THE DEFENCE OF EUROPE AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (*)
by Mario Albertini
The Federalist, 1994, Number 1
In the August edition of the Revue de défense nationale General Ailleret, Head of the French Joint Chiefs of Staff, published a speech delivered on 28th June to the former officials of the NATO College, senior officers and high ranking officials from the member-states of the Alliance. This outlined in forthright terms the French government's position regarding the defence of Europe; so much so that the Minister of the Armed Forces, Messmer, confirmed on 21st July that General Ailleret had in no sense expressed his purely personal opinion, which indeed was clear given the general's official position.
After asserting that Maxwell Taylor's "flexible response" theory could be considered correct in general, but wrong in the European context, General Ailleret further sustained during his lecture that: a) a classical defence, or "conventional" one, as it is commonly termed, would not be able to halt the Russians at the iron curtain ("the Rhine would already be a positive result. The Somme, the Aisne, the Vosges, the Jura and the Alps would be more likely"); b) the recourse to tactical nuclear weapons could perhaps serve to halt the invasion, "but the cost for the battlefield itself, in other words for Europe, will be enormous... it is clear that a nuclear exchange, even solely a tactical one, will completely destroy Europe over an area of 3,000 km, from the Atlantic to the Soviet Border". He concluded by affirming that if Europe is to be given real protection, it is necessary to return to the doctrine of immediate strategic nuclear response.
Is this resort to the concept of an immediate nuclear response right or wrong? In the first place, it needs to be established what the consequences for Europe of the flexible response theory are. In the current situation, this theory represents none other than the intention of defending the West using a strategy that envisages a fully-fledged conventional war in Europe, prior to employing nuclear weapons. In other words, this strategy establishes the possibility that a conventional war in Europe may occur. Alone, divided and without nuclear arms, West Europe's states would be rapidly overwhelmed without suffering tremendous destruction, precisely because of the rapidity of the defeat. But with the help of the US, with its intention to increase its military commitment in line with the adversary's, Europe would witness the flaring up once again on its own soil of a war with maximum destructive potential.
This is an unacceptable prospect. It would represent the third world war, not a limited war. Many millions of people would die, especially civilians. Historic cities, works of art and memories of the past which constitute the greatest living testimony to the development of the civilisation which is currently uniting mankind would be destroyed. This is a civilisation which, though having appeared everywhere, has evolved without interruption only in Europe. For the Europeans who are aware of the irreparability and gravity of destruction of this kind, who have not forgotten the Second, nor even the First World War, and who have not completely lost a sense of responsibility during these years in which Europe's defence has been guaranteed by the Americans, there can be no doubts. It is necessary to reject any policy which may lead Europe towards the possibility of a third world war; everything possible must be done to avert this. (1)
But to avoid war there is no other means than the threat of an immediate nuclear response. It is true that when faced with this argument, the brain tries to flee, like a frightened horse, along thousands of paths, one more unrealistic than the other. But our minds should be concentrated firmly on this subject. If we want to avoid a war in Europe, it is necessary to prevent the Soviet Union, in whatever circumstances, and whatever government it has, from fighting in Europe. And there is only one way to prevent them from doing this, the threat of an immediate nuclear response. Nobody has come up with a plan of action which could achieve the same result through other means. And nobody is capable of formulating such a plan. Ailleret is right. (2)
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In theory, another possibility can be considered, that of neutrality in the narrowest sense. This in no way guarantees that we would not be attacked, but, if applied to the letter, it could guarantee that there would be neither death nor destruction. It would suffice not to react in any way to aggression, to forgo defence in the event of attack. Let the adversary advance without firing a single shot.
Of course, we can not expect European governments to behave this way. As far as the governments are concerned, until a few years ago it was possible to entertain a different hypothesis (even though self-deluding), that of the victory of the Communist parties in France and Italy, the resultant re-alignment of West Germany, and thus the elimination of the risk of war in Europe by means of a permanent alliance between the Soviet Union and all European states. The Communists are still trying to propose this vision, but with increasingly less chance of winning the argument. It has become an accepted fact, and furthermore a dramatic one, that the larger the group of "Socialist" countries becomes, the more division it suffers and the more evident become the classic, traditional, characteristics of the struggle for power between nation-states.
Once the falseness of the Communist peace is demonstrated and once we dismiss as unrealistic the hypothesis that not only the present European governments, but also any other government, be it conservative or revolutionary, of the right, centre or left, would be able to attain a completely passive neutralism, only one option remains to be considered: the organisation of a clandestine body of fanatics committed to carrying out all the necessary acts of sabotage, even assassinations of political and military leaders, to impede the armies of their own countries from engaging in action. Clearly, it suffices to state this hypothesis to realise its absurdity. Nevertheless, it is important to bring it to light in order not to leave any stone unturned in the debate on the defence of Europe.
