Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
At the end of 1964, a cycle of American-European argument which had opened some seven years earlier came to a close when President Johnson decided to abandon American pressure for an immediate resolution of the negotiations regarding a multilateral nuclear force. Since then the common assumption has been that there is to be a nine-month lull, until after the German elections in September, before the next phase of the dialogue on the future scope and nature of the Atlantic Alliance is resumed, even though any successful outcome to it may have to wait until the attitudes and policy of post-de Gaulle France are clear.
What form will the resumed discussion take? It is misleading to contrast the growing stability of the old East-West confrontation in Europe with the deteriorating security of Asia, or to suggest that limiting the political erosion of the underdeveloped world will now become the central task of a group of powers as rich and with as diverse interests as the NATO countries. For there are many important developments within Europe itself and in the relations between the two halves of Europe. It is probably more accurate to suggest that the particular difficulties in the strategic relationship between a great power and a number of middle and smaller allies, as exemplified during recent years in NATO, are now assuming a more universal character, while at the same time developments inside and outside the Atlantic world are beginning to interact more and more directly upon each other.
The era of European-American argument which closed last December had opened in 1957-58 with the occurrence within a short space of time of five largely unrelated developments. The first was the perfection of the I.C.B.M., which raised questions as to the viability of the American guarantee to Western Europe in light of the increasing vulnerability of American civilization. The second was the signature of the Treaty of Rome, which offered the promise of a political as well as an economic role for a unified Europe to replace the hegemonic position of the United States and to share its strategic burdens. The third was the conclusion, in 1958, of an agreement on the sharing of information on nuclear weapons between the United States and Britain. This gave a new impetus to the old wartime special relationship between the two countries, while the return of Charles de Gaulle to the Elysée in the same year made certain that France would not rest content with the leadership of the Anglo-Saxon powers. Finally, these were the years of the consolidation of Khrushchev's leadership within the Soviet system-the beginning of a period of greater sensitivity to the morale of Soviet society and to the risks of war with the capitalist world than to the solidarity of the Communist system.
Although the problems of the Atlantic relationship were bound to multiply as Europe's morale and wealth became restored, the fact that it was these events which set the argument in train tended to create the framework of discussion. The main characteristic of this phase of the debate has been, first, concentration on the role of nuclear weapons and the control of nuclear strategy; second, concern with nuclear proliferation primarily as a European phenomenon; third, a tendency to regard the Communist threat in its military aspect as potentially the most dangerous source of war through escalation or miscalculation; fourth, an assumption that the European- American strategic problem was largely sui generis and unrelated to other alliances or relationships. Finally, success or failure tended, especially in the later period, to be judged by reference to a theoretical model of partnership between the United States and a unified Europe, a relationship of units of roughly equal size and economic strength.
The agenda of debate was dominated by certain questions about the American nuclear guarantee to Europe, the connection between the virtual American hegemony in nuclear strategic power and its right to lay down and alter the strategy of the alliance, and the relations between this commanding position and its responsibility for the pursuit of a special American dialogue with the Soviet Union, even on questions that might affect the interests of the European powers. These points implied further questions about the rights of the European allies, the freedom of action which the larger powers in Europe may legitimately exercise without damaging the solidarity of the alliance: what control the most exposed non-nuclear power in Europe, Germany, can exercise over its own security and prospects of reunification; what influence a Europe that is politically still a plural group of middle and small sovereign states can exercise over the evolution of political and strategic plans whose implementation remains primarily an American responsibility. And, finally, whether that politically unified Europe which many important Americans and Europeans have always argued could have such influence can be brought into being in the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, during the latter stages of this argument, the opportunities for tackling these formidable questions in any broad context became gradually foreclosed by President de Gaulle's extremely narrow definition of the French national interest and by his preference for exploiting such nominal freedom of action as the strategic stalemate between the great powers permitted him; by the confusion of Britons about their relationship to Continental Europe; by German provincialism; and by a certain dogmatism in Washington about the solutions to be pursued. In consequence, the choices in terms of actual policy by 1964 had become narrowed down to one proposal, multilateral force to give the non-nuclear powers in Europe some physical sense of participation in the handling of strategic weapons and the planning for their control. And when this became blocked by French pressure on Germany, by the tabling of an alternative British proposal and by an American decision to withdraw temporarily from the argument, it was clear that the time had come to reformulate the whole agenda, though not all the problems had by any means been solved.
