the Romans!

    It probably wasn't until fairly late that the Romans began to overcome their isolationism (most of their wars were like ours, to fight potential threats away from the homeland) and accept the idea of empire. Once that happened, it wasn't very long until the Republic fell apart (not sure there's any causal relationship, but that's how it happened).

    Once the Republic collapsed, wars of conquest with annexation became commonplace. The provinces, even in very late Republican times, became places to suck wealth out of.

    Not sure what's going to happen with the U.S., but we might end up in a similar situation, which mostly looks bad to me. Can we remain a republic with a worldwide empire? And, worse yet, will making our proto-empire into a real one be tempting if our economic woes continue?

  • Tim||

    Reg: But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
    PFJ Member: Brought peace?
    Reg: Frustrated Oh god, peace, SHUT UP!


  • ||

    The one time in the lecture that the professor left the Republic was to talk about the Romans' war on terror--dealing with the Jews. What's interesting is that the Jewish leadership generally loved Rome during the Republican times. Things changed by the early Empire, of course.

  • ChrisO||

    We may have been using some terms different. I view the "late Republic" as the period between the rise of the brothers Gracchi and the Battle of Actium. The Punic Wars occurred much earlier, really during the height of the Republic. It was definitely the pivotal moment of Republican history, but I divide the eras different, I guess.

    In answer to your basic question, there was very much a causal relationship, actually.

    The Roman Republic was built around the concept of the citizen military. Only men with sufficient funds to equip themselves could fight for Rome, and there was no standing army. Thus, no political figure or family ever acquired the ability to take total power by force. That worked for a small state fighting seasonal wars with its Latin, and later Italian, neighbors.

    But large states with restive, conquered populations and more borders to defend inevitably require permanent military installations. Perpetual war during the "middle Republic" basically killed off a large percentage of the free men of property. Gaius Marius fixed the problem by expanding military eligibility to any citizen and paying for their equipment and training out of state funds. Inevitably, he and his successors Sulla and Caesar who had the loyalty of the troops became more powerful than the state they served. At that point, Rome effectively became a military dictatorship, which it remained for the rest of its existence.

  • ||

    I should've said "Mid-Republic."

    I'm not sure what the beginning of the end really was. Marius and, more so, Sulla are obvious signs of the inevitability of authoritarian rule, but I sometimes think the Senate murdering Tiberius Gracchus was really the key moment. If that (or something like that) hadn't happened, perhaps the Republic would've survived. Then again, maybe the fall was inevitable.

  • ChrisO||

    By the point the Gracchi arrived, it was probably inevitable. Of course, most things seem inevitable in retrospect.

    An interesting question is what would have happened to Rome had it chosen to stay small and become the "Switzerland of Classical Antiquity." That's probably the only way they could have maintained their Republican status as a delicately balanced oligarchy.

    Problem is, it's just as likely they would have been swallowed up by someone else's empire. Modern weaponry acts as a "force multiplier" for smaller states, whereas brute manpower gave larger states a bigger military advantage in Antiquity.

    Ultimately, I think America now has to make the choice that Rome didn't--to become a merchant republic, but a well-armed one. The difficulty in doing that nowadays is what I call the "CNN factor." Every civil war or tribal conflict generates carnage and atrocities. To become a merchant republic, we have to be able to say "it's none of our business, even if it looks horrible on television."

  • ||

    I'm--tentatively speaking--beginning to think that we're already too far down the road. It may be that the only question left to us is whether we can remain a republic when our empire becomes more explicit.

    Crazy shit, huh?

  • ChrisO||

    I don't think we'll get far enough with our empire building for that to become a dilemma. We're not nearly savage enough to reap the benefits of empire (not saying that's a bad thing). All we do is take on the costs.

    To me, the real question is what we become after the fiscal implosion.

  • H man||

    I wouldn't worry about being an empire in the old sense. First as ChrisO pointed out we're not quite barbaric enough. Secondly ever since the Soviets did what no European power would have thought of which is give AK-47's to the subject peoples it became too difficult to maintain a direct empire.

  • Jim||

    I think this is a good point. It's interesting to note that despite the obvious bullshit of it, and the fact that their political class must have known better, the Soviets actually seemed like True Believers(tm) when it came to "spreading the message". No power in history ever fully armed the indigs, but the Soviets threw modern weaponry around like it was going out of style.

  • ||

    No, I don't see us instantly morphing into a empire of conquest. But these things have a tendency to happen over time. I could see us becoming the de facto military for the world. The gap in military power is staggering. The whole planet spends less on us on military assets, and our ability to project power is pretty much unique.

