Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
THE EVOLUTION OF WESTERN DEFENSE
STRATEGIC problems are no longer the exclusive province of the military; on the contrary, now that strategy has invaded politics and diplomacy, it is primarily the statesman who must analyze it down to its components. If this gives pause to a soldier who essays to write in a primarily political journal, a second consideration is that whatever a European or even a Frenchman (on the assumption that the French are the "hard core" of Europe) may have to say on the problems posed by the advent of thermonuclear weapons has already been said by Americans, who did not wait until 1963 to discuss frankly and objectively the problems of deterrence, the control of nuclear weapons and the maintenance of the world balance of power-in other words, peace. Indeed, the European point of view on all these subjects could be presented by putting together excerpts from Henry A. Kissinger, Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn and less specialized authors such as Walter Lippmann and Nelson A. Rockefeller.
Thus Clemenceau's famous quip that "war is too serious a matter to be left to the military" could be echoed even more strongly in our day by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev. But the converse is equally true, and matters of defense, despite and perhaps even because of their political and diplomatic implications, should be pondered jointly by the statesman and the soldier. Moreover, the fact that the European position on problems born of the nuclear era is implicitly expressed in a number of American studies does not mean that the innate originality and justice of that position are necessarily understood and accepted in the United States. I shall therefore try, though with many hesitations, to define briefly the problem which dominates our era and on the solution of which depends not only our freedom but our very existence.
I shall begin by attempting to place the problem in its proper context, in order to dispel any possible misunderstanding of the spirit in which some Europeans, and more particularly the French, have come to question the effectiveness of the system of Western defense as we have known it for the past 15 years. It is a truism that defense must be adapted to the threat which has brought it into being. But our awareness of the most basic truths sometimes becomes blurred, and many years have now elapsed since the emergence of the political situation that gave rise to the threat confronting us. It should be taken for granted-and General de Gaulle's recent public statements prove that this is a basic component of French policy-that France regards its own defense as part of Western defense, and that its solidarity with the Atlantic nations is an actual fact. What is in question is the nature of France's participation in the common defense and the extent of the responsibility it wishes to assume. I believe that France's problem is, or one day certainly will be, the problem of all Western European nations.
The United States, which has made such great sacrifices for the common defense over the past 15 years, and has studied the requirements of the task with such painstaking care, ought not to take umbrage when an allied nation wishes, in its turn, to take an active part in an enterprise of which the United States has borne the burden virtually alone but on which depends the fate of all. The peace and prosperity enjoyed today by that part of the European Continent which remained free of the Soviet yoke after World War II are the best proof that the protection generously extended by the United States has been effective. But it would be neither reasonable nor fair to perpetuate a state of dependence which places a heavy burden on the United States, while representing for Europe a morally and politically unjustifiable repudiation of the fundamental duties of free and sovereign nations.
In making a brief survey of the protection extended to Western Europe since the imperialist ambitions of the Soviet Union first became manifest, I should like to show that although this state of dependence was justified in the beginning, it has given rise to increasing disadvantages as the over- all political and military situation evolved. In examining what weapons were employed to contain the Soviet drive, on what principles they were used and who controlled them, I shall attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of the system from the military standpoint alone, its influence on the nature and extent of the threat, and its political advantages and drawbacks from both the American and the European points of view.
From 1948-that grim year of the fall of Prague-until 1952, Western Europe, bled white by five years of war, could offer virtually no opposition to the powerful armies maintained by the Soviet Union. At that time, however, the Soviet Union had no nuclear weapons, so that from 1949 onward the United States was able to deter it from invading what was left of Europe by the threat of immediate massive retaliation with strategic nuclear weapons. The protection extended to Europe by the Strategic Air Command was all the more effective as SAC had very few bases in Europe, so that there was no pretext for a preventive attack or even a preëmptive strike by the Russians in that part of the world.
