Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Europe - too keen on peace?

I have been thinking over my meeting with the American Ambassador. I made the criticism that for all the hope invested in President Obama his foreign policy remains remarkably similar to that of his predecessor.

This opinion has only been strengthened by reading reports of a speech by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. Speaking to NATO officials last week he criticised Europe for being too keen on peace, and too reluctant to let the bullets fly.

He is certainly right about the deep opposition to war among large sections of the peoples of Europe. Opposition to the invasion of Iraq was profound, and mobilised millions of people in protest. I vividly remember walking through the streets of Barcelona well over a year after the great February 2003 demonstrations and seeing anti-war banners and bunting still hanging from apartment balconies. Europe has strong memories of war, and its ugly realities. It is not so surprising that its peoples are reluctant to be dragged into new wars – especially those fought in the interests of US imperialism.

But Defence Secretary Gates goes further than bemoan the reluctance to go to war. He specifically criticises European levels of military spending, urging European countries to spend more and more on weapons of war. This is both morally objectionable, and economically crazy.

Why on earth should the people of Europe pay the bill for extraordinary levels of military spending, in order to fight wars thousands of miles from their shores? The world has more than enough weapons of death and destruction. Instead of ‘rampaging around the world bankrupting itself by invading and occupying other countries’, what the world really wants to see from the new American President is a genuine investment in peace and social progress. We are still waiting.