Foreign Policy reports that Secretary of Defense Panetta is in Europe: “The SecDef is wheels up from Lisbon this morning, headed for a day-stop in Madrid and then staying overnight in Rome. In Madrid, he will meet with the crown prince, the president, and the minister of defense, and he will hold his second press conference of the day, Situation Report is told. In Portugal, Panetta visited Air Base Lajes…. Panetta also visited Strike Force NATO, a U.S.-led command in Portugal that conducts maritime security operations.” Panetta is also scheduled to visit London.
Now, much as a chat with the Crown Prince of Spain is alluring, and as nice as London is,where the Secretary really needs to go is Paris. This would be a useful gesture of support for the French effort in Mali. Moreover, it would be a signal that real American support is coming as soon as details have been worked out, and would provide an opportunity for him to learn first-hand what the French plan is.
When the British and French took the lead and made a real commitment in Libya, the United States pulled back. If we expect allies to bear some weight in the struggle against Islamist terror groups, we must be both grateful and supportive when they act. France is acting now, at some real risk, and it is our turn to show that we are good allies.
For Secretary Panetta to be in Europe this week and skip Paris would be indefensible. What a signal that would send.