Thursday, December 31, 2009

A German view of the Nuclear threat from the U.S.

The above article is entitled “America the Baleful, A German view of the nuclear threat . . . from the United States.”  It is another example of our species move away from logical argument – a sign perhaps that we are more strongly embracing Nihilism where “what I say” is important whether or not it has any facts to support it. 

The writer of the article, John Rosenthall, describes a three part documentary on the German public television network ZDF.  The ZDF prime anchor  Claus Kleber narrates throughout.  Rosenthall writes, “For the overriding message of The Bomb is that the nuclear threat is not constituted by Iran, North Korea, and other potential rogue possessors of nuclear weapons, but by the established nuclear powers and first and foremost by the United States. According to the odd sort of nuclear theology proposed by the film, it is the United States that committed the original sin by developing the first nuclear weapons, and the current risk of proliferation is merely the consequence of America's transgression.    

“The viewer gets a first hint of this tenet barely two minutes into the film. Kleber is touring New York harbor with a police patrol boat assigned to protect the city from potential nuclear terror attacks. "The consequences of the Manhattan Project, the construction of the first bomb, come back to haunt its inventors--as a weapon of terror," Kleber intones.

“The consequences of the Manhattan Project? It is as if the Manhattan Project occurred in a vacuum rather than in the midst of the Second World War, with America racing to beat Nazi Germany to the bomb.”

We who are not German may recall that a former German, Albert Einstein, warned President Roosevelt personally that the Germans were working on an atomic bomb and that we Americans needed to build one ourselves to thwart their evil intentions.  Why was Einstein in the U.S. warning the American president of possible German misuse of this technology?   Because the Nazis (not as spiritual as Heidegger had hoped) were bent upon using technology to advance Germany’s war ambitions.

Why did Einstein encourage America to develop its own bomb?  Because Einstein had more faith in America’s Liberal Democracy than he did in Germany’s Totalitarianism.  Has something changed?  Have we in the US become secretly totalitarian without our knowledge?  Or, has “Liberal Democracy” become a danger in some way Kleber doesn’t make clear – because he is unable to, or more probably because he doesn’t feel a need to develop a logical argument to support this allegation. 

Rosenthal writes "’George Bush dared to include Iran in the Axis of Evil: the ancient and cultured nation of Iran,’ Kleber continues, before adding with a dash of schadenfreude: ‘They showed him.’ Instead of being an entirely predictable outcome of the weakness of the U.N. sanctions regime, the progress of the Iranian nuclear program is stylized by Kleber and ZDF into an ‘almost incomprehensible’ demonstration of the greatness of Iranian civilization.

Kleber's amazement is all the more unwarranted in light of Germany's large role in blocking harsher sanctions. In September 2007, Germany reportedly broke ranks with its Western allies in the "P5+1" group (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) and opposed sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. At around the same time, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was pitching a plan for the EU independently to apply sanctions on Iran. Under the Sarkozy proposal, the EU states would bypass the U.N. Security Council and form a sort of economic "coalition of the willing" with the United States. This proposal too was opposed by Germany.”

            It is interesting that the proposal of German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is antithetical to the founding concept of the United Nations; which was that the most powerful nations at the time needed to stay together to keep the other nations from acting aggressively.  Steinmeier turns that on its head when he says “Only if the possessors of nuclear weapons disarm will others be prepared to do without them in the long term.”   There is no thought here of foreign affairs, no thought of the resolution of conflicts, and no thought of any powerful nation keeping a less powerful but nevertheless aggressive nation in line. 

            Rosenthal thinks Steinmeier isn’t presenting a well-thought-out principle but a bit of double talk to protect their ally Iran.  Perhaps, but Steinmeier’s superficial and impractical suggestion is not so very different from Kleber’s approach to his subject.  It is encouraging that Steinmeier’s Social Democratic Party was defeated by Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the last election.  Will common sense eventually overcome Germany’s prevalent resentment against the US?  Probably not.



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