Let us recapitulate. Flexible response, as it stands today, does not defend Europe, but on the contrary, destroys it. Neutrality is worthless in its active version (react only if attacked) and impossible in the version in which it would be useful, that of rigorous and complete passivity. Do any reject the strategy of an immediate nuclear response while equally seeking to prevent the scourge of a new war in Europe? Let them come forward with proof, let them establish the organisation of fanatics prepared to do anything to prevent the outbreak of war, otherwise we will have the right to consider them liars. Others argue instead that they want to defend Europe without the threat of nuclear response in the event of the risk of a general war? Let them be made aware of their mistake if they are acting in good faith, and if the contrary is the case, they should be unmasked for what they are, people that do not hesitate to accept the possibility of extermination and destruction in Europe to defend their private inte
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At this point, all that would remain would be to analyse the political aspects of an immediate nuclear response, were it not necessary first to remove a psychological obstacle that prevents many people from considering the problem of Europe's defence in its real terms. This obstacle stems from the way in which the concept of nuclear response is commonly represented. Is it really the bestial idea that many believe it to be? Without any doubt it would be if the threat of response, let alone the very existence of nuclear arms, really resulted in the possibility of their actual employment. And that is what many fear. Since nuclear weapons have destroyed the possibility of victory, which is the goal of war, nuclear war is in theory impossible. For this reason, it is generally not conceivable that a sane head of state could threaten the security of a nuclear power to such an extent to force it to resort to nuclear weapons. It is even less conceivable that a head of state would, without first being pushed to the ed
ge of the abyss, order the launching of nuclear missiles. But it is nevertheless argued that a head of state could do this if he went mad, or that a nuclear war could be started by mistake.
Before discussing the validity of this concept, permit me a digression. Personally, although I am not religious, I can not consider this idea without a feeling of scepticism, without recalling, almost in spite of myself, Einstein's phrase, "God does not play dice with the universe", and without adding, "therefore not with mankind either".
Hypothetically, "any level of massacre and destruction" can be achieved with nuclear war; hundreds of millions of people can be killed, the human race can be wiped off the face of the earth. And a man, not a god, a man only, mad or mistaken, could trigger this off.
Undoubtedly, it is the most terrible idea that has ever entered the human mind. An idea that should terrify and dismay. An idea that should induce a religious person to ask himself whether the day of the Apocalypse is approaching, a philosopher to re-examine the meaning of the human presence in history, and a scientist to dismantle the idea piece by piece, coldly and deliberately, to see whether in spite of its apparent obviousness it does not conceal an error. But nothing of the kind has happened. This idea did not lead people to get into touch with the deep aspects of reality it claims to describe. It is normally regarded as something suitable to transmit a thrill of the kind that a horror film or novel arouse, or as an argument to preach with, for the sort of people who care only about themselves, and who for this reason lose their sensitivity to all other things, and hence select from every idea only the aspect which enables them to show off. And that suffices to make one doubt its veracity.
In any case, let us discuss the validity of the idea. These are the facts. Nuclear weapons exist. There are also statesmen who decide whether to use them or not. And, finally, there are soldiers who have the physical possibility to drop or launch them. One of these statesmen could issue the fatal order if he were to go out of his mind, or in response to a presumed nuclear attack by the enemy following an error in the early-warning systems. There could also be another kind of error. In the course of a limited conflict involving (directly or indirectly) two nuclear powers, a statesman can gradually arrive at a point which, to him or to the enemy, no other means of final defence remains except nuclear weapons. Alternatively, some of the soldiers (or pairs of soldiers) who occupy key positions in the military organisation that has the task of launching missiles or dropping bombs, could go mad, or make a mistake due to the malfunctioning of a certain instrument.
On the basis of this description of the elements of the problem, and for each of these hypotheses, a practically endless series of scenarios can be elaborated, which in practice we are actually provided with both by novelists and film-makers, as well as by so-called experts of nuclear strategy, in often not substantially differing ways. But it makes no sense to waste time examining this, because this description, which constitutes the starting point for these scenarios, is false, even if at first glance it seems true, conspicuously true, and therefore beyond any doubt. It is false because of an error of attribution.
According to this description, there are on the one hand isolated individuals (let us consider primarily statesmen), and on the other, the bombs. Bombs alone are worth nothing. It is known that they exist, that they are probably capable of destroying the human race, but it is also known that if humans do not decide to employ them, they are nothing but inert matter that can not cause the slightest harm to anybody. So, this is the point: the taking of the decision to employ them. If this point is seriously considered, it is immediately clear that it is not true that on the one hand there are bombs, and on the other, isolated individuals. On the other hand there are groups, not isolated individuals.
There are the aides of the person who has the legal power to make the decision. There are political parties and the material and moral interests on which these people depend. There are popular assemblies, let alone all the holders of fractions of power, of whatever kind it may be. There is the whole population, there are even the dead, the great ancestors who symbolise the so-called character of the people, that is their most important historic experiences. There is in fact a group which can not be denoted, not even by the word "government", so much does it go beyond it, but only by the word "state", and only when this includes also the concept of "civil society", that is to say the group formed by social interaction which has always constituted, from the beginning of history, the greatest guarantee of responsibility in the control of human behaviour.