Naturally, the forces on which in the last analysis the security of the European nations depended were under the direct control of the President of the United States. Thus these nations, forgetting their former pride, came to rely on a powerful ally to preserve their liberty. Busy rebuilding their cities out of rubble, they were in no position to weigh the political or moral disadvantages of such a state of dependence. Even as a convalescent accepts without question the ministrations of his nurse, they accepted readily-and also, let me stress, with gratitude-the economic tonic of the Marshall Plan and the shelter offered by the American atomic shield. The economic and financial drawbacks of this arrangement, under which the United States alone ensured the security of all, seemed negligible, for the cost was no great burden to America's booming economy.
The period 1952 to 1958 was marked by the progressive appearance of Soviet strategic nuclear weapons, while the United States was producing highly sophisticated tactical nuclear weapons in increasing quantities. These weapons were issued to the American troops stationed in Europe, but the United States retained strict control over them. The limited authority delegated by the President for the use of these weapons by SACEUR was in fact delegated to the Commander of the American Forces in Europe.
Although during this period NATO was able to maintain the territorial status quo, the margin of American superiority dwindled and the military and diplomatic effectiveness of the system diminished. The Soviet Union progressively developed intermediate-range strategic forces-aircraft and missiles-directly threatening Europe, and long-range strategic forces- aircraft only-designed to threaten the United States. Thus a state of absolute unilateral deterrence directly benefiting the United States and indirectly benefiting Europe, was transformed into one of bilateral deterrence, in which the most serious and immediate threat hung over Europe, whose security was ensured by nuclear forces controlled by the United States and stationed for the most part outside the Continent. In fairness, it should be added that because of the presence of American troops in Europe and because of the relatively slight threat which the Soviet Union could pose against the United States, the Russians were forced to take seriously the American commitment to immediate massive retaliation if they should attack Europe. But it should also be remembered that the fact that American forces in Europe were supplied with nuclear weapons made Europe a primary target, thus offsetting the protection they afforded.
During these years the European nations, with United States aid, largely regained their former economic and monetary strength. But, having become accustomed to finding shelter behind American military might, they made no effort to develop their own defense machinery against the danger which still lurked on their frontiers. Britain alone began, with the help of the United States, to develop its own nuclear weapons and means of delivery. France, having to bear the burden of the costly war in Indochina, the slack of which was soon taken up by the Algerian revolt, was able only to conduct basic studies on the military uses of atomic energy. In any event, the ambiguities of the Western defense system persisted, and in the meantime the growth of Soviet nuclear power caused the Europeans to wonder how much the American guarantee of European security was worth. The situation which was to reach its full development in the next phase could already be glimpsed.
The progress made by the Russians from 1958 onward in evolving a modern military force placed them on a footing of virtual equality with the United States. They developed tactical nuclear weapons in great quantities and extremely powerful strategic nuclear weapons; most important, they built the necessary means of delivery permitting them to threaten every part of the Western world with instantaneous destruction. Besides innumerable aircraft and tactical missiles with nuclear warheads, they produced ballistic missiles which had both a long range and a great carrying capacity. The process which had begun in the preceding phase was now complete: the United States was in its turn under the constant threat of total destruction, and the balance of mutual deterrence thus achieved gave rise to a widespread feeling that a nuclear stalemate had been reached.
The United States strengthened its nuclear potential in Europe still further. It entrusted tactical atomic weapons to the armed forces of its allies and it installed in England, Italy and Turkey launching pads for intermediate-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. It was felt in some quarters that these launching pads, instead of increasing Europe's security, made it more exposed to attack; the reasoning was that these missiles, being unprotected and requiring a long count-down, were offensive rather than retaliatory weapons and would therefore be singled out for special attention by the Russians in the event of an outbreak of hostilities-of whatever kind-or of a Russian preemptive strike.
As regards control of these weapons, nothing has changed: the President of the United States still bears alone the immense responsibility for setting in motion the mightiest machinery of destruction known to man. The partial and strictly limited delegation of authority to the American Command in Europe in no way alters this situation of concentrated control. The system of two keys is nothing but a polite fiction designed to soothe the increasingly tender susceptibilities of the Europeans.
