In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Struck departed from his government’s resolve not to send troops to Iraq under any circumstances, saying: “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 a such a binding statement [about the future].”
Maybe Kerry knows what he’s doing, after all. Maybe the Germans hate Bush just enough to take risks to defeat him and support his challenger. While I’m no expert on German politics, I know that the SDP (from which Struck and Schroeder hail) is the left wing, anti-interventionist party. Their current political position is weak, but the CDU is, if anything, more likely to deploy troops in service of US foreign policy goals.
Bush’s repeated comments about how no one wants to be part of the “wrong war, wrong time” etc. are clearly garbage. Our allies aren’t stupid; they can see for themselves that the war has not gone well, and no amount of bullheadedness is going to change that. They don’t want a cheerleader; they want someone who recognizes and appreciates risk, and who accords them enough respect to tell the truth. Of course they’re more likely to send help if Kerry wins. A German deployment would be great, but the real score would be a French deployment (the French have actual experience fighting counter-insurgency conflicts, much like the British).
That said, we should expect the German government to pull back from the above statement in the next few days (after all, Bush might still win, and he has a long memory), but keep your eyes open if Kerry wins in November.
UPDATE: Drezner and Matt Yglesias weigh in. Drezner considers the German change a “venal sin”, as states aren’t supposed to interfere in the elections of other democratic states, while Yglesias points out the following:
Pointing out that you won’t join our team unless we fire our bizarrely unserious and incompetent coach isn’t illegitimate meddling, it’s a simple statement of relevant fact.
At this point, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the Bush administration is simply incapable of handling the Iraq operation. They have no respect for the commanders in the theatre, they have no ability to absorb information on the ground, and they’ve squandered what good will the United States has with the Iraqis and the world. If we are to read the German move as an indication that they’ll play if Kerry is in charge, it seems entirely legitimate and acceptable.
Ezra Klein also weighs in.
A couple more thoughts on the actual impact. Germany certainly has the capability to deploy a large number of troops to Iraq; they have a large army and nothing much to do with it. Of course, the Bundeswehr is still made up largely of conscripts, which might make the Germans reluctant to deploy too many troops. The impact of a German deployment would go well beyond the actual effect of the troops on the ground, however. It would give diplomatic cover to other states that might be capable of deploying, or that might wish to increase the size or length of their deployments (Poland or Hungary, for example). Moreover, the beneficial effects of having Americans as well as Germans involved in the Iraq mission cannot be discounted; the less “American” the occupation becomes (even if American forces still dominate), the less of an occupation it becomes.