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U.K. Defense Review: Never Explain, Never Complain?

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010

If you haven't been following the U.K.'s defense review, it might come as a surprise to learn that things seem to have gotten a bit panicky in the land of the stiff upper lip. This post by Rob Dover at Kings of War strikes a downright un-British note in its sense of impending doom. In a column that I flagged last week, Michael Clarke summed up the problem facing British defense and strategic planners when he wrote, "The long term may be difficult, but the short term is near impossible."

Of course, no one forced the British to follow the U.S. strategic lead in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same holds true for our other NATO allies in Afghanistan. Yes, the short-term political costs of not bandwagoning were high (see France and Iraq), but they could have chosen to bear them rather than the long-term strategic costs now piling up.

Still, the Bush administration adopted a careless attitude to the long-term sustainability of our allies, and that just might end up being the most onerous legacy of the past decade. The U.S. enjoys a whole host of advantages when it comes to rebounding from strategic mistakes that our European allies don't. And in an era where the best hope of avoiding great power rivalry is multilateral security cooperation, we essentially ran our closest partners into the ground, all in the name of alliance management.