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Was Obama Sending a Message?

In Defense of Defense: An Attempt to Jolt Europe out of its Stupor

Jeffrey Schulman writes TFO’s weekly security column “In Defense of Defense” and is a former writer for The Varsity. His blog Thoughts can be found at jeffreyeschulman.blogspot.com

Jeffrey Schulman writes TFO’s weekly security column “In Defense of Defense” and is a former writer for The Varsity. His blog Thoughts can be found at jeffreyeschulman.blogspot.com

Lately there has been a lot of controversy about the failure of any senior US official to travel to Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. The media has called this “a lapse of judgment” and “a mistake”, but was it really? It seems incredible that everybody in the White House and senior levels of the executive branch would fail to notice a major terrorist attack and the subsequent journey of most NATO leaders to Paris. If high school kids can tell which events everyone is showing up to, why can’t the president’s staff.

Of course there is a more intriguing possibility than that of the White House committing an epic mea culpa. For years NATO and the DoD have been urging European countries to pull their weight on national security. Almost none of them spend the official minimum 2% of GDP on defense, much less the roughly 4% the US spends. Currently, the US is in the midst of its pivot to Asia and is working to draw down its remaining forces in Europe. Meanwhile Russia has become increasingly aggressive Eastern Ukraine . While European countries have protested diplomatically, NATO members in Europe have collectively taken no action of a military nature while the uninterested United States has pledged additional deployments of aircraft in Eastern Europe.

At a time when Western European leaders gathered together in the face of a terrorist threat, it is likely that President Obama wanted to make this their moment. It was a way to send a message; it is time for Europe to defend itself. Sadly the occasion led to more idealistic talk than actual commitment to continental security. With Russia, it looks like the US may yet again be dragged across the Atlantic into a European conflict it wants no part of.

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