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For other case studies the key word is consensus: Dutch defence policy in the post-Cold War era, for instance, has been built on consensus, MD is not an exception. Everts emphasises the relative strength of the defence consensus in this area even outside parliament; the latter factor reflects the fact that the Netherlands is a consociational democracy, i.e. a society that is strongly divided internally, and constitutionally organised along the lines of a representative, proportional democracy. The concomitant party system tends to reproduce a political culture in which much trust is put in the benefits of building consensus across party lines. The consensus aspect applies to the British system as well, although the United Kingdom is the model of a majoritarian democracy – Smith emphasises that defence policy has a relative immunity to inter-party or ideological dispute.
This striking cross-party consensus is true for most or all major issues of substance when the parties are in power.
The same can be said for the German debate on MEADS. 22 The political system is also oriented towards consensus. Here, the government and the parties supporting it are interlocked with the hierarchically structured parties displaying a high degree of loyalty;
22 See Bernd W. Kubbig, Als Entscheidungsgrundlage für das Raketenabwehrprojekt MEADS ungeeignet. Eine Analyse der Dokumente von BMVg und Berichterstattergruppe, HSFK-Report 2/2005 (Frankfurt am Main: Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 2005); id., Raketenabwehrsystem MEADS: Entscheidung getroffen, viele Fragen offen, HSFK-Report 10/2005 (Frankfurt am Main: Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 2005).
they voted like a monolithic bloc. France can easily be added. Kazan adds a variation to the theme by underlining that for Turkey consensus can be tacit, and this explains why there has been no controversy or any opposition to the fielding of TMD systems, because a potential threat from the missiles of neighbouring countries is being broadly perceived.
The system-related factor of consensus has been enhanced by the following situational obstacles to a broad debate, to refer to the Dutch example on the basis of Everts’ article again: First, the fact of shifting coalitions and parties jockeying for new positions and new potential allies mitigated polarisation. Second, outstanding issues are either decided or deliberately depoliticised at the time of the formation of a new government and settled, thus making it more difficult for parties to defect at a later stage. Third, there was the public perception of the seemingly more pressing topics of international terrorism, US unilateralism, and the dispatch of troops to particular crisis areas where the soldiers were not exposed to a serious ballistic missile threat.
The Dutch case is not the exception by any means, especially concerning more pressing and country-specific aspects. Denmark is an additional case. ‘Was there an open and thorough discourse in Denmark, which perceives itself as an open grassroots democracy?’, Dragsdahl asks. 23 His answer is rather sceptical, citing among the constraining factors a focus on the Danish involvement in Afghanistan/Iraq and a perception that only far away Greenland would be affected by upgrading the Thule radar.
In the case of Israel with its opaqueness of the unique development and decision-making processes of the Arrow MD system, the non-existent public debates on security issues (MD and the Arrow therefore included) are a traditional part of the Israeli security culture.
Israel, a relatively liberal democracy in all aspects of civilian life, is in respect of the entire security and defence realm a limited or restricted democracy, as Pedatzur qualifies the regime type in his country.
Whether structural or situational – in none of the democracies was the executive or legislative branch pushing for a public debate. Both actors of the political system were either deliberately passive or were restraining or even impeding a discussion. To refer to Denmark again: The discourse remained largely confined to the legislative branch. Political parties made no discernable efforts to take their debate out of parliament by mobilising public opinion, Dragsdahl observes. The short German discussion about whether to start the co-development of MEADS reveals a similar situation (to say the least, since neither branch was interested in a thorough discussion). The three governments in Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest appear to be impeding a discussion, as long as they have not received an official US invitation to host MD-related facilities on their territory.
Especially in the Polish case, as Domisiewicz and Kamiński underscore, there seems to be a high level of support for potential US hardware on Polish territory which the government does not want to jeopardise by prematurely issuing for instance a public discussion paper as London did. Radek Khol and András Rácz point out that in the Czech Republic, and even more so in Hungary, unleashing a debate could be very problematic for the governments. For in both cases the parliaments, reflecting the deep divisions among the public, have a strong constitutional role in the stationing of MD facilities.