Britain, for its part, maintains its nuclear capability at a modest level, but it has given up the idea of producing the means of delivery which would have extended the effectiveness of its nuclear force beyond the early 1960s. France, on the other hand, making use of its earlier studies and of the possibilities of its nuclear industry, has begun, with its own resources, to manufacture atomic weapons; it is preparing for the production of thermonuclear weapons; and it has built a piloted plane which will tide it over until its work on missiles has produced practical results.
The nations of Europe are more than ever aware that, given the imbalance in conventional forces, a Soviet attack against them could be stopped only with the aid of nuclear weapons. This is also openly admitted by the United States. But the European nations are equally aware that the Soviet Union possesses the means both of destroying them and of deterring the United States from a total engagement in their defense. The malaise, indications of which appeared some time ago, spreads and grows stronger. Without in the least doubting the good faith of the United States-which would be manifestly unjust-many of us in that part of the old world which has not been engulfed by the Soviet tide wonder how much trust the Russians place in the American promises of commitment; for, in the last analysis, that is the angle from which the problem of deterrence must be viewed. Even on the other side of the Atlantic authoritative voices assert that it would be irrational to attempt to save Europe by massive reprisals which would have the inevitable consequence of destroying the United States.
In this situation, what has the United States done in recent years to allay the justified anxiety of the European nations and to meet their desire for a new system of allied defense, one more consonant with their dignity and their security needs? And how has the United States reacted to the efforts of those nations which have attempted to get out of the rut?
One school of thought in the United States, basing itself on a restrictive and somewhat biased interpretation of the idea of "flexible response" put forward by General Taylor and developed by Mr. McNamara, has advocated the notion that the Europeans should forsake all nuclear ambitions and should devote all their efforts to conventional armaments in order to counterbalance the powerful Soviet forces encamped on the broad plain conquered by Stalin. But things are not as simple as that. Who can fail to see that, once Western conventional armies have been reinforced, the Russians, if they still cherish their aggressive aims, will be tempted, using their own armies as a shield, to employ their nuclear weapons in order to destroy or neutralize the machinery set up at great cost to oppose them? To deter them, one would need the threat of a strategic strike on their own territory, and today only the Americans can exercise such a threat. We are now back where we started from: What is the likelihood, from the Russian point of view, of the United States acting on Europe's behalf in a manner which would almost certainly result in the total destruction of the United States itself?
Another school of thought, which concedes the European claim that Soviet superiority in conventional armaments can be counterbalanced only by the threat of tactical nuclear weapons, nevertheless holds that in case of a Russian attack massive use could be made of those weapons while maintaining them under American control. The conflict would remain limited, regardless of the type and power of the weapons employed, in the sense that it would be localized.
Yet it is easy enough to visualize what would happen if we were forced to use tactical nuclear weapons-some of which are extremely powerful-in an attempt to halt a Russian advance. We would strike at Soviet troops in the Eastern European countries, or outside their own territory. They would retaliate with nuclear weapons launched at our own forces, in the depth of the theatre of operations-in other words, in the small and densely populated territory of continental Europe. Whatever the intentions of either side, the distinction between attacks on enemy units and attacks on cities would then be purely academic. This explains the reluctance of the Europeans, and more particularly the Germans, to accept a nuclear strategy which might result in the complete destruction of their country in a conflict which could be regarded as limited from the standpoint of the Atlantic Community but which would be total where they were concerned. They cannot reconcile themselves to a system of deterrence based entirely on the threat of a nuclear war by escalation.
With a view to giving at least partial satisfaction to the Europeans, who are anxious to have a voice in the plans for strategic defense on which their security depends, the United States Government has proposed a multilateral nuclear force. This system does not strike me as either rational or wise, since it would make no change in the present situation except that a large share of the costs would fall on the European countries. The use of nuclear weapons would still be subject to the American veto. That such use would require the unanimous consent of all members of the force makes no difference; on the contrary, that provision might well paralyze the force. Paradoxical as it may seem, the idea of a multilateral force would, in a sense, result in the denuclearization of Europe just as much as would the Rapacki Plan; and with a little ill will it could be regarded as an American contribution to the Soviet endeavor to maintain the bipolar structure of the present-day world, the pole opposed to the Soviet Union being not the West as a whole, but the United States alone.
