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Michael Naumann reports on Germany's momentous 18 September election

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between Iran and utopia

At last, there is some serious political debate in Germany’s election campaign. On 13 August, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder denounced George W Bush’s “last option” - regarding Iran’s stubborn stance over its nuclear-energy policy - as “highly dangerous”. A serious topic. Finally, the public wakes up.

What does the opposition say? Well, first it bemoans another breach of Atlantic loyalty by Schröder; on second thoughts, it agrees: Europe should continue negotiating with the mullahs, but not under the threat of military intervention.

The end of the debate? Not really. The sad truth is: Iran’s nuclear bomb will become a reality, whether in five or in ten years time.

The high-spirited peace project of 1970, the international treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, has shrivelled into a historical document of no relevance. Even according to the treaty, Iran could abandon it like a sub-tenant could leave his flat in the basement. All it needs to do is declare to the United Nations Security Council that the country’s “highest interests are threatened”. Bush’s bellicose pronunciamentos should suffice for this.

On nuclear proliferation, a universal sense of unity is gone. The pact’s final dissolution started in 2000, when the United States Congress refused to ratify the nuclear test-ban treaty – despite Bill Clinton’s agreement to it in 1996. This attitude contradicted Article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty.

It is true that American and Russian nuclear warheads have been significantly reduced on both sides to approximately 12,500. But it is also true that the US has embarked on new nuclear-research projects – not to mention a defense budget for 2006 of cosmic dimensions, approximately $500 billion.

Washington has also departed from the continuous UN conversations to maintain the non-proliferation treaty. Condoleezza Rice did not have the time to attend the May 2005 conference in New York. “A catastrophe”, said German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

It is understandable and right that the leading superpower is not interested in enlarging the group of eight nuclear states. Yet, it would be even more important to continue or restart the disarmament process by setting examples. But the opposite is happening.

After the trauma of 9/11, George W Bush announced that no other nation would be allowed to catch up with America’s military advantage. This did not calm those nations, like North Korea and Iran, which ended up on the American list of “rogue states” or the “axis of evil”.

The dictators of these countries know one thing perfectly well: if Iraq had really been in possession of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam would still be sitting in one of his palaces. The lesson they drew from the Iraq war is easy to guess: a well-hidden but real nuclear weapon is sufficient to keep the nuclear superpowers at a distance. Because this is so, the spiral of nuclear armament will not be stopped – whether in North Korea or Iran.

The fear that a nuclear bomb could get into the hands of terrorists is justified. Preventing this would have needed a more serious policy of disarmament, and anti-terrorist strategies that have nothing in common with the helpless “war on terror” of the Bush government. His version has provided terrorists with a new strategic base in Iraq, which they did not possess before.

The long-term consequences of the invasion of Iraq become more and more visible. Assassins define the daily agenda in that ruined country. Religious leaders dominate the constitutional debate. The withdrawal of American troops is only a question of time – after Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s terms are over.

Washington’s military competence is not convincing enough to threaten the regime in Tehran. America’s “last option” war does not exist anymore. In this landscape of political ruins created by Bush, the next German government has to look for new strategic orientation and security.

It would be foolish to expect this from Washington. Which should leave European foreign policy as a beacon of sanity – but this is just another utopia, as once was the dream of total global nuclear disarmament.

August 17, 2005 | Permalink



Comments

Michael Naumann would be better advised to chide his own government, headed by the Social Democrats with which he sympathizes, for its meagre record in the arms control field. Twenty-five, thirty years ago, German governments led by Social Democrats were in the forefront of arms control, putting forth imaginative proposals and following them up. Where can one find such SPD policies today? Nowhere. Nauman would be better advised to chide his own government for its arms control inadequacies and lack of interest -- and might hope to have some influence on it-- than to rant at the Bush administration, with which, as a soggy European liberal, his influence is likely to be zilch. R.G.Livingston

Posted by: R.G.Livingston | Aug 18, 2005 7:53:10 PM

Michael Naumann should rather chide his own government, headed by the Social Democrats with which he sympathizes, for its meagre record in the arms control field. Twenty-five, thirty years ago, German governments led by Social Democrats were in the forefront of arms control, putting forth imaginative proposals and following them up. Where can one find such SPD policies today? Nowhere. Nauman would be better advised to chide his own government for its arms control inadequacies and lack of interest -- and might hope to have some influence on it-- than to rant at the Bush administration, with which, as a soggy European liberal,his influence will be zilch. R.G.Livingston

Posted by: R.G.Livingston | Aug 18, 2005 7:56:44 PM

All your articles are sensible, and I was able to read all EXCEPT COULD NOT READ the following: error message came!

The requested URL /naumanns_election_blog/2005/09/german_election.html was not found on this server

Is this just my PC or is everyone having the same trouble?

Keep up the good work!
R Lee

Posted by: R Lee | Oct 2, 2005 7:44:35 AM

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