Only a very rash man would attempt to predict what form European-American arguments will take over the next five or seven years, let alone to what conclusion they may lead. But it is not too early to discuss the changes in the setting of the debate.
There seem to me to be three important changes of scene taking place during the entr'acte. The first is that questions of nuclear control in Europe are ceasing to reflect the real problems of the European-American relationship. The second is that the concept of European-American partnership is now being discussed in different terms, for there are new crosscurrents in Europe. The third is a natural corollary of the diversification of Communist pressure and of the rise of two competing centers of Communist power, namely that Asian developments are beginning to have an increasing effect upon the European-American relationship and vice versa: the time has passed, if it ever existed, when Atlantic problems could be isolated from more universal ones.
No responsible person in the West would be prepared to argue that the increasing implausibility of a Soviet military attack on Western Europe is the result of any fundamental change of heart in Moscow, let alone the perfection of that flexible system of military options in Western Europe which military analysts have long regarded as desirable. The greater confidence in the stability of the East-West confrontation in Europe arises very largely from the stabilization of military technology, after 15 years of revolutionary advances from the first atom bomb to the solid-fuel missile, from the development of a large American superiority over the Soviet Union in strategic weapons, and from a growing understanding on both sides of the rules which have to govern a confrontation based on such weapons. The period when a new strategy was promulgated in Washington every three or four years is probably drawing to a close.
There is now very much less argument than there was even a year or so ago between Washington and the European capitals about the doctrine of NATO defense, even though the United States has not been able to gain support for as flexible a military posture in Europe as it would have liked. This change derives from a reappraisal of the likelihood of having to put the Western military stance to the test of war in Europe. It does not mean that there can be any significant reduction of NATO ground and air forces in Europe. It does not mean that there may not be recurrent Soviet pressure over Berlin or that a fully satisfactory response to such a contingency has yet been formulated. Perhaps the reassertion of the national interests of the East European countries, the gradual development of a more liberal political consciousness in some of them, or closer relations between countries of East and West Europe may lead to new forms of crisis to which too little contingent thought has been given. But it is clear that the validity and efficacy of the American strategic guarantee to Western Europe in the face of any serious Soviet pressure has emerged triumphant from the debates of the past seven years, as all Europeans, except that small minority which has a vested interest in denying this fact, would now acknowledge.
This has an important bearing upon the political significance, and perhaps upon the future, of the French and British nuclear forces. Much of the Atlantic debate of recent years has been governed by fear that the arguments that have been used to justify these two national efforts might lead to a German nuclear force, with serious consequences for international stability. Indeed, much of the argument for a multilateral force has been conducted in terms of averting such a danger. In my view, this fear has overlooked the very serious constraints-legal, political and strategic-that Germany would have to confront in taking any such decision. But there is no doubt that the British and French nuclear forces have had a generally divisive effect within NATO and in Europe itself.
The stabilization of the Soviet-American strategic relationship has been achieved only by making the apparatus of strategic deterrence a very much more complicated and costly affair for both parties. What is becoming apparent is that the maintenance of a credible system of strategic deterrence by middle powers against a superpower will become very much more costly over the years ahead, despite the stabilization of technology. The fact that both the Soviet Union and the United States now have the technical option of installing anti-air and anti-missile systems which would provide a high degree of protection against the weapons of a smaller nuclear power[i] (even though both would contemplate with the greatest reluctance the vast expense and the uncertainty of installing an anti- missile system that could provide protection against each other's forces) will tend to downgrade the serious military utility of the two European nuclear forces.
It is not likely that either the British or the French nuclear programs will be formally abandoned in the foreseeable future, partly because they have both been maintained primarily for reasons of national security. Moreover, the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other middle powers outside Europe somewhat strengthens the military justification for them, as long as Britain and France pursue global policies. But the new British government, in its proposals for an Atlantic Nuclear Force, is now seeking to set its nuclear contribution more firmly in an alliance setting and to discount the more extreme arguments about prestige associated with the program-"a place at the top table"-used by its Conservative predecessors. While there is no sign of any change of policy or doctrine about the French nuclear force-the central French argument being that two or three coördinated centers of nuclear decision in an alliance provide a more effective form of deterrence than one-the increasing cost and complexity of nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union may provide the material for a very fundamental reappraisal of the program by the successor to President de Gaulle. It is also becoming clear that the most important causes of tension between France and her allies now concern not so much her nuclear force as her unilateral approach to other aspects of allied military and political planning, as they affect both Europe and Asia.
There is another factor that may make for a less strained relationship within NATO on European questions in the immediate future, even though there may not be much comfort to draw from it over the longer term. The period when the Soviet Government felt free to ignore the ideological or national pressure of its own allies in terms of pursuing agreements with the capitalist powers has now been ended, largely as a result of the strengthened position of China. Though it may be prepared to negotiate one type of agreement, namely on non-proliferation, the prospects for a significant general dialogue between the two superpowers is now less bright than it was a year ago. This has its depressing aspects, but it does also have one redeeming feature. In default of a sounder system of joint policy- making within the Western alliances, there is less likelihood of that kind of superpower dialogue which began after the Berlin crisis in 1961, from which the European middle powers were excluded, and which gave rise to the kind of suspicious attitude of Germany to the United States which has formed the background to all discussion on allied control of strategy and policy in the last three years.
At the same time, the prospects for a unified Europe are advancing only slowly. Though the countries of the European Free Trade Association, including Britain, are becoming increasingly affected by the stronger competitive position of the countries of the European Economic Community, the prospects for an amalgamation of the two economic systems in the next few years are not bright. The threat of American dominance over the advanced industries in Europe-aircraft, electronics, computers-is leading to certain pragmatic forms of bilateral coöperation, and it might even lead to some functional European authority to make the best use of European scientific resources. But the idea of an operational European military authority or combined political authority must remain dim, not only until President de Gaulle has left the scene, but until the alternatives in terms of a new relationship with the United States have been carefully appraised by the new leaders in London and Bonn. Consequently any idea that a clear- cut relationship between the United States and a European partner of roughly equal status can form a working hypothesis about the immediate future is mistaken. All consideration of means of improving transatlantic coöperation and of increasing European responsibility outside Europe must be in terms of a plural alliance. The only development that could force a European system to life would be the least desirable one, namely a widespread loss of confidence in the United States.
If it is unlikely that the resumed European-American debate will center around the same agenda as in recent years, the new one will contain equally difficult questions. For, when the debate resumes, two things will, I think, be clear. The first is that developments outside Europe are going to have a much greater bearing on it than during the recent cycle of debate (which began only after Suez, the last great interallied crisis generated by developments outside Europe). The second is that the kind of politico- military relationship which the United States eventually succeeds in evolving with her 14 NATO allies may serve as a prototype for its relationship with many of its other 28 allies in the Pacific, Asia or even Latin America.
