Year XXVI, 1984, Number 3 - Page 224

 

 

 

GENERAL LÖSER TAKES A STEP BACKWARDS TO NATIONALISM
 
 
Jochen Löser, the retired West German Bundeswehr general, is well-known as one of the most brilliant critics of NATO’s current strategic doctrine based on advanced defence and the use of tactical nuclear arms to repulse any conventional attack in Europe which cannot be contained by conventional means alone. His suggested alternative is territorial defence of the type used in Switzerland and Yugoslavia.[1] He has shown very convincingly that in this way Western Europe would be able to defend itself more efficiently. He has also shown how this would avoid a classic conventional war (which would bring horrific destruction to Western Europe’s territory) and how it would not need to be the first to resort to nuclear weapons, a decision which would mean assuming the enormous responsibility of triggering off the escalation of the human holocaust. He has also made it clear that once Western Europe has a territorial defence system, structurally incapable of aggression, a real contribution would be made towards detente and a lessening in the arms race between East and West.
This outlook has been backed by other influential supporters[2] in Europe in the current crisis in détente, but Löser has the merit of stressing one aspect to which the supporters of territorial defence normally pay insufficient attention. This is the need for a decisive reinforcement of European integration as the irreplaceable premise to Western Europe’s capacity to defend itself efficiently and to contribute incisively and in a lasting way to lessening East-West and North-South tensions. For this reason, the MFE has considered his ideas, particularly regarding territorial defence, as an important contribution to its reflections and proposals regarding Europe’s role in the construction of peace.[3] Given this, it is extremely disappointing and surprising for us to have to recognise that Löser has gone over to the nationalists. This comes out clearly in his latest book, written in collaboration with Ulrike Schilling, which is entitled Neutralität fur Mitteleuropa. Das Ende der Blöcke (C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Munich, 1984).
The central theme of the book is the proposal to create a “confederation of central Europe, taken as a neutral community of sovereign States”, which should include the two Germanys, the Benelux Countries, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. This community’s territory ought to be denuclearised, cleared of foreign troops and protected militarily with a territorial defence system. The Superpowers ought to guarantee its neutrality in the same way as occurs for Austria. The two authors argue that this road, however hard, is the only way to overcome the two-block system in Europe and, hence, create lasting detente between East and West, which would open up prospects for the development of peace, which would be of decisive importance on a world scale. In this framework, real progress could be made in ending the division of Germany and in the long term it would be possible to enlarge the central European confederation so as to include the whole of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.
The arguments used to support these theses are with a few minor variations typical of “new German patriotism” which we have already discussed in our review.[4] We may add a few brief considerations to what has already been stated.
The division of Europe into blocks, ruled over by the two Superpowers, and which has both caused the division of Germany and made any liberalisation impossible in USSR’s satellite regimes, is based on the bipolar equilibrium which was created with the collapse of the European balance of power in 1945. The bipolar equilibrium is structurally rigid because there is no deciding factor like that exerted by other independent poles in the international political system and hence any strengthening or weakening of one of the poles brings about an automatic weakening or strengthening of the other pole. Hence the system’s organic tendency to produce a particularly high and lasting level of tension and a particularly acute arms race, with the further consequence of strengthening imperialist, military and authoritarian tendencies manifested (albeit with very diverse characteristics) by both Superpowers. This is why there is also a tendency to hinder any substantial change in the Superpowers’ spheres of influence, since this would entail changes in a structurally precarious equilibrium.
To overcome the two-block system in Europe we need first of all to overcome bipolarism, but this requires the creation of an independent European pole which can only arise in Western Europe. Although belonging to the Western block, Western Europe is objectively in a position (unlike the USSR’s satellites) to bring about a solid economic, political and military union and hence free itself from US hegemony. In this way, the possibility of re-uniting Germany and Europe as a whole would become a reality. Outside this framework there can only be illusion or the danger of a return to the anarchy of nationalistic conflicts in Europe. Indeed, we cannot completely exclude the possibility that in the current crisis in the bipolar system in view of the Superpowers’ increasing inability to keep world evolution under control, a crisis in the blocks system in Europe may occur. And if this crisis did not coincide with a strengthening of Western European integration, and if no start were made to its gradual extension towards Eastern Europe, then there would be a return in Europe to the situation which existed between the world wars when the anarchy of national States’ was not attenuated either by the process of European integration or by American-Soviet “peace”. The result would be a chain of nationalistic conflicts, with German nationalism, fuelled by the division of Germany, in the forefront and with catastrophic consequences for Europe and the world.
Having stated this, we need to consider the reasons why a man like Löser who, in the light of his previous writing, seemed fairly aware of the decisive significance of strengthening European integration if any positive improvement in the international situation was to be achieved, has changed his mind in a very drastic way. The decisive point is his consideration of the prospects of Western European integration.
Löser begins with a fully justifiable statement that the current Community, which is nothing more than an instrument compensating specific national interests of an economic and commercial nature, cannot make any contribution to overcoming the division of Germany and Europe overall, nor can it carry out any positive or effective role on a world scale. From this observation he does not draw the conclusion that it is indispensable to go beyond economic integration and achieve political and military integration so that Western European political solidarity with Eastern Europeans, German and non-German, can become a political reality. On the contrary, Western European integration must, in his way of thinking, cease to be the priority for West Germany, which should turn its attention towards the construction of the central European confederation mentioned above. This thesis is based on two arguments of a logically heterogeneous nature relating to the objective of reinforcing Western European integration.
The first concerns the objective possibility of this strengthening. Löser believes that the development of Western European integration towards a federal State is mere illusion for the basic reason that no French government (and the same is true for other governments with the difference that they do not say so so openly) is willing to accept Community institutions which require compliance with majority decisions it does not agree with. An immediate reply to this very drastic statement is the fact that Mitterrand made a historic speech to the European Parliament on May 24th, 1984 (Löser’s book was probably in print by then) which expressed agreement with the principle of majority vote in the Council of ministers and support for the European Union Draft Treaty approved by the European Parliament, which lays down federal development for the Community. This statement certainly does not mean that European unity has been achieved, but indicates that a battle for this objective may effectively be won and that this depends on the commitment shown by those forces favouring European integration. Quite apart from the favourable attitude shown by leading French politicians we must not forget Europe’s overall position: Europe has got to face up to the challenge of the technical and scientific revolution and must unite its forces unless it wishes to lie down and accept a destiny of fatal decline.
The second argument does not concern the feasibility but the desirability of the strengthening of Western European integration and it is here that Löser’s open adhesion to a nationalistic outlook emerges. Essentially, the transformation of the Community along federal lines does not correspond, in his opinion, to West Germany’s interests since in this way it would be forced to finance the development of the backward areas of the Community and in particular the Mediterranean countries. If the current Community mechanisms already place a heavy financial burden on Bonn, majority voting and the consequent decisive increase in the Community budget would take this burden to unacceptable levels. It does not take much to show how inconsistent this reasoning is, even though it is one of the basic battle cries, in Germany, of nationalistic criticism of European integration. We need only recall here that any calculation of the economic benefits deriving from membership of the European Community cannot be restricted to a profit and loss analysis of the Community’s balance sheet, but must above all take into account the need to have a vast market which, without European integration, would be divided into watertight compartments.[5] This is precisely the reason for the exceptional economic progress since the Second World War that has been achieved by the EEC Member States and which has made it possible to end the stagnation of the period which followed the First World War which was basically caused by protectionist policies. European integration, as well as producing an exceptional level of economic growth, has brought an end to military rivalry between Western European nations, and has, thus, made it possible to consolidate democracy in countries like Germany and Italy which would not, otherwise, have been able to put an end to their chronic instability.
If the economic and political advantages of European integration are evident, equally evident ought to be the need for a serious policy designed to end the severe imbalance between strong and weak regions that typify its make-up. This is not merely a question of justice but also of economic usefulness, because greater development in backward areas of the Community would automatically increase the internal market to the general advantage. Furthermore, it would eliminate the threat to integration from protectionist tendencies which inevitably arise when countries with problems of backwardness are not backed up by richer countries in their efforts to solve these problems. For this reason, a transfer of resources from the Community’s strong regions to the weak regions (analogously with what happens within individual countries) cannot be considered a disadvantage for strong regions but an investment for the future, a search for general long-term interests rather than the immediate interests of specific groups.
That the nationalists are impervious to these considerations has never surprised us. Anyone who wishes to defend an institution, like a national sovereign State, which is already dead historically, inevitably has a warped vision of reality and is given to denying the very evidence for this. Rather the fact that for some time in Germany as in other countries in the Community, nationalist warping has tended to gain ground, ought to give rise to serious reflection. Emblematically, this is what is happening with Löser. At the root of this trend is clearly the stalemate in the process of European integration which tends to weaken the force of reasoning and to re-awaken ghosts of the past. This is a further reason for renewed efforts in the struggle for European political integration, so that the trend can be reversed before it becomes too late.
 
