Daniel Korski’s new article in Foreign Policy, “Partners in Decline,” calls for a renewed US-European relationship, as a way of staving off marginalization at least for a while. It’s kind of hard to discern his point – clearly at this point, Europe needs the US far more than the US needs Europe. True, NATO is a force of legitimacy right now, but if the demographic trends Korski points to as signs of decline continue, won’t it begin to lose that legitimacy as it becomes less and less representative of any significant proportion of global population?
Korski also misinterprets history. He asks us to
Imagine if the United States had in the past chosen its allies exclusively on whether they were willing to fight alongside the 82nd Airborne. That would have meant abandoning an alliance with Britain in 1966 after then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson refused to send British troops to the Vietnam War.
Is there some sort of treaty or piece of paper we would have torn up? Aside from the (predominantly cultural) Special Relationship – which certainly was damaged for most of the 70s until the Reagan-Thatcher revival – Britain’s refusal to commit troops to Vietnam was no more than a disagreement between longtime global partners. There was no real ‘alliance’ to end as a response but even that informal alliance was seriously damaged.
I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate an American withdrawal from NATO (as Andrew Bacevich does), but at the same time it is perhaps on an even steeper path to irrelevancy than Europe and the United States themselves. Korski’s argument is in itself contradictory, as his prescription for waning influence just reemphasizes the extent of Western decline. And like all other nation-states, it is an inevitable collapse.