It is true, from the legal viewpoint, that the decision lies with a single person, a politician, the head of the executive. That can make it seem that this person could act independently of other people's will, and that he is therefore not bound by all the others, those who do not have that particular right. But this is not the case. An unbreakable bond connects him to other people: the impossibility of effecting his decisions without the participation and consent of other people. It is an absolute impossibility, deriving from the fact that the power to decide and the power to execute do not coincide. In many cases, as in that of the employment of nuclear weapons, the former may be vested in a single person, but the latter always lies with the many. Consequently, the decision of the person who has the right to decide remains a dead letter if it radically contrasts with the vital interests of those who are involved in the execution of the decision, and who in this way find themselves with a strong negative po
wer, the power to impede.(3)
It is this mechanism, subordinating the statesman to a group (the group of people involved in the execution of a decision), that tends to coincide with the group of all the people who have a vital interest in a decision to be taken. It follows that the more serious a decision is, the more everyone contributes to it, even though they are not directly consulted, except on rare occasions like elections. There is always a statesman who, theoretically, has the right to take the decision alone, but as we have seen, when the content of the decision directly concerns the vital interests of all the members of the state community, this statesman must in practice conform to making the decision only in conjunction with them, and only for them, on pain of otherwise being unable to carry it out. In other words, he could render his power ineffective and thus cease to be, at least in that moment, a statesman. On the other hand, this person, whose personal interest coincides with the general interest, in the attempt to eleva
te his spirit to the level of his responsibility, can not do without recourse to the example of his great forebears. And thus, through the subordination of the one to the many and through the wisdom that is handed down from generation to generation, the state effectively achieves the greatest possible responsibility in its control of human behaviour. These are well-known phenomena, at least some of them are. But it is necessary to recall them so as to specify that nuclear weapons, being formally in the hands of the head of the executive, are in practical terms in the hands of all; of all when they display the greatest possible wisdom, when they act as a state. (4) We should therefore conclude that nuclear war caused by error or madness is impossible. An individual can go mad or make a mistake, but not everybody. With that the problem should be closed, but its gravity is such that it is worth reconsidering our facts, and re-examining them in light of this.
* * *
We now know that we should take into consideration single individuals, but single individuals who have to think as everybody thinks, and who have to decide in accordance with everybody's will. These individuals (let us begin with the statesmen again) can go mad. Then two possibilities exist. The international situation is calm, there is no state of alert and the person in power orders a nuclear attack. Everyone realises that he has gone mad, the order is not executed and the only consequence is his removal. In certain states, this could cause constitutional problems that may be difficult or impossible to resolve in a legal context, but not real practical difficulties. Hamilton stated that revolutionary circumstances, that is exceptionally grave ones, are not resolved by constitutional rules for the obvious reason that these are precisely circumstances which call into question the entire constitutional system.
Alternatively, the international situation is serious and there exists a state of alert. In this case, whoever has the formal power to order an attack is never alone. Such a person is constantly with his aides. And if he should decide, following a fit of madness, to order a nuclear attack (recall that there can not be however, always excepting the eventuality of insanity or error, either a nuclear attack by the enemy, or a situation with no way out except the nuclear one) he would not succeed even in pronouncing it. He would be disproven immediately, and transferred physically to a place where he could do no harm. That is also true for the possibility that during a constantly worsening conflict, out of fear, due to an error or unconsciousness, the leader could take the ultimate measure, following which no other alternative but the employment of nuclear weapons would be left. In this case, he would be stopped first by his aides. Conversely, an adversary would also react the same way in a similar situation. Th
e emergence of the risk of the use of nuclear weapons by the power without any other options, would become the determining factor in the evolution of the situation. Faced with this risk, the power with the upper hand would immediately ease its pressure until the conditions that do not impose a recourse to nuclear arms by its adversary are re-established.
Finally, the last hypothesis, that of a mistake both by a statesman or a military officer occupying a crucial position, which also includes the possibility of the insanity of the latter. It is very difficult, indeed so difficult, for this to happen that it should be considered only with the aim of constantly perfecting safety procedures, but not as an actual possibility. In order to consider it as a situation in which people could actually find themselves, it is necessary to search as far as hypotheses such as those from the film "Dr. Strangelove", for example. In any case, the mistake of itself does not lead to a war or a massive attack (which would follow only in a second phase, the second phase that will never happen) but only to the launching of a single bomb of the first warning salvo, precisely because, given that it would be in error, all the systems for cancelling the order and stopping or destroying the missiles would be activated almost immediately.
And this launching would not lead to a nuclear war. It is beyond doubt that the very moment after the explosion of a bomb, both on the side of the person who committed the error and of those who suffered its consequences, not only those in power and state bureaucracies, but also all the members of the state community, none excluded, would enter the stage with a single thought, of a heretofore unprecedented intensity. The state would be raised to its greatest responsibility, in its fullest majesty, the only true majesty, that deriving from the people, as Kant stated; and it would be capable of averting massacre and extermination. The head of the executive to whom the mistake would be personally attributable, upset by a horror that nobody has ever before experienced, would be ready to accept without reservations any requests for moral and material reparations, and would only be concerned to ask that these be presented. On the other hand, the leaders of the state which had borne the consequences of this error w
ould certainly not want to decide to unleash nuclear war, that is, decide to destroy among other things their own people, simply to satisfy their desire for revenge (is it really possible to think in such terms?), which would moreover be opposed in a thousand ways by their own people, while the whole of mankind would be crying out for peace.
