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The Ambiguous Politics of Parity: Power and Deterrence in European Public Opinion

  • Richard C. Eichenberg

Abstract

It is ironic that a “crisis” in Western security began in 1979. This was the year of NATO’s 30th anniversary, and among scholars the stability of the Alliance remained a prominent — even dominant — point of view. In fact, it was in 1979 that Anton DePorte convincingly analyzed the historical roots of the Western security “sub-system” that had endured for thirty years. In DePorte’s view, the most important features of that sub-system remained intact. Since the end of the Second World War, the crucial consideration had been the rise to pre-eminence of the United States and the Soviet Union, with all its implications for the security dependence of Western Europe and the subjugation of Eastern Europe. For West Europeans, Soviet power combined with geography to produce a threat that was palpable, however much it might vary with circumstances. And failing a unified European effort in defense as in the economic sphere, alliance with the United States remained a sine qua non of security and perhaps even of survival. Although NATO had seen many bitter controversies, the Alliance endured because the forces of change had been insufficient to overturn the “profound, precise and lasting consequences” that had been wrought by the Second World War.1

Keywords

Public Opinion National Security Military Force Military Power Defense Spending 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Anton W. DePorte, Europe Between the Superpowers: The Enduring Balance (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979) pp. ix–xii, 243–4; the quote is from p. ix.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a forceful analysis along these lines, see Edward Kolodziej, “Europe: the Partial Partner”, International Security, 5/3 (Winter 1981) pp. 104–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arnold Wolfers, “National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol”, in Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962) pp. 147–66.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The following summary is taken from two works: Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1977) pp. 27–9; andGoogle Scholar
  5. Robert Keohane, Joseph Nye and C. Fred Bergsten, “International Economics and International Politics: a Framework for Analysis”, in C. Fred Bergsten and Lawrence B. Krause (eds), World Politics and International Economics (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1975) pp. 6–9.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    On the “dominance” of military power and its relative utility, see Keohane and Nye, Power and Interdependence, p. 17. Other theorists also wrote of the paradox of military power in an age of nuclear parity. Edward Kolodziej, for example, wrote in 1982 that “If military power has never been so pervasive, its utility has never been more questionable”; see “Living with the Long Cycle”, in Edward Harkavy and Edward Kolodziej, (eds) American Security Policy and Policy-Making (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1980) p. 35.Google Scholar
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    Werner Kaltefleiter, “Public Support for NATO in Europe”, in Kenneth Myers (ed.), NATO: The Next Thirty Years (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1981) p. 399.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Josef Joffe, “Peace and Populism: Why the European Anti-Nuclear Movement Failed”, International Security, 11/4 (Spring 1987) p. 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Samuel Huntington made a similar argument in “Broadening the Strategic Focus: Comments on Michael Howard’s Paper”, in International Institute for Strategic Studies, Defence and Consensus: The Domestic Aspects of Western Security (London: Adelphi Paper no. 184, 1983) p. 27.Google Scholar
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    Edward Morse, Foreign Policy and Interdependence in Gaullist France (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974) p. 202.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Compare the arguments in Robert Art, “To What Ends Military Power?”, International Security 4/4 (Spring 1980) pp. 3–35; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Edward Lutwak, “The Missing Dimension of US Defense Policy: Force, Perceptions and Power”, as cited in Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (London: Macmillan, 1981) p. 368.Google Scholar
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    Richard Betts, “Elusive Equivalence: the Political and Military Meaning of the Nuclear Balance”, in Samuel P. Huntington (ed.), The Strategic Imperative (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1982) p. 120.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    John Mearsheimer notes that concern for European confidence has infused American strategic policy throughout the postwar period: “Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in Europe”, International Security, 9/3 (Winter 1984–5), esp. pp. 23–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 13.
    Richard M. Nixon, US Foreign Policy for the 1970s: The Emerging Structure of Peace (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972) p. 158.Google Scholar
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    Warner Schilling, “US Strategic Nuclear Concepts in the 1970s: the Search for Sufficiently Equivalent Countervailing Parity”, International Security, 6/2 (Fall 1981) p. 63. Schilling concedes that the phrase is carefully chosen. For a similar conclusion based in part on opinion surveys,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  19. 19.
    Catherine M. Kelleher, “The Conflict Without: Europeans and the Use of Force”, in Sam Sarkesian (ed.), Non-Nuclear Conflicts in the Nuclear Age (New York: Praeger, 1979).Google Scholar
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  21. 20.
