"The demilitarization of Europe -- where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it -- has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared in a Feb. 23 speech to NATO officers and others at the National Defense University in Washington.
Is Gates right? What exactly does "the demilitarization of Europe" mean for U.S. national security interests? Should Americans care if Europe has to live in the shadow of a militarily superior post-Soviet Russia? Is NATO, alas, a lost cause?
Gates' perspective also suggests that, unless the United States is to go it alone in the world, it will need to cultivate partners among rising nation-states, such as India and Brazil, that are more or less U.S.-friendly (at least not enemies) and, unlike Europe, are rebuilding their militaries. In short, should the U.S. be planning for a post-Europe world? Does Europe still matter? Can we count on Europe any more?