YESTERDAY, German defense minister Peter Struck told interviewers from the Financial Times that Germany had not ruled out sending troops to Iraq. "At present I rule out the deployment of German troops in Iraq. In general, however, there is no one who can predict developments in Iraq in such a way that he could make such a binding statement [about the future]." In the context of the interview, it was clear Struck was suggesting that Germany might reconsider its position on troops in Iraq if John Kerry was elected president.
Well, there you have it. Just elect Senator Kerry and America's old allies--Germany and France--will return to the transatlantic fold, and all will be right with the world. Here's the problem: Struck's comments are malarkey. Given how few capable troops Germany has--and with many of them tied up in Afghanistan--it's unlikely Berlin could put any substantial numbers in harm's way in Iraq anytime soon. And, more to the point, given the declining popularity for Chancellor Schröder's government inside Germany, it is inconceivable that his government would risk angering the public further by actually deploying troops to a conflict that a large majority of Germans--with the help of the current government--have come to believe is morally bankrupt and certain to fail in any case.
No, what's really going on here is a not-so-subtle effort on the part of the Schröder government to influence the American election in its waning days, by giving Sen. Kerry's claims he would be a more effective leader than President Bush some faux credibility. It's not clear what impact Struck's comments might have on American voters. As poll after poll has shown, Americans do care what the other democracies in the world think and, regardless of how totally off-the-rocker much of Germany's commentary about George Bush and America is these days, it does bother them that an old ally is not supportive of U.S. efforts in Iraq.
The Bush team could counter that we can't let unfriendly European leaders monkey with our political choices. Moreover, the Bush campaign could note that John Howard, the Australian prime minister and U.S. ally in Iraq, was just returned to office in overwhelming fashion. Here's an ally with real troops and real combat power on the ground in Iraq. Surely the American public would credit Bush's real Australian alliance more than some nebulous prospect that Germany might, just might, rethink its position on deploying troops sometime in the future under a Kerry administration.
Gary Schmitt is executive director of The Project for the New American Century.
Previous Campaign Memos:
Not a Diversion, Was Iraq a diversion from the war on terror? Bush and McCain remind us that the answer is: No. October 6, 2004
The No-Nukes Party, The Mondale Democrats are alive and well in the U.S. Senate--does John Kerry still believe in their worldview? October 4, 2004
When Was He For It (Before He Was Against It)?, John Kerry gives a disingenuous defense of why he said he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. September 29, 2004
The Kerry-Kennedy Line, It's a good thing that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy lost the last time they took a stand on Saddam Hussein. September 28, 2004
Kerry's Phony Foreign Forces, Would President Kerry be able to get France and Germany to help share the burden in Iraq? Chirac says, "Non!" September 22, 2004
Nothing To Do With the Truth, John Kerry continues to insist that Saddam Hussein had "nothing to do with al Qaeda." And he continues to be wrong. September 22, 2004
Lugar's Other Comments, The media played up Richard Lugar's recent remarks about President Bush; will they do the same with his assessment of Senator Kerry? September 21, 2004
For Kerry, It's Always Vietnam, The subtext of John Kerry's Monday morning Iraq speech. September 20, 2004
Kerry's Flip-Flopping on Russia, The senator has two views on promoting democracy in Russia, too. September 16, 2004
Wrong Choices, A look at John Kerry's record. September 15, 2004
Another New Kerry Position on Iraq . . . and the same one on Vietnam. September 15, 2004
Kerry and the "Direct Link," The Kerry campaign is distorting Dick Cheney's words. September 13, 2004
Kerry's North Korea Non-policy, John Kerry calls the New York Times with complaints, but no plan. September 13, 2004
If John Kerry Were President, . . . Saddam would still be in power. September 8, 2004
Kerry vs. Kerry, What does "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" mean? September 7, 2004
The Kerry Record, What John Kerry about foreign policy and defense in 1984 and 1985. September 3, 2004
It Was This Big . . ., Does John Kerry still believe that the terror threat is an "exaggeration"? September 1, 2004
John Edwards: Disrespecting Our Allies, America isn't acting alone. September 1, 2004
No Bargain, The "grand bargain" John Kerry and John Edwards are prepared to offer Iran deserves serious scrutiny. September 1, 2004