America's NATO Allies--Germany in particular--think the U.S. Army is too black. They'd like us to reduce the number of black GIs serving in Europe--preferably by restoring the draft.
That bit of information was revealed in off- the-record remarks by a top Pentagon official a couple of weeks ago. The temptation is strong to say: if they don't like the way we man our Army, let them take care of their own defense.
The Defense Department official was a participant in a Racine, Wis., conference on blacks in the military, sponsored by the Joint Center for Political Studies and the Johnson Foundation. He reportedly told some of the conference leaders, in private remarks, that the Europeans, mainly Germans, have been complaining of problems stemming from "cultural differences" and questioning the readiness of an Army that is one-third black to defend Western Europe.
He said the United States has rejected the request for reducing the number of black soldiers stationed in Europe and has insisted that the quality of our fighting forces is as high as ever.
Still, the fact of the quiet pressure from the Europeans gives special appeal to a proposal by Ronald Steel, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, for International Peace. Steel, writing in the July issue of Harper's magazine, calls for the United States to get out of NATO, leaving the defense of Europe to Europeans.
He makes an interesting case--particularly with regard to conventional warfare. The Europeans "have both the manpower and the means," he says. "The population of Western Europe is larger than that of the Warsaw Pact countries, including the Soviet Union, and its wealth is far greater.
"But the Europeans do not want to spend the money that would be involved. It would mean diverting resources from the civilian economy to the military. It would mean higher taxes, a lessened ability to compete in world markets and a somewhat lower standar of living."
Their preference, Steel says, is to keep American soldiers in Europe because it lessens the drain on their own resources, because they imagine that the U.S. nuclear blanket affords them some measure of security and because the presence of Americans means that we would be immediately drawn into any European war.
Edwin Dorn, an official of the black-run Joint Center, finds himself disagreeing both with NATO's call for an end to the all-volunteer military and Steel's call for an end to U.S. participation in NATO.
Regarding the first, he says that a return to the draft would not substantially affect the racial makeup of U.S. forces in Europe--even if, as is extremely unlikely, a draft brought in an accurate cross-section of America. With 250,000 American troops in Germany alone, it would be many years before their draft-produced replacements would make an important statistical difference, he said. Given the predictable kinds of exemptions to the draft, he said he doubted that a draft military would be noticeably whiter than the present volunteer force.
As for Steel's argument, Dorn thinks he has missed an important point. "The result of his proposal would be the rearming of Germany, and I'm not at all sure that is in America's interest," he said, stressing that he was speaking for himself and not for the Joint Center. "I think our presence in Europe is at least as reassuring to the Russians as to our allies. You have to remember that Russia has been invaded twice by Germany, the last time at a cost of 20 million dead Russians.
"If we pulled out, my guess is that the Soviets would be really upset. We would no longer be able to keep the germans in check, or to say that they shouldn't develop nuclear weapons. It wounds very appealing to say that Europeans should take care of Europe, but maybe we don't want to see a rearmed Germany."