Leadership: Too Fat To Fight


March 7,2008: The German parliament is un an uproar over a report depicting the German soldiers as physically unfit for military service. It was found that 40 percent of the troops were overweight, compared to 35 percent of their civilian counterparts (of the same gender and age). The investigation also found that the troops exercise less (including participation in sports), and smoke more (70 percent do) than their civilian counterparts. The military encourages sports and physical fitness, and discourages smoking, but those efforts do not appear to be working.

It's not just a German problem. The basic problem with European military organizations is that most of them are basically make-work programs. It's long been known that many European soldiers are not really fit for action. They are uniformed civil servants. One reason many are not ready for combat, or even peacekeeping, operations, is that they don't have the equipment, or the training. And that's because up-to-date gear, and training, are expensive. A disproportionate amount of money is spent on payroll. That keeps the unemployment rate down more effectively than buying needed equipment, or paying for the fuel and spare parts needed to support training.

All this would not be an issue if Europeans did not get involved in military operations. When they do that, the deficiencies become very obvious. It happened in the 1990s, when peacekeepers were needed in the Balkans, and after that, when forces were needed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Same problem with putting together European peacekeeping forces for Darfur and Chad.

Britain is the only real exception, with armed forces capable of going into action. But even that is under attack, as British politicians try to emulate other European nations, and save money by creating hollow forces that are there, but cannot really do much.

And then there's the United States, which the Europeans know they can call on if they ever need some real military muscle. So confident are the Europeans, that they heap abuse and scorn on the U.S. and the American military, knowing that the Americans will still show up if Europe ever faces a threat.

With the end of the Cold War, Europe is, for the first time ever, at peace. Truly at peace. There is no military threat. There are the Islamic terrorists, but that lot doesn't have an army. They are a public safety, not a military, threat. It's a unique situation in European history, and European generals and politicians are still trying to get their heads wrapped around it. There are potential military threats, but nothing in the immediate future that requires a large force. There's peacekeeping, and that's what the Europeans are trying to organize for. That, however, costs a lot of money, and you can't support the traditional type forces, and the new peacekeeper ones, as well. But the idea of disposing of ancient military traditions and organizations is, well, hard to accept.


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