    I'm not advocating an American Empire, nor do I think we have quite the Roman attitude towards people outside our country. It's hard to picture us as any kind of traditional imperial power. I suppose something along the lines of a commercial empire might be possible, though.

  • Turnkey||

    Until other countries pay some kind of tribute, even if it just amounts to supporting the troops the want in their country, the US would have trouble becoming an empire.

    Once tribute, support from vassal states, occurs than the constraints on building up the military continuously are much lower. At that point having more commitments is not a problem....

  • ||

    If we refuse to do the necessary fiscal corrections, it's likely we'll continue a slow economic decline. However, it's also likely we'll retain our military preeminence. I don't like what that could mean if some politicians start getting desperate.

  • ||

    In a way I can see a similarity between American attitudes with Europe and Roman attitudes with Greeks.

    To Romans, Greeks were the cultured, edumacated, genesis of civilization. Koine was lingua franca of that world. Greeks were also considered to be far past their best days as a political entity, and so over-cultured as to be a bunch of wimps who couldn't bail their own ass out of fires they started.

    Oh, and Greeks were totally effeminate boy-loving homos with terrible sexual mores.

    Yeah, that IS Europe to today's American perception.

    But politically, its not even close.

  • ||

    By the way, he has a book, too: Empires of Trust.

  • rather||

    I heard the other day that paying interest on our debt will equal the Chinese military spending budget. Scary

  • Whappan?||

    I think US interest payments already exceed Chinese military spending.

  • Paul||

    Despite their very vocal anti-Americanism, they still trust the U.S. with the insane power we have.

    What does this sound like on the domestic front? A group who displays very vocal anti-establishmentarianism, but seems to trust putting more and more power into government.

  • Southerner||

    That pretty much describes every left-wing group of self-proclaimed "anarchists" I've ever seen protesting against governments for cutting spending on welfare handouts.

    As I think Glenn Reynolds pointed out, in a truly anarchic society, these "anarchists" would all either have been killed outright or sold into slavery a long time ago; mostly the former, I suspect. (Wimpy welfare teat-suckers make lousy slaves. About the only positive use you can get out of them comes from grinding up their corpses for dog food, which would also regularly be done in a truly anarchic society.)

  • Sudden||

    After the comment you left yesterday, I searched for a torrent version of the course (my ass is too broke to be dropping real money on it). No luck, sad face. Sounded really interesting and I've been undecided on some of the comparisons between Rome and the current U.S. but it seems more relevent now than ever.

  • ||

    I've become much more impressed by the similarities than I once was. A big part of that is that we were intentionally founded to duplicate (and improve upon) the checks and balances found in the Republican system. But we also share some national characteristics with the Romans, and it gets a little creepy considering the parallels between Rome's relationship with Greece and ours with Europe.

  • rather||

    IIRC, Fox is going to do a special on this story

  • ||

    Seems a little advanced for television news. Are you sure they aren't doing a comparison between the U.S. and Gladiator?

  • ||

    Oh, and I didn't buy the audio course. I got it from my library. You should check to see if yours carries it. Mine has a bundle of the Modern Scholar and the Teaching Company courses. They rule my commutes (have seen some on DVD, too).

  • ChrisO||

    I love Old Europe--the restaurant in Washington DC, that is.

    Our ability to garrison hundreds of thousands of troops in Europe is dwindling. It has nothing to do with a choice. Though if we do choose to start bringing our forces home now, we could wind things up in an orderly fashion.

  • mike||

    The one good thing that may ultimately come of Afghanistan and Libya is the end of NATO. If you remove NATO from the equation you can hand pick whom you chose to train with and to what extent thus allowing for a large drawdown of forces and assets from much of 'old' euroland. Gates made a few other interesting points:

    “The non-U.S. NATO members collectively spend more than 300 billion U.S. dollars on defense annually, which, if allocated wisely and strategically, could buy a significant amount of usable military capability,” Gates said. “Instead, the results are significantly less than the sum of the parts.”

    Inefficiencies caused by ineptitude, national pride and national corporatism

    For example, he said, Norway and Denmark have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft in the Libya operation, yet have struck about one-third of the targets, and Belgium and Canada also are making major contributions to the strike mission.

    And to think Belgium doesn't even have a functional government!

  • Bob||

    But they have Hercule Poirot!

  • ||

    But we have Hercule Triathlon Savinien!

  • Kolohe||

    you remove NATO from the equation you can hand pick whom you chose to train with

    We're already sort of doing this. There's a whole bunch of ad-hoc multi-lateral partnerships, and a few of those are to point of de-facto permanance. And ISAF (the international force in Afghanistan) has a NATO backbone, but is made up of over 40 countries.

