MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Challenge of Foreign Policy Free Riding: Limited Government for Me, Not for Thee

Posted by M. C. on February 9, 2022

in 8 of 16 European states said they opposed fighting for NATO allies against Russia. In another three countries pluralities rejected defending their neighbors. The overall median result was 50 to 38 percent against. In Poland, where caterwauling about the supposed Russian threat is constant, opponents outpolled proponents by 43 to 40 percent. One can imagine their response if they had been asked about risking life and limb on behalf of Kyiv,

by Doug Bandow

https://original.antiwar.com/doug-bandow/2022/02/08/the-challenge-of-foreign-policy-free-riding-limited-government-for-me-not-for-thee/

Free riding is a constant of international relations. That is evident in Europe today.

The Ukraine crisis understandably has Europe on edge. But no one – Russian, Ukrainian, America, or European – believes that Europeans will fight for Kyiv. To simply raise the issue is to elicit a snicker. Modern Europeans believe their birthright is not to have to fight, that if they are threatened their defense is be provided by Americans.

Ironically, that assumption reflects as much contempt as respect for the US. Many Europeans possess a barely suppressed sense of moral superiority over the colossus of the New World, with its overt capitalist ethos, ragged welfare state, surplusage of guns, widespread religious commitment, rejection of solidarity politics, and ignorance of all things foreign. To be fair, criticisms across the Pond are not without some basis, as is evident from the bitter, increasingly dangerous political divides and policy failures in America today. Still, even those Europeans filled with condescension continue to look westward for protection from the vicissitudes of a dangerous world.

However, widespread disdain for the results of the vaunted American political experiment has done little to diminish the desire to clamber aboard the US defense dole. Europeans who routinely deride Washington’s blundering interventions abroad nevertheless even more loudly insist that American policymakers should constantly reassure them that sufficient American military personnel are always available to die on their behalf should that become necessary. To question this demand is to be denounced as an isolationist and worse.

Consider European military spending. NATO stands for North America and the Others. According to NATO figures, America came in at 3.6 percent of GDP. Of the other 29 members, only Greece devoted more effort than the US – to confront not Russia, but long-term enemy though fellow alliance member Turkey. Another outlier was tiny Croatia, which approached three percent.

France, Great Britain, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia hit or broke two percent, NATO’s agreed-upon standard. Everyone else, including Germany, Italy, and Spain, fell below. Even two percent is not impressive for nations – most notably Poland and the three Baltic States – which spend every moment of everyday warning about Moscow’s every move, complaining about the unfairness of the world, and demanding a permanent US troop presence. Do they believe their freedom is worth only two cents on the Euro? The gulf in combat capabilities between America and Europe is even greater than the spending differential. But then, as noted before, defense is Washington’s, not Brussels’ job.

Since 2014 Russia’s abusive behavior and Washington’s whining have spurred some European countries to spend more. But not that much more. And Europe’s largest nations with the greatest potential – Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and Britain – are unlikely to do enough to confront the presumed threat they want America to defend them from.

Indeed, Europeans evidence no shame in forever cheap-riding on the US. For instance, in a 2020 Pew Research Center poll majorities in 8 of 16 European states said they opposed fighting for NATO allies against Russia. In another three countries pluralities rejected defending their neighbors. The overall median result was 50 to 38 percent against. In Poland, where caterwauling about the supposed Russian threat is constant, opponents outpolled proponents by 43 to 40 percent. One can imagine their response if they had been asked about risking life and limb on behalf of Kyiv, to which their nation has no legal obligation. Predictably, however, most Europeans said they expected the US to drop everything elsewhere and save them, if necessary. They don’t believe their allies are worth supporting, but no worries: the Yanks, though unsuited for inclusion in polite European society, will take care of everything.

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