But the Balkan crises of the 1990s showed that Europeans are not even up to policing their own playground. The Americans had to come in, gently push them aside and do the job. The message Europe is today sending to America, with the withdrawals from Iraq and the refusal of Italy, Germany and France to fight in Afghanistan:
"We are not going out of area again. If you Americans want to play empire, go right ahead. We will not again send our sons overseas to fight in regions of the world from which we withdrew half a century ago. You're on your own."
Where does this leave NATO? This leaves NATO as little more than a U.S. guarantee to go to war for the nations of Europe, while Europeans can be freeloading critics of U.S. policy around the world.
NATO is an expensive proposition. We maintain dozens of bases and scores of thousands of troops from Norway to the Balkans, from Spain to the Baltic republics, from the Black Sea to the Irish Sea.
What do we get for this? Why do we tax ourselves to defend rich nations who refuse to defend themselves? Is the security of Europe more important to us than to Europe?
In the early years of World Wars I and II, Europeans implored us to come save them from the Germans. We did. In the early Cold War, Europeans welcomed returning GIs who stood guard in the Fulda Gap.
Now, with the threat gone, the gratitude is gone. Now, with their welfare states eating up their wealth, their peoples aging, their cities filling up with militant migrants, they want America to continue defending them, as they sit in moral judgment on how we go about it.
This isn't an alliance. This isn't a partnership. Time to split the blanket. If they won't defend themselves, let them, as weaker nations have done to stronger states down through the ages.
Sixty years after World War II, 15 years after the Cold War, Europe's defense should become Europe's responsibility.