Yet even if we reject this tendentious view, the fact remains that the proposed system does nothing to resolve the problem as the European nations see it. It is-or soon will be-their ambition to participate to the full extent of their capabilities in the common defense, in which there can be no compartments specially reserved for one of the allies. In particular, they must participate in the production and control of the atomic weapons on which, to repeat, may depend their safety and their very survival.
The alternative proposed for the multilateral force-a multinational force comprising part of the American and the whole of the British and French strategic forces-has been equally unable to withstand criticism, since it too is based on the principle of integrated forces remaining wholly under American authority in all matters of control and decision.
Lastly, during this entire period the efforts of France to build up its own nuclear capability, and thus be in a position to take an effective part in Western defense, have met with no understanding and received no support. On the contrary, they have aroused the distrust of her American allies, who place more faith in the ability of the Russians to control their tremendous stockpiles of offensive weapons than they do in my country's capacity to use with wisdom and moderation the modest armaments it is working so hard to develop for purely deterrent purposes.
This is how we have arrived at the present situation-one marked by mutual dissatisfaction on the part of the allies and by a lessening of political effectiveness. Our Eastern adversary surely cannot believe that the Alliance has greater military cohesion than it has proved to have political and diplomatic unity; and, I repeat, in our confrontation with Communism we must always bear in mind its evaluation of our determination to resist it.
What is the situation toward which we are now willy-nilly headed? The American military force will remain the central pivot of Western defense. If Mr. McNamara's theories are put into effect, the United States will reinforce its strategic nuclear capabilities, based in the main on I.C.B.M.s in underground silos and missiles carried by Polaris submarines. While this will not be publicly admitted, a smaller role will be assigned to tactical nuclear weapons. For, in what might be termed the game of rational poker which the American Secretary of Defense intends to play with his Soviet partner-whom he credits with as cool and well-organized a mind as his own-those weapons might, by mischance, lead the players to raise the ante too high and, indeed, upset the rules of the game. In particular, there will be no question of decentralizing control over those weapons, and certainly no question of delegating authority to use them to non-American military commands, since it is presumed that they do not know the rules of the game.
The British strategic nuclear force will be tolerated, as proof that there is no American nuclear monopoly within the Alliance, but naturally on condition that it is integrated with the American retaliatory force. That should not be difficult to achieve since, as we have seen, the British have given up the construction of suitable means of delivery and are now technically dependent on the United States.
The French strategic nuclear force, isolated and quarantined, as it were, will have a small capability and will be further handicapped by the lack of broad research programs and technological advances, since France can rely only on her own human and budgetary resources. Militarily, its effectiveness will be limited, yet there is every likelihood that it will carry a weight in the diplomatic sphere out of all proportion to its size.
If we analyze this situation, using the same criteria that we have applied to earlier situations, we shall be forced to admit that it is not very favorable. On the credit side of the new situation, it must be noted that one more of the allies will have attained to its full share of defense responsibilities. Contrary to what many fear, this will not create additional risks of nuclear hostilities. It seems to me neither fair nor, above all, realistic, to continue to question, on the part of France, the sense of responsibility which is readily granted to Soviet Russia in the matter of control of its nuclear weapons. Moreover, it is doubtful that France's possession of a nuclear deterrent would incite the Soviet Union to heedless provocation. On the contrary, looking at the matter from the Russians' point of view, I am convinced that they would be more cautious when faced with two allied but independent centers of decision, one of which will evaluate any offense on the basis of geographic, economic and, above all, human considerations applying in the very area where such offenses are most likely to be committed. Furthermore, in the event that the allies respond with nuclear weapons to a mass attack by Soviet conventional forces; the Russians are more likely to refrain from responding in their turn with nuclear weapons against Western Europe if they know this would mean that the French nuclear force, modest but real, would strike at their own country.
