Peace Time: February 18, 2003


Many were shocked when it was revealed, during the late 1990s, that European members of NATO were not able to muster much effective military power for peacekeeping in the Balkans. While the seventeen European members of NATO have 2.3 million troops (compared to a million in the U.S.), the Europeans spend a much higher proportion of their defense dollars on payroll (36 percent for the U.S., versus from 40-80 percent for European nations.) This leaves little money for training, new equipment and maintenance of what is on hand. It also means an older, on average, bunch of troops. Going to war is a young man's game, but the Europeans have instead turned their armed forces into another job creation program. Britain is one exception, spending only 40 percent of defense dollars on personnel, and maintaining high training standards for what they do have. Most other nations maintain a few elite infantry units, but these don't add up to much in terms of numbers. The U.S. has long maintained an "up or out" promotion policy, which forces people out of the service if they are not promoted within a certain amount of time. By also maintaining high standards for new recruits, and careers soldiers, America is able to maintain more combat capable units. The U.S. is able to field more combat troops, and far more combat power, than over twice as many European soldiers, sailors and airmen.


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