Friday, February 04, 2005

Germany's Neo-Gaullism

Tech Central Station:
Europe's latest diplomatic initiative -- to convince Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons -- had barely had a chance to succeed and already German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is undermining it. ...

Only a credible deterrent can render Iran's million investment in underground facilities worthless and its enrichment of 22 tons of yellow cake uranium futile. However, any suggestion of pre-emption is exactly what Schröder has come out against. Last week the chancellor took multiple opportunities to state his opposition to the use of force against Iran, even while his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, consulted with the new US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in Washington.

Last week in Berlin Schröder reiterated to both the German Bundestag and his party "there must be no military intervention" adding that "this determination should be clear to all our friends." And at the World Economic Forum he took the opportunity to state the obvious: "The last thing we need is another military conflict," as if military strikes were the preferred solution of anybody. ...

Is Schröder naively overlooking that his rhetoric encourages the mullahs in Tehran to miscalculate? Without the threat of force, Iran can expect to buy the time it needs by drawing out negotiations and banking on European support in a UN Security Council showdown over sanctions. In short, Schröder is provoking a crisis and increasing the likelihood that military strikes will be needed.

Schröder's motives are hard to grasp without understanding the paradigmatic shift in German foreign policy in recent years. During the Cold War, the United States had a reliable ally in West Germany. Successive German governments carefully choreographed the demands of European integration with the priorities of the transatlantic alliance. The traditional Gaullist view, however, is that Europe can only emerge as a power in its own right by extricating itself from the tutelage of the United States. That means derailing the transatlantic locomotive, in order to make room for a more independent Europe that can vie with the United States for international influence.

The red-green coalition in Berlin has led German foreign policy on a Neo-Gaullist detour. Within German policy circles, talk of the need for a European counterweight to balance American hegemony is prevalent, while foreign, economic and domestic policy distinctions between Europe and the United States are accentuated.

The rhetoric is based on two myths about the current transatlantic relationship. The first is that the United States acts unilaterally and in its own interest while a united Europe under Franco-German stewardship would act multilaterally and in the world's interest. The second is that the United States focuses on the use of military force while a peaceful Europe relies the use of diplomacy and the instruments of so-called "soft power." Of course, progress in the war on terror has been made precisely because gargantuan American expenditures to build democracy have dwarfed the military force used to topple odious regimes.

When diplomacy in Iran fails and a pre-emptive strike becomes the last hope to prevent the nightmare of a nuclear-armed Iran, however, the myths will be validated. U.S. military action will divert attention from Europe's failed appeasement of Iran and the American campaign for democratic reform in the Middle East, while the Gaullist argument for a united Europe to stop the American military colossus will gather momentum. ...
The author assumes that once the EU3/Iran talks fail, the US has only a military option. As I argued yesterday, I believe the US is more likely to push the EU to support the Iranian people by focusing on human rights. Such a united US/EU effort could fuel an internal movement against the regime.