Monday, November 12, 2007

Imbalance of power

One thing that the apparent success of the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign highlights -- despite his character flaws -- is the bizarre view of Europe that is taken as read amongst Republican presidential candidates and thus their electoral base. This Crooked Timber post has a related theme, but consider also the opinion page of today's Wall Street Journal where Mark Helprin describes a Germany that many Germans would have difficulty recognising: one where the old strategic headache of a two-front war has returned, this time consisting of the old enemy Russia expanding from the east, and a new enemy, the global jihad including Iran, targeting Germany with nuclear weapons knowing that Germany has no way of responding --

But, more importantly, the variations in European attitudes and capabilities vis-à-vis responding to terrorism or nuclear blackmail are what make Germany such an attractive target. Unlike the U.S., France, and Britain, Germany is a major country with no independent expeditionary capability and no nuclear weapons, making it ideal for a terrorist nuclear strike or Iranian extortion if Iran is able to continue a very transparent nuclear policy to its logical conclusion. Though it is conceivable that after the shock of losing Washington or Chicago, the U.S. -- or Britain after Birmingham, France after Lyon -- would, even without an address certain, release a second strike, it is very unlikely that, even with an address certain, any nuclear power would launch in behalf of another nation, NATO ally or not, absent an explicit arrangement such as the dual-key structure during the Cold War.

Looking at Germany, then, Iran sees a country with nothing to counter the pressure of merely an implied nuclear threat. Jihadists see the lynchpin of Europe, easy of access and inadvertently hospitable to operations, that will hardly punish those who fall into its hands, and that can neither accomplish on its own a flexible expeditionary response against a hostile base or sponsor, nor reply to a nuclear strike in kind. Thus the German government should be especially nervous about cargos trucked overland from the east.

That's a representative sample. Germany is held hostage to the fact that Iran could nuke Berlin and no other country would respond. He proposes a massive expansion of NATO's mandate to become an explicitly anti-Russian alliance and formal adoption of a retaliatory nuclear strike war strategy by Germany. And in the shorter-term, George Bush's beloved missile interceptor system.

It's all doomsday fantasy stuff. But it gets taken seriously and represents an important dynamic in the election season. The only bit of good news is a sign that level-headed people at the Pentagon are losing patience with it.

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