* * *
There is another aspect to the question of nuclear arms, a positive one, the one nobody ever mentions. That there are positive and negative aspects to every phenomenon is a principle of the dialectic concept of history. But it is also a common sense concept that all understand, even through proverbs, although often, struck by the negative aspect of a phenomenon, people forget it and retreat in fear before grasping the positive aspect, thus remaining hostage to obscurity and fear instead of raising themselves up to an understanding of both the good and bad sides, which at the same time represents a degree of trust in the possibility to act. It is understandable that such a thing has happened with nuclear arms. Nevertheless, it is now time to go beyond this and to highlight their positive aspect.
Let us start with a question of current interest, that of the so-called proliferation of nuclear arms. It is beyond doubt that it can not be prevented. Without nuclear weapons, a country has no decision-making power at the international level, except in a subordinate and marginal form. This is why, so far, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France have emulated the United States. And this is the reason that will push any state which acquires the necessary technical and financial capacity to equip itself with nuclear weapons. This is a prediction which can not be formulated in mathematical terms, but which has practically the same degree of certainty as the prediction that "two plus two equals four". Besides, the proliferation is underway and the fact that those who want to prevent it seek to limit the number of nuclear powers to two (the US and USSR), while there are already four of them, is nothing other than an indication of the obscurity which still surrounds certain people when they are dealing with the
se problems. How is it conceivable that the number of nuclear powers can be reduced to two, and not increased? International decision-making power is at stake. How is it conceivable that all other states will permanently leave the US and USSR to enjoy this power alone?
On the other hand, the devil is not as ugly as he is portrayed. Nuclear arms proliferation is feared for two reasons: the increase in risk connected with the pure and simple increase in the number of nuclear powers, and the increase in risk linked to the fact that, hypothetically, even some irresponsible states could end up possessing nuclear weapons. But the first risk does not exist, because, as we have seen, what is true for one responsible state, is true for all responsible states. And if considered carefully, it can be seen that the second does not exist either. In the current situation, irresponsible states do exist, but it remains a fact that these are not yet capable of producing nuclear weapons, and it is a fact that when they will be able to build them and put them at the service of a reasonable policy (due to the nuclear risk an unreasonable policy would not be tolerated by the great powers) they will also have become responsible states. It is perhaps necessary to recall that when placed in the sa
me circumstances all people acquire the same capabilities, or should it be argued that nature has made Russians and Americans more intelligent than other people?
And there is more. This concerns not only the impossibility of nuclear war. Proliferation is in fact equivalent to the extension of the territory where not only does the risk of nuclear war not exist, but where even the risk of a conventional war is lessened, to the extent of completely disappearing. In order not to cross the threshold of the nuclear risk, states with nuclear weapons can not attack each other directly, even with conventional weapons, but can only do so indirectly, with a great deal of caution, on territories far from their own and which therefore do not seriously endanger their reciprocal security. (5) Nowadays, it is only possible to fight (with or without the intervention of the great powers) on the territory of states without nuclear weapons. This is why the increase in the number of nuclear powers necessarily coincides with the extension of the territory on which the risk of war disappears completely, and with the reduction of territory on which this risk still remains.
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Is, then, a process of the gradual disappearance of war about to start? This idea is incompatible with all political, social and historical data, past and present. That is to say, it is an idea that can not be taken into consideration unless it can be shown that it is compatible with the political, social and historical data of the future which has already begun. Our readers are familiar with our thoughts on this matter. Let us summarise them. Nuclear weapons require large spaces for the organisation of defence and offence. On the other hand, they appear at a stage of the evolution of the economic system in which this system, by making human activity strictly interdependent over spaces of continental dimensions, gathers people together at this level, and thus creates the basis for a widening of the organisation of the state up to these dimensions.
Hence the following situation can be outlined. On the one hand, continental states that are powerfully armed, but incapable of waging wars because of nuclear weapons, will confront each other in a static equilibrium, deprived of the freedom of manoeuvre, and therefore unsuitable to reproduce at the political, legal and economic levels, the incessant changes of the social basis of human existence. On the other hand, the moral and material interdependence of people, which is constantly increasing due to economic, technological and scientific progress, will bind together increasingly tightly all people on earth, even surpassing continental dimensions. Hence, a constantly worsening contradiction will develop between the social unity of the human race and its division into separate states. And this contradiction will perhaps reach its greatest expression precisely in the military sphere where, in the wake of these processes, it will open the way to its own overcoming, that is to the foundation of a world federal
In fact, political division, and hence the need to guarantee security by force, will oblige the states to maintain and perfect more destructive weapons and hold them constantly, as in the past, on a war footing, but of a war (the war without victory and comprising the self-destruction of the belligerents) that will not be possible to wage, that the states themselves will be absolutely unwilling to wage, and which they will succeed in avoiding by thinking up and employing all necessary means. The hotline between the American president and the head of the Soviet Union (that is, the reverse of the very basis of strategy that demands that one's own moves be concealed from the adversary) is none other than the first manifestation of this contradiction: to prepare oneself for war though being certain that it will not be waged; to make it absolutely clear to everyone that one is determined to defend one's own security, even by nuclear means, while at the same time doing everything possible to avert totally the risk
of their employment. This absurd effort will undermine the power of the states and will facilitate the affirmation of the de facto unifying power that will be formed within the framework of the social unification of the human race.