Clear consideration of the relationship between NATO and the security of Asia and Africa has been bedeviled in recent years by what has been called "the reversal of roles." The European sense of commitment to other areas has diminished through a process of decolonization for which the United States was one of the principal enthusiasts, while successive American Administrations have shown themselves willing to acquire an increasing range of commitments. To contemporary Americans, Europe often seems as provincial as the United States did to Europeans in the thirties. But what has unquestionably been a courageous American acceptance of the responsibilities of its new power has been accompanied in recent years by an American doctrine that the United States will pay attention only to those European allies who are prepared to make a material contribution to extra-European security. This attitude has had the effect of encouraging either European provincialism, manifest for instance in the refusal of the continental European powers to play any part in the solution of the Cyprus problem early in 1964, or such irresponsibility as French policy in Southeast Asia.
Of late there has been an attempt to reformulate the question. Mr. Dean Rusk has recently said:
Europe and the North Atlantic Community cannot preserve their security merely by holding a line across Europe. Their common security is involved also in what happens in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, South Asia and the Western Pacific. They have a vital common interest in the defeat of active aggression by the infiltration of arms and trained fighting men across national frontiers. . . . The United States must be prepared to see Europe, reviving in strength and confidence, play a larger role in joint decisions in these ventures.[ii]
These propositions command wide support in Britain. But to the ears of most Continental Europeans they are still no more than a series of assertions. For their truth has not hitherto been demonstrable to European governments whose views on the problems of Asian or Middle Eastern security have not been much solicited in Washington. As Henry Kissinger has recently said of his countrymen, "A decade and a half of hegemony have accustomed us to believe that our views represent the general interest."[iii]
The new element in the situation which has been provided by the deepening crisis in Viet Nam is that Asian developments are beginning to have a discernible, though negative, influence upon European affairs. Recent American decisions about the conduct of the war in Viet Nam have been made entirely without consultation with her European partners, including Britain. Yet it is no longer possible to ignore the supposition that a deterioration of relations with the Soviet Union over Viet Nam might create an internal necessity for renewed Soviet pressure in Europe. Viet Nam cannot fail to make the détente between the superpowers somewhat more fragile and this in turn limits both American and European freedom of action in Europe. The American dispute with France over policy toward Indochina has further embittered an Atlantic relationship whose repercussions are felt directly in Europe itself. Not impossibly, conflict in Southeast Asia and in Latin America could rise to a level where it might affect the American contribution of tactical power to the defense of Europe. The domestic interests of the European powers could be affected by the actions in Asia of a NATO ally with whose development they have had the minimum of association.
Europe is not only being asked to support unilateral acts of American policy. Britain now has 50,000 men committed to the defense of Malaysia, a country on the wisdom of whose creation in its present form no European NATO ally was asked to comment. Yet this commitment has a clear influence on British views about the level of military resources that the alliance should maintain in Europe, as well as placing severe limits on her own contribution to them. In the long run neither the United States nor Britain can expect to maintain the support of their allies for Asian policies which may soon become still further extended to some general commitment in the Indian Ocean, unless they seek to involve them more closely in the diagnostic analysis on which such commitments are based.
This is by no means a hopeless task. As Chinese and Soviet strategy, each in their own manner, concentrate on eroding Western interests and positions in the underdeveloped countries, so it is probable that all the European countries will come to feel more closely involved in developments outside Europe. The connection between Germany's policy in the Middle East and Africa and the strength of her position in relation to East Germany, demonstrated earlier this year, is a case in point. What is certain, however, is that it will require new techniques of alliance management if this reawakening interest is to have any constructive outcome.
The danger that may involve the whole Atlantic Alliance most directly in problems outside the Atlantic area is that of nuclear proliferation. Until recently this has been regarded as a primarily European problem, that nuclear weapons would spread from Britain to France and from France to Germany and Italy. But it is clear that the immediate danger of proliferation is outside Europe, in countries like India or Japan across whose lands the Chinese bomb already casts its shadow, or in countries such as Israel which may despair of maintaining their national integrity over the indefinite future by conventional defenses alone. As this decade closes, nine non-nuclear powers will be operating power reactors which will give them a substantial production of plutonium, and unless present policies are reversed this number will grow throughout the next decade.
