Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Not Only The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict That The New York Times Botches

Reading the editorials of the New York Times is often a real trial: far too often they are an odd mix of empty homilies, irritating hedging, willed or unwilled ignorance, or lightweight analyses. This is particularly the case, of course, with regards to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For sheer mindlessness, though, it is hard to beat today's editorial,"Talking Truth to NATO," which castigates our European allies for not spending more on "defense." Why should they do so? Well, because "The Atlantic allies face a host of new and old dangers." Old dangers? What could that possibly mean except the threat of a Russian invasion? If that's what the Times means, say so, and let's discuss it. New dangers? What new dangers, let alone a "host" of them? The Times doesn't say.

Then there's the "free-rider problem," says the Times. The proof:"During most of the cold war, the US accounted for 50 percent of total NATO military spending; today it accounts for 75 percent" Could Europe be right and the US wrong in judging how much should be spent on the military, in light of the end of the cold war and the Soviet threat? Wouldn't another way of interpreting the same figures be not that Europe's military budgets are too low but ours are too high?

Of course, what the Times has in mind is Libya, where according to the editorial NATO's performance is "shockingly wobbly." Pretty strong. Suppose, as doesn't seem unlikely, the Quaddafi regime soon collapses, thanks to NATO's military effort?

Anyway, why should NATO have made a much greater military effort? Suppose there had been no intervention at all: just how would a continuation of Quaddafi in power have effected the security of Europe? The answer, of course, is that who governs Libya was not merely irrelevant to the "security" of either the US or Europe, but that there was a much better case that whatever the true national interests of either US or Europe,they were being served perfectly well by Quaddafi. Sure, he was a nasty son-of-a-bitch (quoting FDR), but for quite awhile he had been OUR son of a bitch. So if military action is to be judged solely on the basis of national "security," then neither the US nor NATO should have intervened at all.

In short, the issues in Libya are moral, not those of national interest, let alone national "security."

Finally, the editorial concludes that "every defense ministry in Europe" should be "frightened," because what would happen "if they had to fight a more formidable enemy?" Once again: such as who? Germany appears to be off the table. Russia, then ? Perhaps China? Please be specific and provide analyses of these new/old threats.


Anonymous said...

Lovely, perceptive analysis of an editorial that echoes the thoroughly criminal war-making policies of the US. Most NATO countries have no interest in our latest bloodthirsty neo-colonialist adventure in Libya, in part because the stolen oil revenues once Libya becomes a full-fledged client state of the West will be shared exclusively by the US, England and France, and in part because those other European NATO states are not currently war-making colonialist states. But their refusal to participate is an embarrassment to the US and, more importantly, an unpleasant drain on our weakened economy. Is Quaddafi more of a son of a bitch and danger to the world than Obama, Hardly. The US is the sociopath in the room and the weaker its power, the better off the rest of the world will be.

Jerome Slater said...


Well, I guess I'm glad you liked it, but I consider your post to be over the top. I don't share your view about "bloodthirsty, neo-colonialist" etc etc, let alone your bizarre portrayal of Obama.

In fact, as I hope I made clear in my earlier posts, on balance I thought that the Libyan intervention was justified, although it was a close call. But if it was justified, it was on moral grounds, not on the basis of spurious "national security" grounds.

fuster said...

from Gates speech----

"Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan - the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history - total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11. Furthermore, rising personnel costs combined with the demands of training and equipping for Afghan deployments has consumed an ever-growing share of already meager defense budgets. The result is that investment accounts for future modernization and other capabilities not directly related to Afghanistan are being squeezed out - as we are seeing today over Libya.'

"I am the latest in a string of U.S. defense secretaries who have urged allies privately and publicly, often with exasperation, to meet agreed-upon NATO benchmarks for defense spending. However, fiscal, political and demographic realities make this unlikely to happen anytime soon, as even military stalwarts like the U.K have been forced to ratchet back with major cuts to force structure. Today, just five of 28 allies - the U.S., U.K., France, Greece, along with Albania - exceed the agreed 2% of GDP spending on defense."

Gates goes on to say that he doesn't expect NATO countries to commit much above that 2% GDP, but suggests that it's not a lack of weaponry, but

" ...intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets are lacking"
and duplication of assets (and consequently, weaknesses).

The NYT ed was clear in saying that it's a lack of targeting specialists and munitions that should frighten defense ministers.

While Gates isn't suggesting that a larger-scale war is around the corner, as you seem to think the Times does, there are more formidable potential adversaries about.
NATO is currently fighting a Pakistan-supported insurgency in Afghanistan and the UN is attempting to enforce compliance with IAEA regulation of Iran's nuclear program.