On the debit side, France will strain itself to the utmost, without any aid from the United States which, for its part, will continue to implement its armament program to the full. This burden on the French economy may well have serious repercussions on its social welfare, and everyone knows how important a nation's social well-being has become in our day.
From the military standpoint, the French effort will represent a negligible contribution to Western defense in the eventuality of a general war. Outside the case just mentioned, its value lies almost entirely in the diplomatic sphere.
Finally-and in my view this is the most serious objection of all- politically the Western Alliance will continue to be the heterogeneous organism it is today. Apart from France, subject to the qualifications I have mentioned, and Great Britain, to an extent so slight as to be almost illusory, the members of the Alliance will have no sense of participation in the defense of the West on an equal footing with the United States. The result will be that the present tensions will continue and that the danger of the Alliance falling apart will increase rather than diminish, thereby offering the Soviet Union its best chance of attaining its ends.
Let me add with complete frankness that if France devotes most of its efforts to atomic weapons and Germany concentrates entirely on conventional armaments, there will soon be a serious imbalance between the armed forces of the two countries. Such disparities in continental Europe could be fraught with serious consequences, and I feel that this aspect of the matter should be examined with all the attention and realism it deserves.
Thus we see that the situation toward which we are heading is not really satisfactory either to the United States or to Europe. The reason is, I believe, that the basic principles of defense in the nuclear age were forgotten or disregarded by both of them, in different degrees, as they took the successive positions which have led to the present state of affairs. Far be it from me deliberately to overlook 15 years of common achievements and successes-or at least half-successes; after all, NATO has thus far fulfilled its purpose, which is to halt the subjugation of Europe by the Soviet Union. But I believe it is essential, if we really want to achieve better mutual understanding and a better common defense, to bear these principles in mind in evolving a modern and effective military alliance.
The appearance of nuclear weapons has introduced a radically new element into the idea of defense: when we speak of using them what we really mean is threatening to use them. Thus the potential risk of nuclear war is at least as important as its actual occurrence. The result is, to paraphrase Clausewitz's famous dictum, that nuclear war is a part of politics rather than a continuation of politics.
Since nuclear war has become a permanent element of politics, it will readily be seen that a given political entity cannot possibly ensure its own defense unless it is sufficiently homogeneous to withstand the internal tensions which are inherent in the game of deterrence. A fortiori, a group of nations can expect jointly to ensure their common defense only if there is no marked inequality among them, especially as regards nuclear capability. In short, a joint threat can be made only if each member of the group provides a significant share of the group's total strength, if all are agreed to take the supreme risk together and, what is perhaps even more important, if the adversary is convinced of the group's solidarity and determination.
Until now, the political entity comprising men resolved to throw in their lot together for better or for worse has been the nation-state. If the Atlantic Alliance were a political union of the national type, Europe could conceivably be regarded as an exposed frontier, protecting the union as a whole. But in that case the Europeans would have a say in the decision on which their fate as citizens of the Atlantic Nation would depend.
This is obviously not how matters stand, and there is absolutely no reason to suppose that the United States is ready to propose a union of all the nations on the two sides of the ocean which joins and divides us. Proposals of that kind, which blithely disregard various disparities and the heavy heritage of history, are usually made by idealists who are not concerned with facts. When statesmen make them, it is under the sway of an emotion produced by some great catastrophe. In such cases, either the worst occurs and the proposal becomes meaningless, or the danger recedes and the generous sentiment is soon forgotten in a return to the cool calculations of reason. That is what happened with the proposal for a Franco-British union made by Winston Churchill in 1940.
Besides, it must be recognized that while the Atlantic nations are united by their civilization and their ideas of freedom and democracy, they are divided by geography, at least when it comes to the reality of the threat from the East. The millions of Americans who have visited us in the past 20 years have generally been struck by the different scale of distances in the old continent, and have often been made uneasy by the improbable proximity of the Red Army, in combat readiness only 90 miles from Frankfurt. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that Europeans should attach far more importance to the idea of deterrence than to that of defense in the strictly technical sense, or should feel that life-and-death decisions should not be made 3,000 miles away on the other side of the ocean.
