Does Europe Need US Defense Spending?
E.D. has a fine piece in NRO today that lays out the conservative case for cutting defense spending. One thing that actually weakens his case is the claim that Europe depends on US defense spending. If Europe relied solely on American might, we would have very good reasons to continue our security subsidy. But is Europe really so vulnerable?
As Matt Yglesias has pointed out, the defense spending of our NATO allies is competitive with countries like China and Russia. As the second chart shows, even without the US, NATO’s military spending overwhelms all others:
Accusations of European free-riding are rhetorically effective because they suggest the US is spending more than it should have to. In addition to being wrong, this line of argument actually undermines the case for cutting the defense budget. If Europeans really were the freeloading surrender monkeys many Americans see them as, any reduction in our budget could leave them vulnerable to bullies and belligerents. No doubt the US’s defense spending continues to benefit Europe in innumerable ways, but that doesn’t mean the Europeans aren’t doing their part. Nor does it mean they would be helpless if we found ways to discipline our defense spending.