  • ||

    I've worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance between members who specialize in 'soft' humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks and those conducting the 'hard' combat missions


  • Patricia||

    I'm astonished.

    Meanwhile, it might be worth beginning to consider whether intervening in far-flung civil wars really qualifies as "defense."

    You oppose a simple humanitarian act by a concensus of the progressive powers but it is OK for Bush to unilaterally start illegal, immoral, imperialistic wars against people of color?

  • Matt Welch||


  • ||

    Maybe she's talking about New Orleans? That's what Kanye said.

  • ||

    Patricia is not fooled by our libertarian facade. Obviously, we are pro-Bush neo-cons out to trick her.

  • Restoras||

    Don't. It's called Insane Troll Logic.

    From the link:
    Insane Troll Logic is not just bad or stupid; it is a very exclusive flavor of stupid. It's the kind of stupidity that makes you pause and replay it in your mind, either because you didn't know that someone could be that wrong, or... you're not even actually sure what was just said. It's the kind of logic that just can't be argued with, not because it's right, but because the insane troll is so demented, so lost in his own insanity that any attempts to correct him will be met with more gibberish.

  • Citizen Nothing||


  • Kolohe||


  • Spiny Norman||


  • ||


  • rather||

    Patricia, do you mean the war on Aids in Africa? Without Bush's intervention, it could have killed many more

  • ||


  • ||

    Matt can answer for himself (I have no idea what his views on the Iragi adventure are) but for me--

    "Progressive powers"? France and the UK under conservative leadership?

    Bush's wars against people of color? I was against them. There was no more reason for us to involve ourselves in Iraq than there is for us to involve ourselves in Libya.

    And I should ask--have you ever been on the receiving end of a humanitarian bomb?

  • ||

    please squeeze some more words in there...

    "Blood for Oil" is popular. And maybe a mention of the U.N. or something.

  • Brett L||

    New here?

  • You're joking, right?||

    The "progressive powers" led by Obama, his Hillary groupies, Bush's favorite generals and the leftist Euro-Trash leaders for the moment distracted from their sex scandals with this new war toy, have the military in far-flung, newly-initiated operations in Asia and Africa. While Bush was a bad dream, Obama is a waking nightmare. There is no sign of an end to this madness -- only a few small voices of protest from congress. The Bush-hating, faux-anti-war Democrats have gone nearly silent.

    Besides, didn't Bush also defend his wars as humanitarian in the sense that he was saving people from despots?

  • SFC B||

    Only Team Blue can do humanitarian actions. When JDAMs are launched with good intentions the people they kill are automatically reincarnated as something better.

    It's in the TMs.

  • Oh, I get it...||

    that's why Obama's killer drones have smiley-face decals on the explosive tip. Bush's had a xkull and xbone!

  • Shorter Patricia||

    Blue is my favorite color. I assume red is your favorite color because I'm stupid.

  • ||

    I wish I'd said that. In fact, I shall say that in the future, frequently.

  • Jersey Patriot||


  • WTF||

    Patricia is a spoof, right?

  • or shrikey's mom||

  • Paul||

    Welcome to H&R, Patricia. However, you might have made a wrong turn at Free Republic, thinking you were heading out to Little Green Footballs. If there's anything we can help you find, just let a member know.

  • Yup||

    One silly comment and 25 even sillier replies. It's a symbiotic relationship.

  • Paul||


  • ||


  • ||

    To be honest, if we're going to have an empire we should at least get some benefit out of it. If we are going to be the de facto occupier of Iraq, we should be getting oil for all that blood.

  • ||

    Or at least loot, slaves, and tribute from conquered peoples.

  • ||

    That's what we do after we go, "Say, this is an empire, isn't it?" Even I, a libertarian, occasionally think we should get paid for all of our police work--if we simply must do it. Not far from there to tribute.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The fact that we're not getting pay or any stuff and are going to leave Iraq is further proof America is NOT an empire.

  • ||

    Like I said, the argument is that we're a proto-empire, not one right now.

  • ||

    I'll believe we leaving Iraq when I see it.


  • ||

    We might leave, but I'll note that we have a military presence in a great number of countries.

    Our position in Europe is still pretty significant, and when did that war end? Even measuring from the end of the Cold War, to be generous.

  • ||

    You oppose a simple humanitarian act by a concensus of the progressive powers but it is OK for Bush to unilaterally start illegal, immoral, imperialistic wars against people of color?


  • Citizen Nothing||

    I'd suggest "Whoooooosh!"

