Europe's Empty Promises



by Christopher S. Chivvis

February 24, 2010

American frustration with Europe's dwindling military capabilities is reaching new heights, as was clear in a speech by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the National Defense University on Tuesday. Gates charged that Europe's aversion to military action constituted "an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st [century]."

Frustration with Europe's aversion to the use of force, combined with European leaders' arguments for civilian solutions to today's security challenges, has generated hope that these allies might compensate for military weakness by contributing civilian experts to the war effort. In previous remarks, Gates called for precisely this, noting that an increase in specialists focused on issues of governance, police training, and counternarcotics, "may be easier for our allies ... than significant troop increases."

Encouraging allied civilian contributions to nation-building in Afghanistan and elsewhere is a good idea. But, if the past is precedent, Gates shouldn't hold his breath waiting for those civilians to arrive....

The remainder of this op-ed can be found at

Christopher S. Chivvis is a political scientist with the RAND Corporation and adjunct professor of European studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. He is co-author of Europe's Role in Nation-Building.

This commentary originally appeared on on February 24, 2010. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.