February 25, 2011


America Primed (Robert D. Kaplan, Stephen S. Kaplan, February 23, 2011, National Interest)

AMERICA’S MACROSTRATEGIC environment is chockablock with assets unavailable to any other country. If nothing else, the United States has an often-overlooked and oft-neglected bulwark of allies: the Anglosphere. This is Washington’s inner circle of defense ties, and it finds no equivalent in its competitor nations’ strategic arsenals. The Anglosphere is perennially—and incorrectly—declared dead or in decline by the media and politicians. Nevertheless, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States remain extremely close in their military and intelligence relations and exchange vast volumes of sensitive information daily, as they have for decades. On terrorism, virtually anything and everything is shared. The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been nearly inextricable since World War II. The same is largely true of the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The various English-speaking nations, in practical terms, even assign individual parts of the world to each other, and each worries about the others’ security equities.

The linguistic and other cultural links between the United States and these other English-speaking countries are so deep that the sharing of sensitive information 24-7 is practically an afterthought, even as the media and politicians highlight the narcissism of comparatively small differences. Of course, the values and national purposes of the individual countries are unique, owing to different geographies and historical experiences; yet that is something America can quietly manage. Given how close the United States is to the Anglosphere in most ways, when these allies resist what America is attempting to do, that should constitute a warning that perhaps the policy coming out of Washington is either outright wrong or needs adjustment. (Canada’s balking in the face of U.S. bullying to hop on board the Iraq War train is an obvious case in point.) The Anglosphere, in addition to everything else it provides, is a reality check that can facilitate American policy making.

With a combined population of 420 million, with strategic locations off the continent of Europe (Great Britain), near the intersection of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific sea-lanes (Australia), and in the Arctic and adjacent to Greenland’s oil and gas (Canada), the Anglosphere, if not abused or ignored, will be a substantial hard-power asset for the United States deep into the twenty-first century. China and Russia enjoy nothing comparable.

OF COURSE even this set of assets is not enough to ensure American primacy—nor its sway over the West. And not all alliances are created equal. For example, Washington can less and less rely on NATO to serve as its linchpin in Europe. NATO is of limited help in Afghanistan, was irrelevant in Iraq and simply does not matter in the larger Middle East. The defense budgets of member states in Western Europe are generally below the NATO standard of 2 percent of GDP, even as these same countries now brace for the steepest cuts in military spending since the end of the Cold War. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as prudent and low-key a public speaker as one can imagine, has publicly chided Europeans for being too reluctant to use military force. Nor does NATO, whatever the fine print of its documents, really guarantee the territorial integrity of its new member states in Eastern Europe against potential Russian aggression. The United States does that, and the Balts, Poles, Romanians and others know it. Plainly, the Poles and Romanians sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan (and any number of various African countries where the United States has had military missions) not because they necessarily approved of these deployments or were enthusiastic about them, but as a quid pro quo for this implicit security guarantee.

Yet, American supremacy in the twenty-first century will require a strong position in Europe, and that means getting along well with the Europeans.

Which is like saying that Apple's future depends on being strong in Detroit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2011 8:14 AM
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