There has been a recent series of disturbing op-eds and press conferences concerning European participation (or lack thereof) in the NATO mission in Afghanistan — the common theme being either an unwillingness or inability of our continental partners to fully engage the enemy, despite a European Union with 1.7 million men and women under arms.
What is baffling (perhaps not really given the social and demographic landscape of the last 20 years), is that a united Europe — drawing on its collective manpower and long military and scientific traditions for the last 2000 years — had been the dream of every nefarious and megalomaniac conqueror.
But now when that mad dream is finally realized, but under lawful and peaceful auspices, and the ensuing resources could be used for humanitarian purposes rather than for Caesarian, Napoleonic, or Hitlerian conquest, only stasis follows?
There is a terrible irony here: the ferocious European military tradition that was unleashed on itself from Waterloo to the Verdun could not be reformulated for something other than civil annihilation, saying removing a psychopath like Milosevic or subduing medieval killers such as the Taliban or containing the murderers in Darfur? In the end the Europeans will have to deal with their own tragic paradox: when the military will was there, too many nations used it for ill ends; and when the aims were good, there was no longer any will. I’ll let others sort out the cause and effect of all that.