Mark Helprin writes about the strategic importance of Germany in today's Opinion Journal. For centuries, Germany has been the main crossroad for wars and power in Europe. It still is these days although the nations of Europe are doing their best to sleep through all the problems in the world. While threats are growing, Germany's (and virtually all of Europe's) military strength is waning. The west disarms, Russia rearms and new threats are on the horizon. Those new threats are quite real and quite good at calculating risk and reward.
Germany must fascinate the Jihadists, too–not for displacing America as the prime target, but as the richest target least defended. Though it will never happen, they believe that Islam will conquer the world, and so they try. Unlike the U.S., Europe is not removed from them by an ocean, and in it are 50 million of their co-religionists among whom they can disappear and find support. Perhaps out of habit, Europe is also kind to mass murderers, who if caught spend a few years in a comfortable prison sharpening their resolve before they are released to fight again. In July the French sentenced eight terrorists connected to the murder of 45 people to terms ranging from one year, suspended, to 10 years. In Spain, with 191 dead and 1,800 wounded, the perpetrators will spend no more than 40 years behind soft bars. Though in 2003 Germany found a September 11th facilitator guilty of 3,066 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced him to seven years (20 hours per person), he was recently reconvicted and sentenced to 43 hours per person, not counting parole.
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.
As was pointed out in the last post, Germany may be slowly waking up to the fact that they are in danger. But they are not helping themselves or the rest of the west by failing to recognize the threat a nuclear-armed Iran poses to them. Mark Steyn expressed it best:
In Europe, by contrast, one reason why there's no politically significant pro-life movement is because, in a world where constitutions have the life expectancy of an Oldsmobile, great questions are just seen as part of the general tide, the way things are going, no sense trying to fight it. And, by the time you realize you have to, the tide's usually up to your neck.
But not recognizing the threat until you're up to your neck in it is a trait that the west has become all too good at.
Though the West comprises the richest grouping of nations the world has ever seen, it has somehow come to believe not only that it is not entitled to its customary defenses but that it cannot afford them. And looking ahead strategically so as to outmaneuver crisis and war has, unfortunately, long been out of fashion.
I have pointed out, again and again that the way the west is handling, or not handling, the situation in Iran is making war more likely, not less. The way the west is sleepwalking right into the crisis is discouraging at best. The tide is rising, though.