    See the discussion by Freedman, Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, pp. 362–3 and the strong statement of this position in Jane Sharp, “Arms Control, Alliance Cohesion and Extended Deterrence”, paper presented to a conference on Prospects for Peacemaking, Minneapolis, Minn., November 1984. For research on political versus military determinants of deterrence, see Bruce Russett and Paul Huth, “What Makes Deterrence Work?”, World Politics, 36/4 (July 1984) pp. 496–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    The surveys on US and Soviet strength “in Europe” are found in Office of Research, USIA, West European Public Opinion on Key Security Issues, 1981–1982, Report R-10–82 (Washington, D.C.: June 1982) Tables 8 and 9.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ibid., Table 8.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The 1982/3 edition of the Military Balance concluded that “even with the inclusion of the Poseidon/Trident [submarine systems] on the Western side, the balance is distinctly unfavorable to NATO and is becoming more so” (International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1982/1983 (London: 1982) p. 135).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pieter Dankert, “US-European Relations: Defense Policy and the Euromissiles”, in Richard C. Eichenberg (ed.), Drifting Together or Apart? (Lanham, Md: University Press of America, for the Harvard Center for International Affairs, 1986) p. 68. Earl Ravenal offers a slightly different characterization: “even the whiff of American nuclear retaliation is probably enough to keep the Soviet Union from invading Western Europe”; cited in Mearsheimer, “Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in Europe”, p. 22.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    The figures in the preceding paragraph are from the following reports of the Office of Research, USIA: West European Perceptions of NATO, Report M-7–78 (Washington, D.C.: 8 May 1978) p. 7; West European Perceptions of NATO and Mutual Defense Issues, Report R-27–79 (Washington, D.C.: 20 December 1979) pp. 24–5; Multi-Regional Security Survey: Questions and Responses (Washington, D.C.: April 1980) p. 6; and March 1986 Multi-Issue Survey [Contractors Reports] (Washington, D.C.: 1986).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    The literature on the European conventional force balance is voluminous. For recent contributions, see Steven Miller (ed.), Conventional Forces and American Defense Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986); andGoogle Scholar
  28. Andrew Pierre (ed.), The Conventional Defense of Europe: New Technologies and New Strategies (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1986).Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Office of Research, USIA, West European Public Opinion on Key Security Issues, 1981–82, Report no. R-10–82 (Washington, D.C.: 1982) Table 18; andGoogle Scholar
  30. Office of Research, USIA, NATO and Burden-Sharing, Report M-9–11-84 (Washington, D.C.: July 1984) Tables 5 and 6.Google Scholar
  31. 29.
    Office of the [West German] Federal Chancellor, Press and Information Staff, “Dreissig Jahre NATO”, report of surveys conducted on the occasion of NATO’s thirtieth anniversary (Bonn: 29 October 1979); surveys by Allensbach.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    Ronald Inglehart, The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles among Western Publics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977) p. 11.Google Scholar
  33. 31.
    Ibid., p. 76.Google Scholar
  34. 32.
    Francis Pym, “Defense in Democracies: the Public Dimension”, International Security, 7/1 (Summer 1982) p. 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 34.
    SINUS [Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut Nowak und Sorgel], Rückwirkungen weltpolitischer und weltwirtschaftlicher Ereignisse auf die politische Lage unseres Landes (Munich: October 1982) p. 25. The survey was conducted for the Office of the Federal Chancellor.Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    Age differences were examined in five surveys, including the 1979 survey shown in Table 3.6 and the USIA’s Multi-Regional Security Survey for 1980. Educational differences were examined in eleven surveys conducted between 1979 and 1981. Only in West Germany (in 1979) and the Netherlands (in 1978) were age or educational differences of any significance. These are discussed below.Google Scholar
  37. 41.
    Exactly the same pattern was found in two German studies of opposition to INF deployment. The deployment was opposed most by those who perceived East-West military parity. See Karlheinz Reuband, “Issueorientierung und Nachrüstungsprotest”, in Jürgen Falter, et al. (eds), Politische Willensbildung und Interessenvermittlung (Opladen: West-deutscher Verlag, 1984) p. 596; andGoogle Scholar
  38. Harald Mueller and Thomas Risse-Kappen, “Origins of Estrangemement: the Peace Movement and the Changed Image of America in West Germany”, International Security 12/1 (Summer 1987) p. 67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 43.
    The West German threat index is from Press and Information Office, Federal Ministry of Defense, Meinungsbild zur Wehrpolitschen Lage: Herbst1983 (Bonn: August 1983) p. 16;Google Scholar
  40. British surveys are from Social Surveys Ltd, Gallup Political Index, February 1968 through January 1980.Google Scholar
  41. 44.
    Surveys on arms control negotiations and détente in general will be presented in Chapter 4, but one example will illustrate the point made here. In West Germany, the percentage of poll respondents who thought that Ostpolitik had reduced “the extent to which we must fear an attack from the East” was never higher than 36 per cent from 1974 to 1980, while the percentage who thought that “in this context Ospolitik has changed nothing” was never less than 52 per cent. See Press and Information Office, Federal Ministry of Defense, Meinungsbild in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland zur Sicherheitspolitik (Bonn: 1 October 1984) p. 2.Google Scholar
  42. 45.
    Surveys on defense spending are presented in Chapter 6. The Dutch poll is reported in Netherlands Institute for Public Opinion [NIPO], Bericht Nr 1650. During the 1970s, the West German Defense Ministry conducted a survey asking if the Bundeswehr was “sufficiently armed” or “underarmed”; the percentage answering “sufficiently armed” rose from 41 per cent in 1972 to 63 per cent in 1978; see Press and Information Office, Hinweise für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Nr 7/79 (Bonn: 14 September 1979) p. 78.Google Scholar
  43. 46.
    Lloyd Free, How Others See Us: Report of the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1976) p. 69.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard C. Eichenberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. Eichenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Tufts UniversityUSA

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