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Jewish World Review June 5, 2001 / 15 Sivan, 5761

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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With friends like these ... -- 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:

  • First, of course there is a threat. For example, Libya -- a country whose megalomaniacal leader has already launched a missile aimed at a NATO installation in Italy (happily, without effect) - has recently taken possession of some forty North Korean No Dong missiles, capable of ranging much of southern Europe. He is not alone, or necessarily the most dangerous of those who will brandish ever-longer-range ballistic missiles in the future.

  • Second, Secretary Rumsfeld needs to reinforce a message he first delivered in Europe last February -- namely, that the decision to deploy U.S. missile defenses has already been taken. We are not going to be talked or euchred out of doing so by either friends or foes.

  • Third, the United States is going to provide such protection to its forward-deployed forces and its allies, first from the sea using existing Aegis air defense ships, and will do so at no cost to allied nations -- unless they wish to contribute. If, on the other hand, allied populations really don't wish to be defended, we can make arrangements to leave them as vulnerable as they are today.

  • And finally, the Kremlin under both the Soviet and Russian governments, has breached the ABM Treaty so comprehensively as to make the subsequently admitted Krasnoyarsk violation pale into insignificance. Indeed, that radar was but one piece of the sort of "territorial defense" against long-range ballistic missiles specifically prohibited by the ABM accord, the rest of which is now in place. NATO should be briefed on this heretofore unpublicized fact to counter persistent claims about the Treaty's indispensability and sacrosanct nature.

These representations will also serve the Bush Administration as it seeks to regain traction on Capitol Hill. While the new Democratic leadership in the Senate will make common cause wherever possible with like-minded (though far more radical) leftists in Europe and elsewhere, at the end of the day, there are clearly Democrats with whom President Bush can work to defend America, if he provides the requisite leadership. With friends like these and the common threat we face, he has no choice but to do so.

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?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.