The examination of the positive aspect of nuclear weapons has brought us to this point, a point that many will undoubtedly try to dismiss as futuristic. Yet Kant, a man in whom reason was displayed to its highest degree, argued in this way: "Through wasting the powers of the commonwealths in armaments to be used against each other, through devastation brought on by war, and even more by the necessity of holding themselves in constant readiness for war, they stunt the full development of human nature. But because of the evils which thus arise, our race is forced to find, above the (in itself healthy) opposition of states which is a consequence of their freedom, a law of equilibrium and a united power to give it effect. Thus it is forced to institute a cosmopolitan condition to secure the external safety of each state.
Such a condition is not unattended by the danger that the vitality of mankind may fall asleep; but it is at least not without a principle of balance among men's actions and counteractions, without which they might be altogether destroyed." (6)
Moreover, taking into account the fact that at every stage of the evolution of the mode of production, the size of the state community has expanded from city, to region, to nation, those who maintain that this process will continue can invoke the principle according to which the same cause produces the same effects, while those who maintain the opposite position (that this will not be repeated at the continental level, and finally that of the whole earth), are obliged to specify what is the heretofore unknown historical factor that will impede future social units from transforming themselves also into political units.
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The idea of the political unification of the human race, though being a requirement of reason for a clear understanding of the nuclear issue (as well as of the sense of history), is nevertheless not sufficient to establish the political aspects of it. In this context, the following problems take on, even in Europe, a particular significance: a) the problem of the foreign policy to which nuclear strategy should be subordinated, which is beyond the scope of this article since it does not exclusively depend on strategic considerations; b) problems which derive directly from the existence of nuclear arms, which instead can and should be discussed here.
Two of these have great importance. The first is the relationship between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons. In this context, the assertions of the flexible response theory are valid, when qualified. To confront an adversary, it is necessary to have (clearly in sufficient numbers) also conventional weapons at one's disposal. An adversary can mobilise divisions, deploy them along its borders, and take initiatives of very diverse kinds (from a border violation by a patrol to the Berlin blockade, to take examples from history) which can display a clear military or paramilitary character while not constituting real and genuine acts of open warfare.
It is self-evident that in all these instances, it is not possible to react with anything other than conventional means; responding to an adversary's mobilisation with a counter-mobilisation, to his initiatives with counter-initiatives, other than simply threatening a nuclear response (which would not be credible in the circumstances and thus ineffective). And clearly it is necessary to react in this way, naturally warning an adversary simultaneously that a nuclear response will follow if he crosses the threshold of the risk of a general war (doing so with the aim of averting it), for another reason, that of not lessening one's credibility by empty threats, in a situation in which it would not be possible to carry such threats out.
These observations enable a practical and theoretical clarification. Theoretically, they demonstrate that there is no incompatibility between flexible response and an immediate nuclear response, but on the contrary that they are complementary. Being none other than the proposal to calibrate one's own reaction to the gravity of another's initiative, flexible response does not exclude, but rather implies, an immediate response, in the hypothesis of an initiative that threatens the security of the attacked party in a direct and immediate way. An immediate response therefore depends, in its concrete implementation, on the precise setting of the point beyond which one considers there to be a direct and immediate threat to security, and hence the need to respond with nuclear weapons to an adversary which has already passed through, or skipped, all the preceding stages.
It is evident that in the case of an individual state the margin inside which this point can be fixed tends to be zero because in any given situation there exists a limit, and everyone knows what it is, beyond which the security of the state is directly and immediately threatened. But in the case of alliances, this margin of choice can be much wider, naturally on condition that there exists the will to pay the price of the choice. In fact, the margin is as wide as the number of points in which, for a state or for a group of states in alliance, exists the risk under discussion (which in the case of Europe coincides in practice with that of a general war), and which can be exploited by creating, depending on the point chosen, an independent nuclear arsenal, without which a nuclear response would be neither credible to an adversary nor feasible for an alliance.
That said, practical questions are immediately raised. In the Atlantic area, once agreement on the flexible response strategy has been reached, an independent European nuclear arsenal can either be foregone or maintained. In the former instance, there would only be a response when the security of the United States was directly or indirectly threatened, that is when Europe would already have been invaded, with the results that we have outlined above, causing enormous damage, as is immediately evident, for the US itself, which, reduced to the position of only being able to use the nuclear threat to stop an adversary, would find itself having to choose between a conventional war for the reconquest of Western Europe, which would be enormously costly and probably impossible, and the acceptance of the new status quo, in which the weight of the US in the world balance of power would be immeasurably less than before. The second case (outlined above) is that of the real and effective defence of Europe. The end of uni
lateral American leadership would also be useful for snuffing out the nationalism which it generates, directly in America and indirectly in the protected European states.
