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MANSFIELDISM revisited Charles Schwartz he only thing worse than dealing with allies is having no allies at all—or so the adage says. This sentiment is pervasive today, particularly with regard to the role of American forces in Europe. This is an old debate, but the conditions under which the present one is taking place are fundamentally different from those of past decades. Trans-Atlantic "crises" resulting from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the imposition of martial law in Poland, the Soviet natural gas pipeline, high U.S. interest rates, and the deployment of intermediate nuclear forces (inf) have created an entirely new atmosphere in U.S.-European relations. The issues that have persistently plagued the Atlantic Alliance since its inception are today confronting the allies under simultaneous conditions of military insufficiency, economic crisis, and ideological differences. Prominent Americans from across the political spectrum have suggested that the United States reconsider the presence of its conventional forces in Western Europe. Despite the substantial defense contributions of our nato allies, the perception that the United States provides a disproportionate share of the security burdens of the alliance is again prevalent in Congress. Conservatives dissatisfied with the Europeans over the burden-sharing issue have joined forces with liberals who view troop reductions as a means of deflating defense spending. Although Congress has clearly, yet reluctantly, accepted the American commitment to nato, it has never fully accepted the indefinite presence of large contingents of U.S. troops in Europe. Consequently, Congress has searched continually for ways to measure the balance between European and American contributions to nato. Charles Schwartz is an M.A./M.B.A. candidate in European Studies at SAIS and international finance at the Wharton School. 145 146 SAIS REVIEW The desire to withdraw American troops and the determination to share defense burdens more equitably have been recurring themes since the origins of the alliance, but their nature and characteristics significantly differ. Congressional efforts for the Mansfield amendments originated largely from liberal internationalists who favored American retrenchment and decreased defense spending, but who in no way intended to diminish the American commitment to European security. The development of neo-Mansfieldism has been undertaken by conservatives who favor increased allied burden-sharing so that the United States can strengthen or expand its military commitments elsewhere. But these concerns are by no means new. American reticence about being entangled in preserving Europe's security has long historical antecedents. Although the stability of the European system in the nineteenth century allowed for American insulation, the United States became inextricably linked to wars in Europe. American involvement in the two world wars continued the trend of attachment of American interests to European security. Then, however, the threat was seen not outside of, but within, Europe. Neither the destruction of the European balance of power nor the external threat of the Soviet Union was powerful enough to provoke a permanent U.S. presence in Western Europe. The primary catalyst for the "permanent" stationing of U.S. troops on the European continent was the German threat to internal West European order. The dilemma confronting U.S. foreign policy was formidable: the necessity of German rearmament required a permanent American presence, which was to guarantee that the German army be stronger than the Soviet army but weaker than the Luxembourg army. Although these troops are not militarily insignificant, their essential importance is political. Geopolitical factors often make American interests appear ambiguous, so an effective commitment to Western Europe must be highly visible and symbolic. Even today, three decades after the stationing of U.S. troops in Europe, the United States' commitment has as much—and probably more—to do with reassuring its European allies as with deterring the Soviet Union. Consequently, congressional efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from Europe, whether provoked by liberal internationalists or conservative unilateralists, derive from inherent misunderstandings of the primary issue at hand. The appropriateness of reducing the formal U.S. presence in Europe can no longer be judged solely by simplistic burden-sharing formulas, global interests, economic constraints, or resentment at the lack of European political will. Although a drain on resources, the attendant costs to the United States of its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 145-159
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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