  • L4Freedom||

    I totally agree with Gates. If those capuchino-drinking Europeans aren't willing to put their toy soldiers in harms way. What's the point of NATO?

    I say disband NATO and let those socialists fend from themselves. They want Libyan oil? Let them get it themselves and stop involving us in their conflicts!

  • DJF||

    NATO has repeatedly pledged to spend 2% GDP on defense yet keeps on cutting their own defense budgets. The US needs to leave NATO, if the NATO countries don't think they need to spend even 2% to defend themselves then certainly the US does not need to spend any of its money to defend the NATO countries.

    The US policy of being world policeman has cost trillions and added a major burden on industry and workers who are forced to subside the defense of their competitors in other countries.

  • ||

    If we are going to be an empire, I want orgies. First serve, first come.

  • ||

    And slave girls, lots of slave girls.

  • weiner's weiner||

    what slave girls?

  • ||

    That's later.

  • ||

    and baths... don't forget the baths!

  • SF||

    And the spankings.

  • ||

    I think that's more medieval times.

  • nekoxgirl||

    And after the spankings, the oral sex.

  • Bush's and Obama's||

    ...talking ghoul, worshiped by both Presidents. On the prowl for more war.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nice piece, Matt. The embarrassing fact for official Washington is that the world is a much less dangerous place than it used to be. The idea that Russia is going to invade Poland, or that China is going to invade the Philippines, is ridiculous. Saddam was the last head of state to believe in old-fashioned imperialism, and he's dead. Our defense budget is at least twice as big as it needs to be. But our reps get elected by being sugar daddies, and $250+ billion is a lot of sugar.

  • ||

    To my point above, I wonder if we're maintaining our megamegamilitary precisely for the reason that our leaders tend to believe in a Pax Americana. If they do, we may never voluntarily relinquish it.

  • Kolohe||

    Oh, there's no doubt that the bi-partisan consensus that runs US foreign affairs (and every president in our lifetime) believes in the Pax America. But still, most of the spending is sustained because it's a jobs program for a significant portion of Congressional districts.

  • ||

    Agreed. It's like everything is pushing towards some inevitable conclusion. Where's Hari Seldon when you need him?

  • Tim||

    Reg: [reading prepared statement] "We, the People's Front of Judea, brackets, official, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom. "
    Brian: What?
    Reg: "Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites..."

  • DHS/ICE/DOJ/CIA et al||

    PATRIOT ACT -- most of the dweebish congress-volk voted to renew it. Obama and his administration love the power it gives them. War and terror panic has also proved to be a brilliant excuse to pump up the "national-security" budget to grotesquely large levels. More staff, more laws then ever before. Grope your junk at the bus stop, internal passports, SWAT raid for failure to repay a student loan -- is anything out of the question now?

  • Paul||

    The idea that Russia is going to invade Poland, or that China is going to invade the Philippines, is ridiculous.

    I think the more salient fear is that China might invade Taiwan.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Restoras||

    Given the proto-capitalist tendencies of China right now we could probably classify as a hostile takeover and then just cut new trade agreements.

    Persaonlly, I think China is going to invade Siberia as soon as its excess male population reaches military service age. Lot's o'resources, including females to replace the ones that have been aborted for the last 20 years.

  • Paul||

    Given the proto-capitalist tendencies of China right now we could probably classify as a hostile takeover and then just cut new trade agreements.

    I take the contrarian view that more capitalistic nations try to avoid [major] wars. They're hard on bank accounts and trade agreements. Plus, if the country you're invading is your biggest customer, do you really want to bomb them?

  • Rep. Anthony Weiner||

    They're hard on bank accounts and trade agreements.

    I also have hard-on bank accounts and hard-on trade agreements.

  • Restoras||

    I tend to agree but would point out that it is still a proto-capitalist society. Should the Chinese Politburo decide capitalistic practices are no longer in thier best interest, game over.

  • ||

    I think pseudo is a better modifier than proto.

  • ||

    If they want their girls back, maybe China should invade Brooklyn.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    If we can live with China ruling Tibet (and obviously we can), and with China ruling Hong Kong (and obviously we can), we can live with China ruling Taiwan. I wouldn't want to be a Taiwanese under Chinese rule, but I wouldn't go to war to save them either, just as I wouldn't go to war to save Georgia (the other Georgia) from Russian domination.

  • Jim||

    I wouldn't go to war to save our Georgia from Russian domination.

  • ||

    I would. Need my peaches, man.

  • Carol||

    Down here in Florida Georgia is the only thing standing between us and Tennessee.