The other issue is that of the relationship between disarmament and nuclear policies. This is solely a question of principle, since in the world's present state disarmament is held to be impossible (at least within the limits of our present capacities of prediction). Yet it is necessary all the same to link nuclear policy to disarmament policy, both in order in the short term to match the feelings of power generated by these weapons with the aspiration of peace, and to keep open all the paths that lead to the overcoming of the contradictions caused by the nuclear phase of the evolution of war strategy. One risk seems to stand out, that of the destruction of nuclear weapons and hence of the re-emergence of general war in Europe. Yet this risk, which nevertheless should be run for an offsetting gain of this nature, is more apparent than real. With a policy of disarmament, it will never, as far as we know, be possible to achieve disarmament itself, but instead life will be made harder for those who, by means of
militarism, attempt to preserve political privileges which are no longer justifiable, enabling, for example, the conversion of the Soviet Union to democracy, perhaps its adhesion to the European Federation which is in the process of being established, and so on. In any case, a new path will be followed, along which mankind will not find again the events and facts of the past, but rather will complete the stages which will bring it to world government and perpetual peace.
However, it should be added that there are two disarmament policies. One was adopted by the US, USSR and United Kingdom in the Treaty of Moscow regarding the partial suspension of nuclear experiments, which fits in with the preservation of the nuclear monopoly by a few states, in other words the maintenance of US and Soviet domination over all the other states, with the United Kingdom having an illusory role as a third great power. The other is promoted by de Gaulle, who contemplates the destruction of missiles as a first step, in other words the neutralisation of the nuclear power of the privileged states. There is no doubt that Europe should follow this latter policy of disarmament, which promotes, at least ideally, equality between peoples through the reduction of power imbalances.
* * *
An examination of the broad lines of the issue of Europe's defence, and of the significance of nuclear weapons, would be concluded at this point, did it not remain to analyse a fact which, while not depending on nuclear strategy, nevertheless conditions it. Why do we talk of the defence of Europe and not of the defence of France, Germany and so on? In theory, the defence of one's own state is natural, while that of an area made up of many states is not. This is even more valid in the case of nuclear weapons, which are of use only with regard to a direct and immediate threat to the security of a community. This clearly does not mean that a state must fight alone. On the contrary, it must ally itself with the largest possible number of states, but this does not change the goal, which always remains that of the defence of the lives and property of the members of a state community, as well as its territory.
Notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding the fact that NATO, which defended Europe as a single entity during the years of the absolute impotence of the European states, is collapsing, the European governments always, and only, concern themselves with the defence of Europe, and not with the defence of France, Germany, and so on. Why? Because they know, albeit almost without realising it, and without however being aware of the nature of the fact and of its implications, that Western Europe represents, from a defence viewpoint (as, moreover, from an economic one), an indissoluble unity. All the same, we are still very far from an effective defence of Europe, as far as a naive unconscious understanding is separated from a real and conscious knowledge.
That the French nuclear arsenal defends Europe is not in doubt. It does so precisely because France alone is not defendable, because the defence of Europe is indivisible, and in the ultimate instance because France is already directly and immediately threatened from the moment in which Germany is attacked (I note, for those who turn a deaf ear to this issue that this is what differentiates the French nuclear arsenal from the American one as far as Europe is concerned). But it is nevertheless true that France, alone, can not guarantee an efficient defence of Europe, neither in a material nor political sense. (7)
In a material sense, France, using only its own means, can achieve the building of a small nuclear arsenal, but one which is completely insufficient for resolving the problem that is posed in reality - that of standing up to, both at the nuclear and conventional levels, Russian power. It is clearly necessary to oppose the Soviets' continental concentration of resources with another continental concentration of resources, that is European power. (8) And on a political level, France is not capable of mobilising all European resources, nor to elaborate, even in the name of the other states, the policy of Europe's defence, and not even to establish formally in which instances (which relate primarily to German territory) a nuclear response would be employed, a fact that is sufficient to diminish credibility even if it is easy to imagine what these would be in practice.
Moreover, once it has been established that achieving an effective defence concerns defending Europe, not individual states, it should be recalled that the French nuclear arsenal, being French, is French and not European, aside from its insufficiency. This observation is so simple as to seem stupid. But it needs to be made because many, bewitched by its European function, do not notice this. The French nuclear arsenal is French, and is at the service of the European policy of a French government and not, as is required, of the European policy of a European government. In this respect, it unleashes small-minded French nationalism; which unleashes, in its turn, other European nationalisms that are even smaller due to their greater weakness, but equally damaging. In fact, they undermine, while the point is to reinforce, the commitment of everyone to common defence and European integration, even if it can not be completely destroyed since its foundation lies in facts and not in the will of men.
Furthermore it is necessary to highlight the fact that the defence of Europe can not be effectively safeguarded except by a European government. Even this observation is so trivial as to come close to stupidity. But even this point should be made because not only the governed and national politicians, but even federalists, half-hearted federalists, dream of achieving a European foreign policy and the real and effective defence of Europe without a European government, thus ignoring it. (9) Nevertheless, they will soon discover it. The evolution of the political situation, combined with the action of the federalists, will in practice make it clear to everybody that the foundation of a federal European government is not only possible, but also probable. And probable within a short space of time, that which separates us from two fundamental deadlines for Europe: the end of the Atlantic Pact, and the end of the transition period in the Common Market.