The risks and costs of becoming the kind of nuclear power that can confront a sophisticated adversary like the Soviet Union are now well appreciated in Europe. But in countries in other areas, faced with adversaries who are less technologically advanced, the balance of incentives and disincentives may well be different, as the serious and growing Indian debate on this subject has already illustrated. While nation-states exist, national security must be given priority over international, and the danger of becoming a nuclear power is greatest in those countries that do not possess the protection of any form of alliance. As their technological resources increase, as the essential knowledge about nuclear weapons becomes more widely accessible, as means of delivery that are obsolescent for the great powers but still serviceable in less complex situations become available, so the danger increases that the number of nuclear powers, which has grown from zero to five in 20 years, could triple in the next 20. The problem is not a distinctively European one, and if, for instance, Germany or Italy should feel tempted to face up to the decision, it will most probably be because the contagion has passed from India and Israel to other non-aligned countries like Sweden and Switzerland or South Africa-in other words, through a process of "feedback" from outside Europe rather than from a directly European chain of events.
The hope that nuclear proliferation can be averted simply by a non- dissemination agreement among the existing nuclear powers is over- optimistic, even though it may be the one arms-control agreement in which the Soviet Union is likely to show interest in the near future. For one thing, it would require the adherence of China if it was to have any long- term validity. For another, it would require a non-acquisition agreement among the significant nuclear powers, and in present circumstances many of them might be unwilling to sign. Moreover, an international treaty, however wide its range of signatories, is not likely to endure unless strong sanctions against its abrogation can be created, or unless the fundamental causes that lead to it are also tackled.
In the long run only a world authority that has the backing of all the nuclear powers can provide either sanctions against, or an alleviation of, the incentives to proliferation. But in the shorter run what is required is anti-proliferation strategy, and the onus for developing this rests squarely on the Western powers. All but one of the countries (Czechoslovakia) which will soon have a nuclear-weapons potential lie outside the Communist bloc. And Western policy, with its assumption that so- called "atoms for peace" could be disseminated without leading to a series of military potentials, is very largely responsible for the present situation.
Such a strategy would require many different instruments, for the motives that lead different countries to consider becoming nuclear powers vary widely, from considerations primarily of status as in the case of India, to those primarily of military security as in the case of Israel. It would require a number of restrictive conventions: a non-dissemination agreement; an extension of the partial test ban to underground tests; a tightening of the controls over nuclear fuels; perhaps an inspected cutoff of the production of fissile material in the nuclear powers as the basis of an international ownership of diffusion and chemical separation plants; possibly the organization of a group of non-nuclear powers to inspect and control such a system of agreements.
But more than that, an anti-proliferation strategy implies the ability to offer potential nuclear powers alternative forms of status or means of security.
Here there is not an easy answer, for no method of "guarantee" will meet the case until such time as a more universal system of security can be brought into being. In the present state of affairs, proud non-aligned nations like India would find it hard to accept the sense of dependence implied in any formal guarantees, most particularly if they came only from the Western powers (even if the West were prepared to offer them). Countries that feel themselves confronted with a real military threat, like Israel, would perhaps accept a unilateral Western assurance or guarantee of her frontiers. But our successful experience over 15 years in guaranteeing the security of another exposed country, Germany, illustrates what an onerous degree of control the guarantor powers must exercise over the circumstances that would activate their guarantee, the degree of participation in local defense they must shoulder if their guarantee is to be credible, and the extent of commitment against the country's adversaries they must accept.
This means that different cases will have to be treated differently though with equal delicacy. India's sense of frustration and loss of status in Asia can perhaps be met by the mixture of a stronger contingent Western presence in the Indian Ocean and closer consultation on the political and security problems of Southern Asia as a whole. Israel's problem may require the evolution of a firmer and more unified Western policy toward the Middle East coupled with the negotiation of a non-nuclear zone there, although this would involve some tacit agreement with the Soviet Union on the level of conventional arms to be supplied by East and West. In the case of those Pacific countries like Japan and Australia that are already within the American alliance system, the technique evolved in NATO of closer allied association with American planning will be required.