  • ||

    We need a vomitorium in Afghanistan.

  • ||

    That's for damned sure. Exit, stage left.

  • Spiny Norman||

    As you all know, America's serious fiscal situation is now putting pressure on our defense budget...

    And the Europeans have money to burn?

    Also, Albania's in NATO? Albania?

  • ||

    It borders on the Adriatic.

  • Tim||

    It's a Balkan nation, they all border on insanity.

  • Citizen Nothing||


  • Paul||

    ...and its chief export is Chrome.

  • Joe R.||

    I'm glad I'm not the only person that immediately thinks of that song whenever I hear "Albania".

  • Let's give billions to Greece!||

  • I'm stupid about geography||

    North Atlantic Treaty Organization??...again, is Libya in the North Atlantic? Is Yemen? Is Pakistan? Is Mexico? I know Afghanistan is not. Has there been a tectonic shift in the continental plates?

  • ||

    NATO ceased being NATO when the Warsaw Pact dissolved. It's a shame when an alliance can't just declare victory and dissolve when they are no longer needed. Instead, it seems they will seek out a new enemy, any new enemy, to justify their presence.

  • Tim||

    Soldier: Here is better than home, eh, sir? I mean, at home if you kill someone they arrest you — here they'll give you a gun and show you what to do, sir. I mean, I killed 15 of those buggers. Now, at home they'd hang me — here they'll give me a fucking medal, sir!

  • DJF||

    They also need to justify their new billion dollar headquarters they are building.

  • T||

    Somebody else made the same point at length a few years back.

  • ||

    Meanwhile, it might be worth beginning to consider whether intervening in far-flung civil wars really qualifies as "defense."

    In all fairness you can probably get to Libya from the nearest NATO ally by canoe.

  • MNG||

    The best defense is a good offense?

  • JOOS||


  • ||

    The reasoning appears to be that if we have to fight, make it somewhere other than here. This doesn't require us to take preemptive action, of course, but it does mean having an ability to project force.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If Gates really wants the other NATO nations to start spending 2% of GDP on defense, maybe he should start by convincing the US to do so.

  • Paul||

    Nice. Except what I really think Gates wants is for the NATO members to quit buying uniforms like this.

  • ||

    Those are hand-me-downs.

  • ||

    And from the looks of the rifles, so are they. (Are those M-1 Garands? They sure look like it.)

  • ||

    Quite a few NATO countries used M-1 Garands. They were either outright purchased or furnished by the US under various aid arrangements. The Italian government even had Baretta manufacture them under licence. Baretta even produced some in 7.62 NATO instead of 30/06.

    A few years ago the CMP was selling a bunch of Garands that had been returned by Denmark. They had been the active service rifle of the Danish army until the 1980s.

    There were a bunch of the Italian Garands for sale by a Canadian company for $C200 each. It was not legal to import them to the US due to Clinton era legislation banning the importation of firearms built to US military designs in foreign countries. It was kind of wierd too since they are a highly restricted item under Canada's gun control laws and only the most connected individuals would ever be able to get permits to own them.

  • ||

    I know that (at least, I know everything in your first two sentences). I was just surprised that (assuming the image is a recent one) anyone would still be using them, even for ceremonial purposes.

    In JROTC, we used to drill with M-1s. We even learned to fieldstrip and reassemble them in the dark. But they couldn't be fired, and we never had bayonets (more's the pity).

  • || Convention 2007/1.Arlington Unknown Soldier.JPG

    We're still using them and Springfield '03s for various ceremonial purposes to the best of my knowledge.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns have M14s.

    That's also the most common rifle used today by the squads that fire the three volleys (frequently erroneously referred to in the media as "a twenty-one gun salute") over the grave at military burials.

  • Paul||

    Caption contest.

    "We're invading who? When?"

  • SF||

    We represent the Lollipop Guild.

  • Gibson||

    "Ye have bled for Wallace. Will ye bleed for me?"

    "Well, we didn't get all dressed up like this for nothin'!"

  • A Mighty Faggot||

    Our military has really hit the skids since they repealed DADT.

  • o rly||

    most brilliant uniforms evar. imagine losing to them. just knowing those dudes were a threat to your life would severely sap your morale.

  • Ratpicia||

    You oppose a simple humanitarian act by Bush via Congressional authorization, but it is OK for Hussein to start unilateral, illegal, immoral, imperialistic wars against sand niggers?

  • ||

    as far as imperial adventures go it might be wise to check the bank balance before sallying forth.Rome gained land and gold we get Afghanistan.The money spent there in military costs could have bought the country ten times over.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties