In 2012, President Obama announced the "pivot" towards Asia. China threatened not only our economic hegemony in the region, but increasingly threatened our military hegemony in the region. The South China Sea has become an increasingly turbulent and militarized place, casting ominous clouds over 40% of global shipping. The threat from China as well as military commitments in the region to Japan, the Philippines, and others certainly played a role in the administration developing this shift. With the victory for Republicans and the Obama Administration in fast-tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership, the "pivot" seems to be in full swing.
However, with the attention drawn to Asia, both by rhetoric and by policy, it seems that the U.S. continues to be committed to ensuring global security as the hegemon. The U.S. has clear security interests in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Europe shares the same security interests as the U.S. in all of these regions; however, Europe acts very little to secure these areas, preferring to free-ride on the security provided by the increasingly burdened U.S. Most European nations fail to reach the specified NATO quota of 2% of GDP invested in the defense budget, and this has failed to increase even as Russia and ISIS loom large over the picturesque European horizon. In the Pacific, European actors continue to view Asia through an economic lens, but fail to realize the security necessary to ensure markets and shipping lanes. Whether or not the U.S. is in a state of decline as the hegemon, there can be no doubt that the current role the U.S. fills in global security has become fraught with unimaginable expenses, to the lives and wallets of Americans. The U.S. needs a partner.
Europe represents the clear choice as a partner. The European security aspect is quite timid; in contrast, the American security structure is, umm, bold. This dichotomy highlights a clear benefit. A mutual partnership would galvanize European support when necessary, and in contrast reign in the U.S. tendency to "overreach." Europeans would increase their role in global security, a clear necessity, and the U.S. would decrease their role in global security, perhaps utilizing a better combination of smart power, rather than relying strictly on a traditional hard power approach.
A greater partnership in global security between the U.S. and Europe provides a more cautioned, thoughtful, and subtle interventionist approach, and provides the U.S. relief and help. However, it certainly begs the question: what would Europe gain through an increased role? It is unclear that Europe will begin to play a greater role, while American hard power allows Europe to continue to free ride. After two long, grueling, and ultimately (un)finished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American reluctance to send troops on the ground again seems apparent. Perhaps, as tensions rise in all three fronts mentioned above, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia, the U.S. - European partnership, by necessity, must develop further. Benefits of increased partnership can be seen in the key negotiating role the EU and Europe played in the Iran talks. Regardless of the ultimate deal struck, their role was crucial in coming this far.
Increased cooperation between the U.S. and Europe facilitates a safer world. Europe and America can play the clichéd "good cop/bad cop" in real life, utilizing the best combination of hard power and soft power to secure global security allowing prosperity. I just hope Europe can see the advantages of playing a larger role too.