I read somewhere that Europe and the North America are drifting apart by a couple of centimetres each year, on account of plate tectonics. However, politically speaking, we're going a fair bit faster. There's a fair old bit of invective crossing the Atlantic of late, and both sides are equally at fault; arrogant nationalism is something the Old World had down to a fine art before we'd even discovered the Americas. It's rather sad that France and Germany's objections to the invasion of Iraq became an exercise in jingoistic posturing, but equally sad that certain commentators feel the need to cite the Second World War as a preccedent for absolute unquestioning loyalty to Washington. I feel that we owe the United States considerable gratitude for the timely assistance we recieved during that conflict, and I'm trying really hard to be evenhanded here, but that was never part of the deal. Sorry for digressing a bit, but this is something that really does get to me.

Anyhow, there has been a lot of macho posturing lately, and most of continental Europe is now quite keen to get into a position to seriously challenge the United States. Frankly, I give it about ten years before we have a very real possibility of war.

So, how equal a fight would it be? Here's my layman's verdict:


It might seem like the US has the edge here, but in actual fact it's closer-run than you might expect if we're talking about an outright war between the EU and US, with the advantage going to the home team all the way. Sheer distance is the biggest factor. Aircraft carrier groups are great for limited warfare and force projection, but not a patch on a land runway for long-term operations. Apart from anything else, airfields don't sink when hit with multiple anti-shipping cruise missiles, so prolonged air operations would hinge on the old NATO bases in Iceland. The trouble is, if aircraft from those bases can attack targets in Europe (or the continental USA for that matter; it might be us Europeans who fire the first salvo), the reverse is also true. The first thing that whichever side doesn't own those bases will do is flatten them with laser-guided bombs, Runway Cratering System clusterbomb pods [Note to RCS: When somebody said they thought your penname sounded like a weapons system I think they had this thing in mind], anti-radar missiles and all sorts of other cool hardware. The bases will be smoking rubble within a day of hostilities commencing, which means that it's unlikely that the invaders will be going in with anything approaching air superiority, but under neutral skies at the very best- and that's without even going into the air defence capabilities of the various nations.

If it should come to landing on the enemy's territory, the advantage will definitely be with the defenders. Even once a beachead was established -which in itself would be an operation to put Overlord to shame- supplying it would be a logistical nightmare. It was tough enough back in '44, and that was across a mere twenty miles of relatively sheltered waters with a cooperative local populace. Imagine what it would be like across several thousand miles of open ocean towards a country whose indigenous population really don't want you to be there. It would also be at best very difficult to cut off supplies of raw materials or even electronics to the enemy, unless every country that supplied anything imported by the local military-industrial complex could be brought over to one side or the other. The majority of US and European arms manufacturers use as much local product as possible anyway.

As far as quality goes, the products of both sides are pretty close. In fact, a surprising amount of US kit is made by European firms, or was at least designed there. The gun in the Abrahms is a licence-built German design, all smallarms except the M16 are from various European designers, and the Harrier was designed by British Aerospace. On the other hand, however, about half the armoured vehicles in use on the Continent are imported from the USA. The Bradley and M113 armoured personnel carriers and the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer are typical examples. The purely home-grown stuff is at a roughly equal level of technological development, but a comparative evaluation is pretty hard since the two power blocs have not yet exchanged weapons fire. As for troop training, we're at roughly the same level so far as the actual blowing-shit-up part goes (how we fare once formal hostilities cease is another matter), but it's hard to draw conclusions from the wars of the last few years. It's been half a century since the US, British or just about any other army faced an equally well equipped and trained opponent in a straight fight, so this is going to be a test case.

Perhaps the most important area in which the two sides are equal is that both of us have access to what are euphemistically referred to as 'special weapons'. Even the much-vaunted CVBG (what is it with you Yanks and acronyms, anyway?) isn't going to fare very well against fifty kilotons of plutonium-plated kaboom.


Debateable. Both sides have lost out in terms of manufacturing industry of late, since multinational firms prefer to use cheap sweated labour in the Third World. However, both sides have roughly equal areas of arable land (cut out all the bits that are too hot, too cold or otherwise useless and Europe actually comes out very slightly better) and, more importantly, enough oil to supply their domestic and wartime needs for a prolonged period. Prices would go up, and some people might have to take the bus for a change, but it could be done. Both sides have enough raw materials like coal, iron and so on to build an awful lot of tanks, planes and other essentials for waging war. We're both as good at extracting them, with a decent sized labour force and modern equipment to process the raw materials to a useable state. If public opinion could stand it we could probably carry on indefinitely, which leads us neatly to the next category.


This is trickier. Most of the European mutual-defence treaties date back to the Cold War, and the USA certainly has the advantage of decisiveness; theoretically, if the President says "Let's bomb Cuba," one morning, the planes are in the air by lunchtime. The European Parliament, by contrast, spends most of its time in session bickering about trivia. Still, I expect that in a time of crisis -and the threat of all-out war it a crisis by any sane person's standards- the various antagonists will stand together against their mutual enemy. If the various EU member states agree on nothing else, they agree that they can't stand the United States.

Additionally, the respective populations of both sides are unlikely to welcome forcible regime change with open arms. Iraq might not have gone according to plan, but let's face it, if Saddam was REALLY popular then we'd have been forced to pull out within about a fortnight. We might think our elected leaders are arseholes, but they're OUR arseholes and if anybody's going to get rid of them it'll be us, thanks.


Pretty even here. We won't exactly tremble at the prospect of Israel and South Korea joining on the USA's side here in Europe, but by the same token I very much doubt that the President will lose much sleep over the prospect of being invaded by the Canadians. The only way to really swing the balance of power is to get either the Russians or the Chinese to join in on one side or the other, but somehow I can't see them being that fussed; they aren't terribly fond of the US, true, but that doesn't make thewm pro-Europe.

Well, I've had my say; how about you? I'd welcome contributions from readers with specific knowlege of military issues, and I ask you to try and refrain from being partisan, jingoistic or just irritating.