May 26, 2011 12:22PM

NATO: Theater of the Absurd

I don’t know what the right word is here, but there is something remarkable about the fact that the United States is currently borrowing money from China to buy precision‐​guided munitions to give to the Europeans to drop on Libya, isn’t there?

At AEI on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates responded to a question about removing U.S. troops from Europe by saying that bringing them back home and having to build facilities to base them here actually would be about a wash, money‐​wise. That’s probably correct, but the real question is why we shouldn’t bring them home and disband their units. On that logic, Gates remarked that Europe “is one of the places where an American presence has a significant impact on our allies, on our friends, and on everybody for that matter.”

He’s right. It does have a significant impact on our allies: it encourages European countries to let their defenses atrophy to the point where they aren’t even capable of beating up on a third‐​rate military like Libya’s without our help. The irony here is that this phenomenon is something Gates has whined about previously. But until an American defense policymaker can put two and two together and figure out that if we defend Europe, Europeans won’t, we’re going to be stuck in this ridiculous feedback loop.