To most Americans, and certainly to most American soldiers on duty in Europe, The Euro Currency, and future military challenges, have little or no relevance.
As we slumbered our ways into the New Year, about a month ago, Europe changed its currency. The new Euro took hold and became the currency of both the present, and of the future, on the European continent. With the fifty-fifth anniversary of The Marshal Plan in a few months, this currency change will signal a new era in relations between Europe and The United States.
The Marshal Plan pulled Europe out of destruction and its post World War II stagnation and ruin. Finally, it has resulted in the continent leveling the playing field with Uncle Sam and the almighty dollar!
Europe has become a conglomerate of nations devoid of individual or national sovereignty. European leaders envision that this will be in the best interest of their economy and the bottom line… the trading value of the Euro against the dollar. Slowly but surely this economic union is taking on the identity, and certainly the role, of a governing force.
Some say the Marshal Plan has come full circle. Others realize, quite perceptively, that the dollar is about to receive the challenge of its lifetime. The true long-term effect of adopting a single currency is the creation of a political union. Political unions are symbiotic of their protecting force, even if the force strays a bit. This new, European federal state will have responsibility for a European-wide foreign and security policy as well as for what are now domestic economic and social polices.
While each government, and various key political figures, differs in their reasons for wanting a political union, there is little doubt to this observer that the real rationale for the European Monetary Union is political, and not, as the masses believe, economic.
Great Britain's Tony Blair, America's staunchest European ally on the continent, is clearly illustrative of my assertion. Blair walks in both camps, or as some say, talks out both sides of his mouth. He vehemently backs every American move! As well, Great Britain has no plan to eliminate its national currency, however certainly considers itself an integral part of The European Union.
The European Monetary Union was created by the ratification of the 1992, Maastricht Treaty, which called for a future political union. There is no credible, or sizable, country in the world that does not have its own national currency. This is generally considered characteristic of national sovereignty. It is also the domestic key to independent financial management and budget policies, in any country.
As time goes on, and this monetary union evolves into a more general political union, conflicts will rise from incompatible expectations about the sharing of power. This is absolutely something that the world can bet on!
Without a doubt, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the erosion of Communism in Eastern Europe, has changed the basis and need for European foreign policy and military collaboration. The United States and Western Europe shared a close alliance for many years. They continue to coordinate military undertakings within the NATO structure, primarily in the Balkans.
But many Europeans, in positions of responsibility, see their economic interests and foreign policy goals differing from those of the United States, in many parts of the world, to include Eastern Europe itself. Further, the French and German governments want to develop an independent military capability that can operate without U. S. participation or consent. Great Britain is also a strong advocate for European military autonomy, at least in words if not yet deeds.
Last summer, the European Union announced neophyte plans for the formation of a Euro Army, or Euro-Force. Notwithstanding, Great Britain jumped on the bandwagon pledging support and embracing the concept. This, however, all seemed to change or lose some steam given the global events of the past eight months. Macedonia and Kosovo, coupled with the reactions caused by September 11th, have up-staged many proactive thoughts on the rapid formulation of the Euro-Force. Clearly the creation of the political merger based on the European Monetary Union, and the recent implementation of the Euro currency, will serve to accelerate the development of an independent European military structure. By design, this Euro-Army will be capable of force projection outside Western Europe and supposedly focus on humanitarian crises. Only a fool would believe that this would not, or could not change.
But at the same time, I also believe that the attempt to forge a common military and a foreign policy for Europe would be an additional potential source of conflict, among the member nations, as well as those outside the group.
It is widely understood that European countries differ in their national ambitions. Rest assured that their attitudes about projecting force, and influencing foreign affairs with soldiers and armament, offer a full spectrum of motivations and justifications. There is no doubt, however, that a Europe of nearly 300 million people with an economy approximately equal in size to that of the United States, could create a formidable military.
It should be logically understood and assumed that a politically unified Europe, with an independent military and foreign policy, would accelerate the reduction of the U. S. Military presence in Europe. This, in turn may weaken the role of NATO, and perhaps make Europe more vulnerable to attack.
But let's talk reality; don't bet on a reduction of U. S. Military forces in Europe! It is my belief, and assertion, that there is too much money to be made by keeping U. S. forces entrenched in Europe, Germany specifically.
The current presence of American Forces in Germany is almost solely justified by the need to keep the complicated problems of the Balkan countries bifurcated from Western Europe. In so doing, NATO and American soldiers are providing security for the implementation, and the competitive value, of the Euro currency. Insuring the success of the Euro, by keeping the lid on the Balkans, is why American soldiers are still on European ground.
Military Princes would prefer to have everyone, including American Soldiers, believe that the real reason that they are in The Former Yugoslavia, is to make the Balkans a comfy, warm, secure, and thriving place to live. A nineteen-year old Private may believe this, or a "spring-butt silver-spoon fed junior officer" may embrace this logic, but I really do beg to differ!
Tito couldn't do it in forty years with his iron fist, so I am betting on NATO's failure, in the absence of a plan, in the Balkans. The ancillary reasons: big business, defense contracts, research and development, and making money hand over fist, also keep U. S. soldiers on the continent. Or, maybe I am just too idealistic; are these justifications really foremost?
Simply put, the implications for the United States and American forces overseas, as well as for all Americans, are that we will have to re-think our foreign policy with respect to Europe. All these years after the end of World War II, the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Marshal Plan approaching, and now more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, this stumbling former punch-drunk continent has risen to its formidable status.
I will go on record and predict, not as an economist, but as a soldier, that the politically unified Europe will seek a different relationship with the United States. France will be a primary mover behind these changes and in so doing; be influenced by the mindset of frustration that Charles de Gaulle exhibited toward us, when America tried to influence France's policies toward countries such as: Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Vietnam.
The United States must recognize that it would no longer be able to count on Europe as an ally in all its relations with third countries. To assume such support is living in the past and intentionally not reading the writing on the wall. The Europeans, guided by a combination of economic self-interest, historical traditions, and national pride, will seek alliances and pursue policies that are contrary to the interests of the United States.
It is true that mutual cooperation was a lesson in quid-pro-quo, when conflict with the Soviet Union dominated international relations, and Europe's interest in containing the Soviet Union coincided with America's. However, with the implementation of the Euro currency, and the autonomy achieved by the European Continent, assuming that similar levels of cooperation still prevailed would be a very serious mistake for the United States to make in future military planning.
J. David Galland is the Founder & President of, "Bound & Overwatch-The Military Observer", http://www.boundandoverwatch.com. He is also the Deputy Editor of Soldiers For The Truth-Defense Watch, http://www.sftt.org.