What do President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have in common? They both believe that the defense part of a national security strategy can be subjugated to diplomacy and development.
In the wake of World War II, German foreign policy became wholly pacifistic whereby wars can’t even be called wars. Germany’s defense minister went on television recently to say that Afghanistan could not possibly be called a war because German soldiers are building schools and hospitals. And even with increased Taliban insurgency activity in the North where their 4,050 soldiers are based, and the loss of 33 troops, Afghanistan continues to be parked as an election issue by both Chancellor Merkel’s CDU and the opposition SPD. It sadly parodies the famous sketch from British comedy series Fawlty Towers, “Don’t mention the war!”
With the advent of President Obama’s new concept of ‘smart power’ (please note Eliot Cohen’s point that only fools would prefer stupid power), this Administration has now decided that Afghanistan would better be described as an “Overseas Contingency Operation.” With an injection of 21,000 additional troops, many of whom are serving alongside British troops in Helmand where some of the fiercest fighting of the Afghan campaign is currently taking place, it does an injustice to pretend that national and international security can be guaranteed by foreign aid and strategically deployed diplomats.
No leader has been able to get around the adage that if you wish for peace, prepare for war. President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher demonstrated that peace can be won only through strength. Instead of embracing the ‘strength through peace’ doctrine – epitomized in the United Nations’ trumping of human security as superior to national security, and the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights – President Obama should take a leaf out of Reagan’s playbook: better defenses including missile defenses, a modern military and enduring allies are indispensable to keeping America safe.