Two things are certain: the development of an anti-proliferation strategy involves the interests of the European powers as directly as those of the United States, France as much as Britain, Germany and Italy as much as France. Moreover, such a strategy could not be effectively pursued without their coöperation. Second, the difference between the kind of assurances that are required in the various American alliances, between say NATO and ANZUS, between the German-American and Japanese-American relationship, will diminish over the years ahead, especially when China becomes an operational nuclear power with the ability to threaten the population centers of Asia and Australasia, in the same way that the Soviet Union can threaten those of Western Europe. If the Atlantic Nuclear Force is the right solution for the European allies, a Pacific nuclear force may be required for the Pacific allies, reinforced by the kind of control over the guidelines of strategic policy which has already been worked out in NATO.
There is at this moment a discernible irritation in Washington with the restriction of alliances, a weariness with the responsibilities they impose in comparison to the accretion of strength they contribute to the pursuit of American objectives. But this could be Washington's golden moment of opportunity. The evidence suggests that artificial systems of military command and control such as the M.L.F. do not meet the problem of great- power middle-power relationships so successfully as the ability of the latter to participate in the formulation of policy before it solidifies into long-term plans. There is a clear need for a multilateral system of crisis management applicable not just to the more remote contingencies of direct nuclear war, but also to the many lesser or less clear-cut situations which a more diversified Communist strategy makes probable. The increased freedom of action of the middle powers is evident: European coöperation will for the time being remain functional and will not lead to a new center of power. There is a growing similarity in the problems of allies in different hemispheres. The special relationship with Britain is no longer any sort of obstacle to Western arrangements, while the need to enhance the political status and responsibility of Germany is clear. Washington itself is physically in the center of the European and Asian confrontations. Finally, the complexity of the American policy-making process, the openness of debate in the early phases of a new policy, the difficulty of modifying American decisions once reached, make it easier to multilateralize the process of coördination and consultation in Washington than in any distant center such as Paris or Bangkok. All these considerations point in one direction, to the conscious development of techniques of multilateral planning and the interpenetration of bureaucracies at the point where the greatest number of different interests bisect-namely, in the capital of the United States itself.
This is not a question of creating complex new institutions either in Washington or elsewhere, though the reform of the machinery of NATO itself cannot be delayed much longer if the alliance is to retain political vitality or if the strange divorce between political reality and military planning is to be ended. The real problem is one of American perspective and choice. On the one hand, the United States can continue to reserve the maximum freedom of action and accept the corollary that its alliances become sounding boards for its policy rather than systems of cooperation. On the other, it can exploit its central position to convert formal alliances or bilateral relationships into an entente-a common way of looking at problems that are increasingly shared in common-especially among those eight or ten middle powers on four continents on whose support and initiative a polycentric world makes the United States increasingly dependent. To develop an informal system of overlapping regional councils or long-term planning centers in Washington, making a large part of the alliance policy-making process synonymous with the American, would be an imaginative use of this central position and might relieve much of the malaise that both the United States and many of its allies now feel about each other.
[i] "There is also the possibility in the 1970s of a small nuclear attack on the United States by a nation possessing only a primitive nuclear force. Accordingly, we have undertaken a number of studies in this area. Our preliminary conclusion is that a small, balanced defense program could, indeed, significantly reduce fatalities from such an attack. However, the lead time for additional nations to develop and deploy an effective ballistic-missile system capable of reaching the United States is greater than we require to deploy the defense."-Statement of Secretary McNamara before the House Armed Services Committee, February 18, 1965.
[ii] Address to the Cleveland Council of World Affairs, March 6, 1965.
[iii] "The Troubled Partnership." New York: McGraw Hill (for the Council on Foreign Relations), 1965, p. 234.