Monday, November 24, 2014

The Defense Dividend

BRUSSELS – On a hillside overlooking the Turkish city of Gaziantep, Patriot missile launchers are keeping watch under NATO command and control. This is just one of six Patriot batteries from three Allied countries – Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States – providing protection for millions of people along Turkey’s southeastern border with Syria. The deployment shows NATO’s enduring commitment to its core task: safeguarding its members’ security. It also shows that, when a crisis erupts, there is no substitute for effective deterrence and defense.

Virtually every day brings fresh evidence that an arc of crisis – from terrorism and weapons proliferation to cyber-attacks and piracy – is spreading from the Middle East and the Sahel to Central Asia. These risks will not disappear while NATO members focus on fixing their finances. The fact is that our way of life is predicated on security and stability, without which investment withers, employment collapses, and economies shrink.

In these tough economic times, we are all acutely aware that security comes at a price. But we must not forget that the cost of insecurity is unacceptable. Defense is our essential insurance policy in a complex and unpredictable world.

Conflicts take a terrible human toll, while restoring peace and supporting reconstruction is extremely expensive. For example, the total cost of the Balkan wars of the 1990’s is estimated at $150 billion. Today, NATO continues to maintain a safe and secure environment for all of Kosovo’s people, and is helping the entire region progress along the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.

Another example is piracy, which can threaten vital trade and energy routes. The overall cost of piracy off the coast of Somalia in 2011 was estimated at $7 billion. But, with concerted international efforts, including by NATO ships, pirate attacks have dropped sharply. Although the situation remains precarious, for the last eight months pirates off the Horn of Africa have been unsuccessful in their attacks against merchant vessels.

Finally, we have seen cyber-attacks not just swamping Web sites, but targeting entire countries, such as NATO ally Estonia in 2007. The Estonian presidency, parliament, government ministries, political parties, news organizations, banks, and communications companies were all hit. In fact, everything on which a modern democracy and knowledge-based economy relies was attacked. Today, as part of our continuing drive to improve the security of our members’ networks, Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, hosts a NATO cyber-defense center of excellence.

These examples show that hard power and soft power go together. To be effective, we need both. When dealing with international security challenges, diplomacy remains the primary tool; but, by investing in defense, we can back up our statements with military strength and improve our chances of addressing challenges successfully. It is also an investment in our most innovative and technologically advanced industries.

Indeed, research programs led by defense industries have already changed our lives, giving us the jet engine, the Internet, and satellite navigation. In the future, technology developed for military aerial surveillance could have major civilian benefits – for example, helping to control traffic and reduce road congestion, and assisting in the dispatch of rescue teams and humanitarian assistance.

Expertise in the defense sector has been built up over generations. Like any other high-tech industry, it is constantly evolving. If we cut defense spending too much, for too long, we will sacrifice that hard-won expertise, which will be impossible to regenerate quickly when we need it most.

A strong defense also helps to ensure that the benefits of security are shared across countries. NATO itself embodies that goal. Our 28 allies have more security together than they could achieve on their own. While this helps them to defend their own interests more effectively, it also allows them to play a much more active role in international crisis management, such as the protection of civilians in Libya in 2011.

So defense investment is also investment in security and stability, in diplomacy and cooperation, and in technology and innovation. It is an investment in a safer and more prosperous future for our own countries and for the rest of the world.

Even though defense budgets are under pressure in this time of austerity, it is essential that NATO members hold the line on defense spending and are prepared to increase it when their economies recover. The decisions that we take on defense today will have a profound impact on our children’s security tomorrow.

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    1. CommentedAshok Rao

      Yes. Great for Turkey, and Europe in general. Not so much for the American who spends 5% of his income subsidizing bloated welfare states in the Old World.

      Former Sec. Gates is right – the new American youth won't see defending a Europe that strikes for a 35-hr work week and early retirement as a worthy cause to defend.

        CommentedJose araujo

        The question is that us European never saw america defending us. First world war America's involvement was minimal and in the second America entered the war because of Pearl Harbor.

    2. CommentedEdward Ponderer

      "It is also an investment in our most innovative and technologically advanced industries. ..." -- Not really, as direct civilian R&D money is being swallowed up alive.

