Jonah Goldberg has a few questions about America's coming European future:
Europe is a free-rider. It can only afford to be Europe because we can afford to be America.
The most obvious and most cited illustration of this fact is national defense. Europeâ??s defense budgets have been miniscule because Europeans can count on Uncle Sam to protect them. Britain, which has the most credible military in NATO after ours, has funded its butter account with its gun account. As Mark Steyn recently noted in National Review, from 1951 to 1997 the share of British government expenditure devoted to defense fell from 24 percent to 7 percent, while the share spent on health and welfare increased from 22 percent to 53 percent. And that was before New Labour started rolling back Thatcherism. If America Europeanizes, whoâ??s going to protect Europe? Whoâ??s going to keep the sea lanes open? Whoâ??s going to contain Iran â?? China? Okay, maybe. But then whoâ??s going to contain China?
There are a few points to make about this. First, take the figures Steyn quotes - they're a bit out of context, aren't they? I mean, there was a fairly sizable strategic shift that occurred in the years from 1951 to 1997 that might have some explanatory power besides ravenous socialism.
Second, Europe's defense budgets are only minuscule compared to America - which, needless to say, is the wrong comparison. America is not only a European ally, it also spends nearly as much on defense as the entire world, combined. The better metric is to compare European defense spending to Russia (and throw in China too, for the fun of it) - and as you can see, they match up fairly well. Europe, collectively, accounts for a 20 percent share of defense spending, while Russia accounts for 5 percent and China 8 percent.
Now, you could argue that individual European defense budgets are low but if we assume that the Socialized America Goldberg fears spends what Britain or France do (about 2.5 percent of GDP) that's still a nicely funded, nuclear-armed, military.
So to answer Goldberg's first question: Europe can defend Europe. (It would also be nice to know what Europe needs to defend itself from that its current budget is somehow unable to cope with.)
The second question about sea lanes is a curious one because Europe polices sea lanes. Maybe Goldberg meant to imply that Europe doesn't defend enough sea-lanes to secure its trade and commercial interests. Or maybe he thinks they do a bad job?
As for who's going to contain China, why does Goldberg assume that an America with British-level defense spending wouldn't be up to the task? I mean, at the point that it becomes obvious that China needs to be contained, I'm assuming the U.S. military will prioritize accordingly and settling sectarian feuds in Baghdad and tribal spats in Kabul will take a back-seat.
And if China has to be contained, you would suspect that at a minimum the U.S. would find several Asian allies ready to contribute to that containment - including Japan, Australia, Taiwan, and, potentially, India and South Korea. Those are some wealthy countries with decently funded militaries and no small mount of suspicion regarding China's rise. So, to answer Goldberg's final question, even a "Europeanized" American defense budget, in conjunction with a concert of Asian powers, could contain China should the need arise.