Why Europeans Won’t ‘Take Their Fate into Their Own Hands’

by Jim Geraghty

German chancellor Angela Merkel last weekend: “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands — naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries. But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny. . . . The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Percentage of GDP that a NATO member country is supposed to spend on defense: 2 percent.

Percentage of GDP that Germany is spending on defense: 1.2 percent.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel in March: “There is no apodictic 2 percent goal but rather . . . we should be moving in that direction.” (“Apodictic” means beyond dispute. Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too.)

Gabriel’s estimate of how much it would cost Germany to get to 2 percent: 30 billion euros over eight years, or roughly $33 billion.

That’s roughly $4.1 billion per year. That is not a lot of money in the overall German federal budget or economy. Total German federal spending in 2017 is roughly $349 billion. The German GDP is about $3.3 trillion.

For further perspective, U.S. defense spending in 2017 is about $611 billion. The Pentagon will spend about $2 billion just upgrading the USS George Washington aircraft carrier in the coming year.

A bit more than $4 billion per year is not a lot to ask. That’s about 40 percent of Amazon sales from last year.

If the Germans really want to take their fate into their own hands, providing for their own defense is going to cost them way more than just meeting the NATO threshold. The cost of one F-35 fighter jet is $94 million to $123 million, depending on which variation. The cost of one Eurofighter is roughly $112 million. That’s not covering fuel, spare parts, training, maintenance and operations, repairs . . . 

So, the Germans are so upset about the expectation that they spend eight-tenths of one percent of their GDP on the military, that they’re willing to go their own way on defense? Talk about being penny-wise and pound-foolish. My suspicion is that Germans will look at the cost of defending themselves from Russia or other potential hostile forces on their own and then happily get out the checkbook to cover that eight-tenths of one percent that NATO wants.

As our new guy, Michael Brendan Dougherty puts it, “How many aircraft carriers, nuclear subs, and fighter jets has Germany christened in these four months? How much closer has Germany come to military parity with Russia? What do you think Poland or Latvia thinks of trusting Germany for political and military protection, absent the United States? C’mon, everyone. Get a grip.”

#NeverStopComplainingAbout #NeverTrump

I don’t have a lot to add to what Jonah, David French, and Dan McLaughlin said about Dennis Prager’s off-key remote-sensing assessment of the motives of the old “Never Trump” crowd. I’ll just wonder aloud why Prager’s so focused on #NeverTrump conservatives five months into Trump’s presidency. What, was his column in reruns this week?

If every #NeverTrump conservative had been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Trump administration starting January 20, do you really think the administration would be in measurably better shape? Trump still would have claimed Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, he still would have been content to let the House set the details of the Obamacare repeal, he still would have signed the giant omnibus spending bill, he still would have fired Comey, he still would have had the Bannon-Kushner-Priebus-Kohn-Ivanka “Game of Thrones” infighting, he still would have a glacial pace of naming appointments, tax reform and the infrastructure bill would still be passing slower than a kidney stone . . . This is a White House where the biggest problems are all self-inflicted.

As for Trump’s best moments like the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch, repealing regulations through the Congressional Review Act, and striking the Syrian airfield, most of the #NeverTrump conservatives I read applauded those moves.

Finally, Prager writes:

[#NeverTrump conservatives] do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake. While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do.

If you really believe America is fighting a second Civil War . . . what do you do with people who disagree with you? Shoot them? Blow them up? Imprison them? Keep them in prisoner of war camps? Call our current conflict with the Left what you like – but it’s not war.

(This why, as much as I was an admirer of Andrew Breitbart, the “#WAR” slogan never quite sat right with me. Our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other far-flung corners of the earth are fighting a war. We’re in an intense political, cultural, and legal debate. It’s not the same, and insisting that it is the same feels like it’s creeping into the realm of stolen valor.)

Speaking of a Second Civil War . . . 

You know Kurt Schlichter is my friend, so I’m biased, but his new novel, Indian Country, is his best work. It is a prequel to his book People’s Republic, which envisioned a not-too-distant future where America’s red and blue states have split into two separate countries.

The more I thought about the world of People’s Republic, the more I wanted a story like the one in Indian Country: a detailed look of daily life shortly after a national and cultural divorce, building to the moment of maximum drama, where the lines of two new countries are being drawn, disputed, and redrawn, and people are realizing that their values don’t match their new country.

If there was any flaw to the tale and the world painted in People’s Republic, it was that the new progressive “People’s Republic of North America” was so dystopian and dysfunctional, it was hard to believe or understand that anyone thought it would be a good idea. (Picture Kafkaesque bureaucracy, ever-changing laws and social mores, thuggish authorities and general dysfunction.) Indian Country gives us that needed glimpse at the people who stayed in the more progressive parts of the country and who were really convinced it was going to work. As one key line of dialogue reveals:

Illegally organizing political groups? I thought this was supposed to still be a free country after the Split.” said Dale. “Maybe freer.”

This story has vibes of Red Dawn (the good one) or the old ABC miniseries Amerika. But where Kurt has really matured as a storyteller is in all the human touches of what could have otherwise been fine as an entertaining social satire and techno-thriller. The ordinary people of Jasper, Ind., in the late 2020s really don’t want to be involved in a political war and have no appetite for launching an insurgency against their own government. But sometimes bad laws and bad leaders set an unstoppable sequence of escalation in motion. Halfway through the book, I realized I’m reading a prequel, and I’m somehow still wondering what’s going to happen. The sense of dread and impending bloodshed is palpable.

Kurt, a retired Army infantry colonel, served in the Balkans, and this book is undoubtedly shaped by his experiences there. I’ve heard him speak about how Kosovo once was and could have remained a beautiful place, and how the locals made choices that amounted to throwing it all away, casting away the rule of law and the humanity of their neighbors in the process.

As much as conservative and liberals may smile at the thought of exiling the other side forever, a “national divorce” could not go smoothly and would not leave many people better off. This is at times a really funny book, but it’s also an epic portrait of a tragedy . . . the American experiment shouldn’t be abandoned because we forgot our traditions, our values, and our willingness to let others live their lives as they see fit.

And for those who think that our political passions are still far from murderous rage . . . have you checked out Kathy Griffin lately?

ADDENDA: Over on the home page, a look at how the impeachment talk among Democrats is mostly a desired outcome in search of a justification. If the only concern among Democrats was accountability for suspected “high crimes and misdemeanors,” you wouldn’t hear any talk of “but Pence would be worse!” You’ll have to pardon our skepticism about the fair-minded assessment of Democrats when 80 percent supported impeachment three weeks into Trump’s presidency.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty