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Wayne Post
  • Richard Hermann: On Europe, U.S. can’t be bystander

  • What were the uncrowned heads of Europe, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, thinking?

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  • What were the uncrowned heads of Europe, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, thinking?
    Did they really believe that they could force Cypriots to relinquish 10 percent of their savings as part of yet another badly-conceived rescue package for a Eurozone country on the brink of bankruptcy? Did they truly delude themselves into believing that this blunderbuss approach to economic rescue would not resonate negatively both in Cyprus and throughout the rest of the world? Yes, apparently, to all of the above.
    Herein lies a very big problem for Europe, the U.S., and the global economy. This is only the latest in the stunningly inept way in which the European Union has gone about its business in the last decade. Here we have a tiny island of only 1 million people, known primarily for great beaches and constant strife between its Turkish and Greek inhabitants, roiling global markets and unnerving governments and central bankers worldwide. Cyprus, which contributes less than 1 percent of the EU’s GDP, has been compelled into becoming the mouse that roars.
    It is sadly and dangerously obvious that the clueless captains of the foundering European ship are incompetent to manage their own houses and have learned nothing from their prior, failed efforts to stave off a Europe-wide financial collapse.
    The problem for the U.S. is a simple one, but the solutions are buried in a maze of incredible complexity. How can we protect ourselves against the folly of our natural European allies and trading partners? There is no one good answer. We tried isolationism at various points in our history, and that never worked. Today, when trillions of dollars can move across borders with only a light keyboard touch, isolation is impossible. We are tied to Europe as securely as prisoners on a chain gang.
    Our only hope is that our own government which, compared to Europe, looks like a collection of brilliant sages, is actually thinking about this problem and is developing contingency plans in the event Europe collapses completely, which no longer looks like only a remote possibility.
    We have risen to the occasion many times in the past and have come to Europe’s rescue when it became apparent that the Old World was incapable of saving itself. World War II, the Marshall Plan and the Balkan wars of the 1980s and 1990s are prime examples of this. Each time we bailed out Europe, it was also very much in our own national interest.
    The U.S., our own problems aside, needs to stand up and take the initiative once more.
    What I have in mind is using our position as the dominant player in the NATO military alliance to force Europe to act intelligently. We have shouldered the defense of Western Europe for 60 years at enormous expense to us. Our assumption of this costly task enabled Europe to direct its own resources — and the immense dollar contributions of our soldiers and their civilian dependents — to building its prosperity rather than spending on armies and navies, a prosperity that in quite a few European nations exceeds our own. We continue to do this despite the end of the Cold War because the Soviet threat has been replaced by other, disparate threats from rogue nations, as well as the USSR’s Russian successor state.
    Page 2 of 2 - Military carrots and sticks are powerful incentives and disincentives. We can cut our troop levels by much more. This would also have the effect of removing soldier and dependent purchases of European goods and services. On the carrot side, we could reconsider our anti-ballistic missile policy, which now calls for no European defense umbrella. Employing these inducements and deterrents can be persuasive, but it would take very sophisticated and delicate diplomacy to bring them to bear.
    Rants is a series of political and social observations written by part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann. Email him at messenger@messengerpostmedia.com
     
     
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