It is therefore essential that a center of power and decision should be created in Europe to give the Atlantic Alliance the features we have found it needs: homogeneity in its retaliatory capability, and equality in making decisions.
If the United States is irritated when Europeans question the sincerity of its commitment to their defense, the Europeans in turn feel that American doubts of their capacity to exercise a rational control over a nuclear force betray an underestimation-if not an outright denial-of their political wisdom. Does Europe have less political maturity than the Big Two credit each other with? And if "nuclear wisdom" comes with the possession of nuclear weapons, the Europeans are ready to let grace descend upon them. Besides, why should they have any special propensity for precipitating a holocaust of which they would be the first victims? On the contrary, they want to make responsibility within the Alliance match the threat, in order to guard more effectively against a conflict which to them would in any circumstances mean a dreadful catastrophe.
The French nuclear effort could, in my view, be a positive factor in this radical transformation of the Alliance, provided it does not meet with systematic and irrational hostility. It fulfills in advance a need which will become apparent as soon as a united Europe has progressed from the stage of ideas to that of political reality. The enterprise may seem premature to some, since that Europe has still to be born; but the difficulties and postponements in nuclear matters are such that to wait for the actual emergence of the new political entity before recognizing its right to concern itself with them would mean to penalize it heavily in the key sector of defense. The unhappy experience of the European Defense Community, which failed about ten years ago, has demonstrated that political problems must be solved before military problems; but a projected solution of the military problems of the future Europe can only further its birth, especially if the United States takes a constructive attitude and agrees to act as a catalyst in the nuclear field, much as it did in promoting the formation of the European Economic Community.
By granting well-thought-out technical assistance, the United States would be able to encourage the nations of the old continent to turn to a constructive common enterprise instead of being satisfied with illusions, like that of a multilateral force without substance. European coöperation in the production of nuclear armaments would then no longer be a sin against the Alliance and would emerge from the realm of dreams to which it is being deliberately relegated.
The United States can and must aid Europe; but it is essential that Europe should attain major nuclear capability by its own efforts. Even as a mother fully experiences maternal feelings only because she has carried and given birth to her child in pain, so will the nations develop full responsibility in nuclear matters only if they themselves conceive and produce nuclear armaments. In a continent which is divided, but in which we can see glimpses of the united Europe we must aim at, France alone happened to be in a position to undertake this tremendous task.
Britain has not yet realized how close its links are with the Continent. Its eyes turned toward the United States, it sees the Atlantic as less broad than the English Channel. It will join a united Europe, but it will not help to build it. Germany has regained sufficient economic strength to conquer the atom, but is prevented by treaties from making the attempt. Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and the other European members of the Alliance cannot do so for obvious reasons.
France realizes that the smallness of its territory and its budgetary limitations preclude it from rising to the summit of nuclear power. But it is also aware that its enterprise is a guarantee that the emerging Europe, if it does emerge, will not lack weapons for its defense, and that these weapons will be, as they must be, the product of its own effort and its own industry.
It seems to me that it would be in keeping with the generous nature of the American people to promote without ulterior motives the military development of their future European partner. To that end, they should accept the French strategic nuclear force promptly and without bitterness, and facilitate its coöperation with the British and American forces. At a later stage they could further the coördinated efforts of the nations of the old continent in the matter of nuclear armaments and thus hasten the appearance of a specifically European force. This could be done progressively. To begin with, the British and French nuclear forces might constitute the nucleus of a European multinational force based on the equality of the participants; and later, when Europe's state of unification permits, they could become part of a homogeneous force.
In this way, the United States would contribute to the realization of the grand design of the union of European nations, which represents a necessary stage on the way to a real association between the old and the new worlds, and would confer upon its allies the dignity that comes of sharing duties and responsibilities equally. Having gained the full confidence of its new partner by having confidence in it, the United States would then discover that by having dared to surrender its monopoly of nuclear arms control it had greatly enhanced its own security.