This CSIS Brief is the first in a series that explores the contours and implications of strategies that might reduce the U.S. military’s mission space through greater constraints on its ends, ways, or means.
Retrenchment from forward deployed forces supporting alliances is a bad idea. Alliances, including forward-stationing of U.S. forces abroad makes the United States safer, its allies more secure, and all participating more prosperous. Any weakening of the U.S. alliance architecture should demonstrate how it provides greater benefits than the existing system.
Germany’s former Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen has become the new President of the European Commission. Amidst the long list of challenges awaiting her, von der Leyen must find a way to mitigate political disputes within the EU and between the U.S. and NATO to consolidate conflicting visions of European defense.
It’s time we ditch the two percent (or any percent) of GDP metric for allied defense spending and focus on what really matters—capability, capacity, readiness, and interoperability. In the end, it’s not about how much of our allies’ economic output is directed to defense, and this metric does little to incentivize the results we want to see.
In Washington, military alliances have become an end in themselves rather than a means to security; an icon for worship, instead of a policy with costs and benefits worth weighing. Permanent defense guarantees inflate U.S. military costs, makes rich states into enfeebled dependents, and heightens the danger of getting pulled into needless wars. It should be obvious that U.S. alliances should serve U.S. security interests. But if alliances are permanent, U.S. security interests serve them.