* This article was pubished in French in Le Fédéraliste, VI (1964)..
(1) In the preface to David Irving's book on the destruction of Dresden by an Anglo-American air raid, Air Marshal Sir Robert Saundby wrote: "The advocates of nuclear disarmament seem to believe that if they could achieve their ends, war would become decent and tolerable. They would be advised to read this book and to consider the fate of Dresden where 135,000 people were killed by an air raid in which conventional weapons were used. During the night between 9th and 10th March 1945, the air raid on Tokyo by American heavy bombers using incendiary and explosive bombs, caused 83,793 deaths. The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 71,379 people". (See David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden, William Kimber and Co. Ltd., 1963, p. 8.) Sir Robert Saundby, who was Deputy Air Commander-in-Chief, when general Sir Arthur Harris was Air Commander in-Chief, continues: "Nuclear weapons are clearly much more powerful than in our time, but it would be a serious mistake to believe that after their eventual suppression, p
lanes using conventional weapons will be unable to reduce large cities to ashes and carry out terrifying massacres. Suppressing the threat of nuclear reprisal which makes war to be the same as mutual annihilation would permit a possible aggressor to be seduced by a recourse to conventional war". Sir Robert Saundby argues that "nuclear power has finally allowed us to foresee the end of generalised war".
(2) Nobody is capable of drawing up a plan of this kind because war is not a phenomenon that depends on the free judgement of men but rather on the nature of the actual political organisation of humanity (in this framework nuclear weapons represent the embryo of a new situation). It is true that in spite of the experience of the whole course of history, many people, and even federalists (but those lacking a conscious theory of federalism) still believe that the recourse to force, and the choice of what type of force to use, depends exclusively on the bad will of rulers, whatever the reason for this may be (capitalism, communism, nationalism, or anything else). It is still maintained that war is in their hands as thunderbolts were in the hands of Jupiter; it can still be heard from scientists or experts that the desire for power is an illness that infects peoples, as if it were possible for states to guarantee their security without military power, as if their relations were not power relations, as if states
were not powder kegs in a room full of sparks. It is nevertheless a fact that rulers talk about peace and the rule of law when the status quo favours their state, and about force and war when it does not. It is equally true that, since this situation changes, and since there are always states for whom a change in the status quo is worth their while, war has always raged and will always do so until such time (and that time is now foreseeable) as war becomes materially impossible.
(3) Those who doubt this, need do no more than recall that in instances of this kind, disobeying an order occurs even in the most developed states, and even in the military sector, in other words where the behaviour of command and obey is displayed with maximum discipline. It is sufficient to recall General Challe, for example, let alone Salan and the other generals of the O.A.S. In any case it is more interesting to observe that Bruno Leoni defined the state and its political power on the basis of such negative power ("the power to win respect protects and guarantees the integrity and use of goods that all individuals consider fundamental and indispensable for their own existence: life, the possession of some means of safeguarding it, the possibility of creating a family and safeguarding the lives of its members, and so on"), or rather on the basis of an exchange of such powers. (For the passage cited, see Bruno Leoni, Diritto e Politica, in "Rivista internazionale di filosofia del diritto", a. XXXVIII, f.
1, p. 106.) Hence, it can be argued, in line with Bruno Leoni's theory, that in the cases under discussion here, the state ceases to exist and pure and simple power relations take over.
(4) It would seem that the fact that the right to decide on the deployment of nuclear weapons is reserved to the head of the executive should be interpreted as a desire to be rid of the wills of individual people, and, moreover, that the right has been entrusted to the person that more than anybody else is dependent on everyone. It remains a fact that, if law is considered in a purely formal way, and if the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons is consequently attributed solely to the free judgement of the head of the executive, the law is attributed a character different from the one that people in effect confer on it by their actual behaviour. Let us imagine the scenario of a grave international situation, as a consequence of which the head of the executive in a certain state which has nuclear weapons summons his closest aides; let us also imagine that this leader displays his intention to use the nuclear weapons at his disposal; and let us ask ourselves how he would seem to his aides. Certainly his leg
al powers would not in any sense represent a magic shield, such as to prevent his aides from seeing him for what he is, a person like any other who does not have the "right" to exterminate humanity.
(5) This explains the shift in the European policy of the US from the concept of immediate nuclear response to that of flexible response. What we have said so far demonstrates that the resort to nuclear weapons will occur only in cases where one's own security is directly and immediately threatened. In no other cases will this happen, because it would in theory provoke the adversary to respond, in other words it would bring down one's own destruction. It is true that a limited war is not conceivable in Europe, that a conventional attack would degenerate into a general war, that Europe would not be able to defend itself with conventional weapons, and hence also that, with the whole of Europe occupied, the US itself would be directly and immediately threatened. In other words the US would find itself in a response situation without having threatened early enough. But this does not uncover an American alternative to the American version of the flexible response theory as it relates to Europe. Such an alternativ
e does not exist because it is madness to protect with one's own nuclear response something that is situated an inch away from one's own direct and immediate security (and Western Europe in front of a Russian advance is precisely an inch away from this American security). Hence, rather, a fundamental contradiction in the current Atlantic system is exposed, a contradiction which can be removed in the ultimate, as we will see, only by a European government and by a European nuclear umbrella for the territory of Europe.
