Thursday, February 27, 2014

History Repeating Itself--In Reverse

Remember how good everybody felt in the late 1980's when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union's empire in Eastern Europe collapsed?  We celebrated the victory of "freedom and democracy" over oppression and communism".  While we like to think that it was these simple principles held in men's hearts that brought down the wall and destroyed the Iron Curtain, the fact of the matter is it was actually increased US Military spending that beat the Soviets.  Mikhail Gorbachev himself admits that Ronald Reagan's refusal to limit weapons production and his plans to develop anti-missle technology (called "Star Wars" by his liberal critics at the time) forced the Soviets to commit so much of their government resources to keep pace that eventually they were unable to prop up their Socialist economy anymore--and the whole system collapsed upon itself.

Another key element to our Cold War victory was the US commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  NATO placed Western Europe under the protective umbrella of US Military might--as we covered the substantial majority (better than 80%) of the cost to not only arm our allies--but to also station our own troops along the Iron Curtain.  Freed from the responsibility of paying for their own military protection, those European nations chose to create Social Democracies that feature the Government paying for all health care, birth to 25 education, lifelong unemployment benefits, free daycare, subsidized housing and dozens of other ways to keep people on the dole.  Liberals here in the US see these as "perfect societies" that we should copy on this side of the pond.  Fiscal Conservatives see them as nanny states that go against the individual freedoms upon which our country was founded.

But now, that protective umbrella is about to shrink.  The Defense cuts proposed by the Obama Administration will take away those US troops posted around Western Europe, reduce the numbers of aircraft, missles and tanks provided to NATO, and will also limit the US ability to send sizable forces in response to an immediate crisis anywhere in the world.  Suddenly, the countries that didn't have to worry about Military spending will have to--if they want to enjoy the same security that they have since the end of World War II.

The only problem is, those countries are in no position to do that.  In a juxtaposition of the Soviet downfall, their socialized economic spending have left them unable to support a modern military force on their own.  Nations already borrowing billions to pay off public pensions, will find it very difficult to find more cash to purchase fighter jets, aircraft carriers and anti-missle technology (although, the Chinese may be more than happy to strengthen their financial grip on Europe as well).

And who is there waiting for the weakening of Europe?  Our old friends the Russians.  Unencumbered by the social programs of the West--and replete with natural resources that environmentalists haven't made more expensive to use--Vladimir Putin is looking to make his country the Number 1 military force (and influence) on the continent again.  If you don't think the threat is real, just ask the people in Crimea who went to bed last night a part of the Ukraine--and woke up this morning to find armed men raising Russian flags over their government buildings.

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