Tuesday, November 2, 2010
First, the Brits don't want their aircraft carriers. And this week we find out that the French can't get theirs to sea. These are dark days in the history of European hegemony.
I'm not going to add too much to the London summit on UK-French military cooperation (a good round up is here at SWJ). Both nations have proud histories of significant influence and this must be a tough reality to accept for both. Granted, without colonies their need for massive standing armies and navies isn't what it used to be. Couple that with fiscal realities and the events of the past couple of weeks is the result. As far as military cooperation goes, this move also seems to make sense since they have similar interests in the world and punch at roughly the same weight.
However, both countries still seem to have global ambitions. The NSS made that quite clear for the UK. I haven't read any similar documents from France (mainly due to my inability to read French - so if any of you have English translations that prove me wrong please send it along!), but they have deployed a large chunk of their forces to numerous places, mainly Afghanistan and North Africa. If both militaries are to be pooled, they'll have even less to use for their own purposes (a brigade contingent? - any support to that is a huge commitment for the UK these days).
So what does this mean? I don't know. I hope it doesn't mean an EU military organization. Such an organization would duplicate a lot of NATO's mandate, but would seemingly be more dysfunctional and factional. I think what it should mean is that these nations should begin lessening their strategic objectives. Their militaries should focus on security sector assistance, not large to medium sized direct-action interventions outside of coalition activities. While all nations have to weight risks and benefits, every battalion the French and Brits deploy significantly decreases their ability to respond to any new crisis that may arise.
And what does this mean for the US? Efficiencies are good for NATO. And we saw these cuts coming. I think what we should be taking of out of this to make sure when the time comes for us to have to make significant defense cuts (as I imagine it will come at some point), we're a little better prepared for it. You know, so we can get an aircraft carrier out of port at least. I'm going to qualify all of this above as initial thoughts (which usually has the accuracy of first reports) and continue to think about this. But I think we're witnessing some significant shifts in global power from what we've known.
Update: Maybe today's agreement is Applebyan diplomacy. Or the UK has dropped it's "divide and conquer" strategy...