(6) Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent, Thesis VII. Publishing this essay in 1784, Kant added the following note to the title: "Among the short notices in the twelfth issue of this year's Gothaische Gelehrte Zeitung is a passage that is without doubt based on my conversation with a scolar who was passing through; it requires the following clarification, without which it would not conceivably make sense." This shows that Kant wanted to prevent any misunderstanding of his ideas concerning the issue, in other words he considered them to be very important. In the essay, he continues: "Until this last step to a union of states is taken, which is the halfway mark in the development of mankind, human nature must suffer the cruelest hardships under the guise of external well-being; and Russeau was not far wrong in preferring the state of savages, so long, that is, as the last stage to which the human race must climb is not atteined."
(7) It has been argued that while France is not strong enough to defend Europe, its force de frappe would make the US not only join in Europe's defence, but do so with a timing of Europe's choosing, and that this would suffice. But this is not true. The weakness of the French forces means that Germany has to rely both on France, for the timeliness of her intervention, and on the US, for her power to defend. Furthermore, this German dualism undermines Franco-German relations, which are at the heart of European integration and Atlantic cooperation, and hence obstructs, rather than promotes, a shared effort for a common defence.
(8) As is well known, there is talk of a suitable and calibrated nuclear response. A medium- or small-sized state is defended from a large one not only when it is able to destroy the large state completely, but also when it is able to wreak damage equal to the advantage that the large state would gain from occupying or destroying the smaller one. In theory, this may be true in certain instances. But it is certainly not possible to defend France in this way. France is at risk when Western Europe is at risk. Moreover, it is sufficient to consider how much France's strength would be reduced if, only on an economic level, the ties which bind her to the rest of Western Europe were to be cut.
(9) Paul-Henri Spaak, currently the most authoritative "European" in power, has recently asserted that: "Previously, we regarded the creation of the United States of Europe rather like that of the United States of America: with a federal constitution presented to the governments establishing a harmonious entity [the federal constitution of the United States was presented to the peoples of the thirteen states, not their governments Ed.]. This is a mistake, as experience has shown. Nevertheless, we have had a different experience, this time positive, with the Common Market. Nobody can effectively challenge the fact that these successes essentially derive from the dialogue established between the Community' s Commission and the national governments. Why not adopt this method, which has proved its worth in the political sphere, particularly on the issues of foreign affairs, defence and cultural politics?" (Le 20e Siècle fédéraliste, 11th September, 1964, n. 346.)
There are undoubtedly many people who find Spaak' s proposal entirely reasonable, without realising that it represents exactly the opposite of our observation here (which is in reality trivial), that there is no effective defence of a territory without a government, a concept which such people would moreover find equally reasonable. On reflection, the reason for this contradiction can be found. Without considering here the fact that Spaak attributes the success of the Common Market to a "dialogue" between the Commission and the national governments, in other words to something less than a superstructure, it is possible to state that he is wrong, because he confuses what has helped to carry out the governments' march towards Europe with what is needed to conclude it. As regards European unification, it is indisputable that in one respect we are close to its conclusion because there no longer remains anything to unify except foreign and defence policy (these are now the obstacles of the integration process), a
nd in another that it has become necessary to construct a real and proper power (leaving aside culture, which a good federalist should attribute to national and regional governments, and to free associations, but never to a European government) because defence and foreign policy can not be unified without unifying political will, that is without creating a state.
It is worth noting on this subject that Spaak, after some delay and a long political battle, reworked de Gaulle' s proposals. In the framework of the march of approach of the governments, these proposals are in effect the best possible choice.
Nevertheless it should be observed:
a) that the European governments can not take a single step towards integration without confronting the problems of foreign and defence policy,
b) that we are so close to the conclusion that such problems as Western Europe' s foreign and defence policy are tending to pass from an Atlantic framework to that of the integration of the Six,
c) that once passed into this framework, yet with a confederal-type institutional structure such as that of the so-called Economic Communities, it will be impossible to resolve these problems (for the reason elaborated above), but they will nevertheless be highly conspicuous as problems of Europe and not of the individual nations,
d) finally that the positive aspect consists of the fact that the so-called Community of foreign and defence policy (or some other name it may be given in the future so as not to vex de Gaulle), by highlighting this feature of these problems while not being able to resolve them, will enable the federalists, and little by little a growing number of democrats, to struggle for their solution, thereby demonstrating the current confederal monster to be the cause of their lack of solution, and the means of their resolution to be the creation of a European federal government, that is to say the convocation of a constituent assembly.
(*) This paper was prepared in the framework of the Robert Schuman programme in the Division for Central and Eastern Europe, Directorate General IV, European Parliament. The author acknowledges gratefully the assistance of Mr. David Blackman and other members of the Directorate. Thirty Years Ago.