Jewish World Review June 5, 2001 / 15 Sivan, 5761
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- LAST WEEK, President Bush's commitment to defend the American people, their forces overseas and allies against ballistic missile attack sustained what are widely perceived to be two serious, if not fatal, body blows.
The first occurred when Secretary of State Colin Powell proved unable to get the French and German governments to agree to consensus wording in a NATO document to the effect that the Atlantic Alliance faced a common threat of ballistic missile attack. The second was the result of Senator Jim Jeffords' defection from the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate -- a step that is expected to bring to power Democrats who also seem, to varying degrees and at varying times, to discount the danger posed by missile-delivered weapons of mass destruction.
Before the obituaries are written on the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's national security and foreign policy agenda, however, a bit of perspective is in order. If one understands the nature of the allied governments in question, their behavior is easily understood -- if indefensible. And, while the hostility of the likes of incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden to the deployment of missile defenses is visceral and politically ingrained, it is not universally shared by their colleagues in the Democratic caucus.
It turns out that the problem with the French and Germans is not that they are so strategically incompetent as to be unable to recognize a real and growing danger from missiles capable, first and foremost, of targeting their territories. Rather, the issue is that the governments now in charge in Paris and Berlin give new meaning to the question, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"
While most of our countrymen fail to appreciate it, the leaders of these and most other governments in Western Europe (with the notable exception of the newly elected Berlusconi administration in Italy, which supports missile defenses) are individuals who cut their political teeth demonstrating their opposition to U.S. military power, the NATO alliance and America more generally. Germany's Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder and his Green Party Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, are pedigreed leftists who were active in the pro-Soviet European Left's campaign in the early 1980s aimed at preventing the deployment of U.S. intermediate-range nuclear missiles in five allied countries.
Ditto France's Socialist premier, Lionel Jospin, and, for that matter Britain's Tony Blair and his Foreign Minister, Robin Cook. Even the present and immediate past Secretaries General of NATO, Britain's George Robertson and Spain's Javier Solana respectively, were determined opponents of the U.S. leadership of the Atlantic Alliance in the face of manifest Soviet threats.
The hostility being exhibited (to varying degrees) by these allied leaders toward American leadership today on missile defense is reminiscent of another difficult moment in U.S.-European relations. In the mid-1980s, American intelligence discovered a huge missile-detection and -tracking radar being built by the Soviet Union near the Western Siberian town of Krasnoyarsk. The character, capabilities and location of this radar made it as clear-cut a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty as the United States was ever likely to find. When I and others briefed NATO defense ministers about this discovery, however, Britain's Michael Heseltine -- then the Minister for Defense in Margaret Thatcher's government -- strenuously refused to agree that the Krasnoyarsk radar breached the ABM Treaty. Subsequently, in private conversations, he admitted the real reason: It was not that he was unpersuaded of the merits of the case but was simply determined to prevent the United States from having an excuse to pursue a President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, to which he from the political Right and virtually everyone on the European Left vehemently objected.
Similar considerations are likely to be at work later this week when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addresses his counterparts at a NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels. Thanks to his brilliant leadership of a 1998 blue-ribbon commission on the dangers posed by ballistic missile proliferation, scarcely anyone is better equipped than Mr. Rumsfeld to elucidate the nature of the "common threat" posed to our allies and us by such weapons. Insofar as the left-wing Europeans don't wish to be confused with the facts -- any more than Michael Heseltine did a generation ago -- Secretary Rumsfeld needs to make four points:
JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?