Americans are fighting in Europe ... again.
More than a half century ago, when that was so, the American automobile industry was also at war. Fully mobilized as the Arsenal of Democracy, converted car plants produced an almost immeasurable stream of trucks, tanks, planes, guns and ammunition.
Last week, when American-made bombs and missiles were striking targets in Serbia and Kosovo, there was no evidence of anything but business as usual at the car companies.
One obvious reason is that NATO's attempt to contain the genocidal despot Slobodan Milosevic has no comparison in scale to the global conflict that was World War II.
But it is also true that decades of Cold War tension and the ever-increasing sophistication of weaponry have made defense contractors a permanent, specialized part of the U.S. economy. They have included from time to time subsidiaries and divisions of the car companies and members of the supplier community.
Certainly the federal government still has the authority to require mass conversion of civilian factories to defense needs, but in an era of ballistic missiles, military planners have difficulty envisioning a conflict that would again demand the output of an Arsenal of Democracy. And today's American car manufacturers report not only to Detroit, but to Japan and Germany.
Some Americans, feeling reflective at the millennium's end, wonder if today's companies could meet challenges like those of past generations. The answer from offices, labs and factories seems to be that inventive genius, workmanship and productivity are in ample supply.
But perhaps the way to judge today's globalized companies is not on their ability to make weapons - because we know they could - but rather on their day-to-day commitment to basic human rights wherever they do business.
Those rights, after all, are what the fighting, then and now, has been about.