Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Europe’s Golden Opportunity

Americans are often told, most recently by economist Paul Krugman, that emulating European policies on a broad range of issues would demonstrate the ability of the U.S. to become an enlightened and just nation. Leaving aside Europe’s outreach programs called Nazism, Fascism and Communism, a golden opportunity for another teaching lesson from Europe has appeared. The recent earthquake in Haiti is the case in point.

Europeans often claim that is precisely the human catastrophe of WWII that enabled them to evolve beyond their history and embrace non-violence, equity, fairness and social justice. The U.S. on the other hand they claim is aggressive, unjust and militaristic. A stark measurement in both capability and magnanimity of Europeans and Americans will soon be on display.

In the case of the U.S., the ability to project material, financial, logistical, medical and humanitarian assistance depends on its military capability. This would be its ships, equipment, basing, technology, heavy lift aircraft, human resources, etc. A case in point is the military contribution to the relief efforts regarding the Asian Tsunami of 2005. (For those surprised by the military’s global humanitarian role a little research is suggested.)

In any case, the rationale for Europe to engineer, build, finance, staff and deploy a global humanitarian capabilities, rather than relying on the U.S. military is self-evident. In fact to do otherwise would undermine many of the claims of enlightened, non-aggressive governance. Europe has the requisite wealth, capability, and expertise to build a fleet of relief vessels/airlift fully equipped, staffed and pre-positioned to respond to various disasters on a moments notice. It would be interesting to see if these efforts would enjoy wide based public support in Europe and political support in Brussels. The alternative of the U.N. is suspect as that organization continues to fail or at best falter on its own mandates.

To paraphrase the words of V.P. Joe Biden, (whom by his own estimate is a bright guy, just ask him,) “it’s time for Europe to step up to the plate and do its fair share.” It’s a win-win situation. Europe could put its rhetoric into action and demonstrate that there is no need for military dominance by any nation a position embraced by President Obama. What’s not to like?

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