Ever pointing to history, it is probably worth remembering that Europe (and the United States) was in a financial crisis throughout the 1930s and into 1940. Stock markets crashed, depression set in, and it was a time for austerity. Europe (and to some extent, the United States), were forced to rely on Great Britain and France to hold the line as the “world’s policemen.” Having already fought the “War to end all Wars,” and with the fight for financial survival being paramount, almost all nations let their military forces stagnate, while they used that money to prop up their economies. This was a product of financial issues throughout Europe, but make no mistake, it was the 20th century version of the “peace dividend.” It was cheaper to let the myth that World War I was the war to end all wars, than it was to maintain a viable military force. Government social programs ran rampant, and not just in the United States with the advent of Social Security, the WPA, etc., but around the world. Meanwhile, in Germany and Japan, there was no “peace dividend.” It was about something else, a far more sinister adherence to the “old” view of Europe, and the need to expand and ensure their own survival, at least as they saw it.
Now I could probably go on and on about how their German/Japanese view of the world is probably the one that mattered. After all, if memory serves, their view is what dictated the turmoil in the world that would run almost the entire last half of that century. In the present, we are seeing this type of scenario play out again. The Russian Bear is awake, fresh from its hibernation period, and ready to start feeding again. As I’ve said before, despite our high-minded view of the global world politic, it is usually the lowest common denominator that will drive the train. Europe has been cutting their militaries, and as a result, the NATO alliance is weaker than it was during the Cold War. Meanwhile, the United States, fresh from over 12 years of conflict, is looking to cut the military as a means to “cull the budget.” If this doesn’t alarm you, then I suggest you take a long hard look at history. The real problem with peace dividends is that when you have to pay up later (and you WILL have to pay up later), the cost is always much higher in our most precious commodity, the lives of our best generations. ~ Michael S. Pauley