      But then again, just think of the advantages that the soda pop industry provides for children's health and the ecology! Why, some sodas have two percent of real fruit juice. And just think of how soda protects our natural resources by providing aluminum cans to recycle.

      What truly irks about this doublespeak on how investment in destructive power is one in creative progress, is its intention -- and frighteningly one detects the satisfied steady-career man happy intention under the words -- to justify a permanent fixture, not a cure for a specific ailment.

      Whatever the real dangers of the moment, the true long term investment will be in integral education, and developing a world culture towards values of mutual responsibility and concern. Aye, yes, there is terrorism based on strong cultural ideologies or distortions of them. But on the other hand, NATO countries, and most particularly the United States, have a tremendous power of psychological influence through the mass media and otherwise. It has sadly been used in the past to promote only self-destructive consumerism and other equally destructive selfish goals. Suppose this capability were used to promote integral education and mutual concern/responsibility? Imagine the power of this force when there dawns the realization that the target is meant to be a beneficiary, not a victim. Of course, that has to "dawn" on us first.

      The true military dividend will come when swords will finally be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks.

    3. CommentedCher Calusa

      The insecurity in the world system has been created as have the shortages and discontent, by an ego driven, profit at all costs philosophy dependent upon exploitation. So now the defense industry wants a bigger piece of the pie and they know they can't risk too many pesky wars so these entities are creatively marketing fear so that people will come aboard and leave what so-called freedoms they have behind. If you believe this article I challenge you to investigate Jacques Fresco, and his thorough future models for a safe and sane economy.

    4. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      Welcome to the completely misguided and paranoid world of the 21st century.
      Everybody is an enemy, nobody trusts anybody, there are no friends only temporary alliances as personal interests dictate from moment to moment.
      We all should have our own Patriot missiles, Iron Domes and as many firewalls as we can install.
      Why are we surprised that in the US everybody wants a gun, even if sometimes one or two disgruntled citizens go on a shooting spree?
      So what does the future bring, since there will be no economical upturn, recovery, return to growth, whatever way we call it?
      Do we all return to our caves with the remaining weapons, will we live in a real life MadMax film?
      If we concentrated on other aspects of our times, namely that humanity evolved into a global, interconnected and interdependent network, where basically every human being operates as a single cell of the united human organism, we could gradually understand that with our present interrelationships, attitude, exploitative, self centered operation we simply execute ourselves. We cannot even be called "cancer" as recent research shows that the similar cancer cells actually cooperate with each other while destroying the body and with it themselves.
      We destroy without cooperation, blindly.
      The question is very acute as we are expecting another nuclear proliferation soon and as our daily living will dramatically worsen as a result of the unsolvable financial and economical crisis (which is the result of the same self centered, exploitative attitude): are we capable of stepping onto the next level of human evolution, to the level of a globally conscious, mutually cooperating single human network, or we finish human evolution whatsoever in a bloody way like a Tarantino film?!

    5. CommentedShane Beck

      In a period of Austerity, the taxpayer/voter is entitled to ask the tough questions. Is this deployment in the national interest? In the example cited, it costs a couple million just for the overseas deployment of the Patriot missile battery, let alone the costs of actually firing a patriot missile. It might be great for the NATO member Turkey but not so great for the taxpayers of US, Germany and Netherlands. The second tough question the taxpayer/voter is entitled to ask is Am I getting value for money? Some defence projects are little more than expensive sheltered workshop for projects that are lemons or will be scrapped or reduced in scale, the JSF being a prime example. The third tough question to be asked is whether the right strategy is being used. Terrorism and piracy are low intensity problems better countered with unconventional operations rather than large scale deployments or conventional warfare.

    6. CommentedJose araujo

      Justifying defense spending when the threat comes from low-tech, low resource enemies is irrational.

      If instead of spending the money on weapons and defense this money were put to the use of developing the poor countries from Middle East and the Sahel to Central Asia we in the end would be much safer.

      I think it would be much cheaper also.

        CommentedJose araujo

        Development does decrease conflict, insecurity and terrorism, education is the best barrier against fundamentalism.

        Virtually all terrorists being middle class, its a bit stretching it, don't you think?

        Commentedjim bridgeman

        Development does not ease conflict and tension, it increases it. Virtually all terrorists and insurgents are recruited from disaffected middle class youth.