Sergio Pistone
 


[1]Cfr. J. Löser, Weder rot noch tot. Überleben ohne Atomkrieg. Eine Sicherheitspolitische Alternative, Olzog, Munich, 1981.
[2]Cfr. in particular: G. Brossolet, Essai sur la non-bataille, Belin, Paris, 1976; H. Afheldt, Verteidigung und Frieden. Politik mit militärischen Mitteln, Hanser, Munich 1976; C.P. von Weizsacher, Wege in der Gefahr. Eine Studie über Wirtschaft, Gesellschalt und Kriegsverhütung, Munich, 1976; R. Close, L’Europe sans défense, Arts et Voyages, Brussels, 1977; A. Mechtersheimer, Rüstung und Frieden. Der Widersinn der Sicberheitspolitik, Wirtschaftsverlag Langen-Müller/Herbig, Munich 1982.
[3]Cfr. S. Pistone, “Alcune considerazioni suI rapporto fra la difesa territoriale dell’Europa e la costruzione della democrazia internazionale e deIla democrazia partecipativa”, in Il Federalista, XXV, 1983, 3.
[4]Cfr. S. Pistone, “German Reunification and European Unification”, in The Federalist, XXVI, 1984, 1.
[5]This line of thinking is fully and systematically developed in B. May, Kosten und Nutzen der deutschen EG-Mitgliedschaft, Europa-Union Verlag, Bonn, 1982 and R. Hrbeck-W. Wessels (Hsrg.), E.G.-Mitgliedschaft: ein vitales Interesse der Bundesrepublik Deutschland?, Europa-Union Verlag, Bonn, 1984.

 

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