23 See on this the longer original version of Dragsdahl’s article, available at: http://www.dragsdahl.dk/A20050814.htm.
Rácz explains the almost non-existent debate in Hungary by emphasising that the population is more concerned with domestic issues. Deep divisions and constant political infighting between the government and the opposition parties has led to ‘large-scale apathy’ among the public. Foreign policy issues are hardly on their political radar. In stark contrast to the Polish people, there are strong anti-American feelings, which the government in Budapest does not want to ignite. (Yet, the authors from the three new democracies predict that the MD debate will gather momentum, once Washington comes up with a concrete proposal for their respective countries.) Meanwhile, NATO plans have become known according to which the Alliance envisages the building of three fixed air defence radars with initial theatre ballistic MD capability for Poland as well as two and three fixed radar systems for the Czech Republic and for Hungary, respectively. 24 The conference ‘The domestic and international dimensions of US MD – Implications for Central Europe’ organized by the Institute of International Relations Prague in the capital of the Czech Republic on 19 October 2006 was a reaction to the fact that MD had meanwhile become a hot issue in the political debate in the Czech Republic due to unveiled US plans to establish an interceptor base and a radar facility on Czech territory or in Poland. Conference organiser Radek Khol, who invited the experts to this conference, reaffirmed his above mentioned prediction that the US plans would lead to an extensive political debate, at least among experts in the last quarter of the year 2006.
2.5.4 Governments, Security Establishments and the MD Issue Area – A Tendency Towards Autonomy at the Expense of Transparency and Parliamentary Control Across the board, the executive branches appear to be the strongest actors in the entire policy field (with qualifications especially for Israel and France, but for Germany and the United States as well since they are part of a broader, densely knotted network of actor alliances – whether it is called defence establishment or military-industrial complex does not matter in the final analysis). The strong position of the executive branch has to do with the traditional division of labour between government and parliament, with the latter acting as legislator and legitimator (or critic) but not as a co-decision-maker. What is true for the UK is applicable to all democracies examined in this project: British government policy is implemented under the supervision of parliament but it is almost never made there, as Smith puts it succinctly. All in all the executive branches have retained a free hand in dealing with the various MD dimensions, be they the acquisition of the Patriot (as was the case in the Netherlands), the co-development of MEADS (in Germany) or the negotiations with the United Stations on hosting a MD facility (in Poland).
The fact that (missile) defence decision-making includes a high share of military and technical knowledge, again becomes relevant in this context, making these issues somewhat different form the normal pattern of democratic control. The considerable and constitutionally granted freedom of manoeuvre enjoyed by the government in this area is increased by the fact that members of parliament are or often feel ill-equipped to critically assess the facts and arguments which the minister of defence may present. This was the case especially in the Netherlands (procurement of Patriot) and in Germany (MEADS).
24 See NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency, Acquisition Overview, by John D. Edell, Director of Acquisition, 15 June 2006. I am indebted to Hermann Hagena for providing me with a copy of this power point presentation.
What is more, the executive branch can exert its prerogative – in fact give it further weight – by using special argumentation, i.e. by emphasising the defensive nature of the Patriot systems, be it during the acquisition process, or when confronted with the decision to deliver them in order to assist allies in the context of a war (the cases of the Netherlands and Germany could be cited once more). The government retains an information monopoly, as shown by Pedatzur in the Arrow case which again displays unique Israeli features.
Information about this system is known only to a very few. This gives the defence establishment a tremendous advantage in its battle to win over public opinion. The monopoly on information implies that there are no alternative figures, and that no one asks critical questions.
Which additional factors account for this strong role of the government? For India, as Rajagopalan analyses, the relative autonomy of the state from public policy debates might be due to the lack of institutions that bring New Delhi’s decision-makers and strategic policy analysts together. The ‘complete autonomy’ of the security establishment is taken to the extreme in Israel where the ministry of defence is even excluding other civilian ministries from participation in long-range planning (a situation different from the administration and the military in Ankara, as Kazan has analysed). This is due to a number of factors, including the compliance of the press which has voluntarily accepted censorship as an inevitable fact of life. Virtually no parliamentary body with oversight function regarding the development and procurement process exists in Israel, as Pedatzur underscores.
As far as is known, no decision-making forum has ever held a comprehensive discussion about the Arrow.
And yet, the debate in a democracy can lead to positive results. This can be said for Germany where the unforeseen discourse led to a vote by the Budget Committee itself which imposed several conditions that amount to somewhat greater transparency, accounttability, and parliamentary control with respect to the MAEDS development. The fact that the government for the first time in the history of this weapons programme was forced to present its budget figures publicly can indeed be described as a small revolution in transparency.
2.5.5 Congruence of Public Opinion and Government Decisions: The Cases of Canada, South Korea, and Japan The decision of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin not to participate in the American BMD system took the overwhelming attitude of the Canadian public into account – both the left-of-centre New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois made, according to Beier, Canadian non-involvement in MD central planks in their campaigns. South Korea’s ‘Sunshine Policy’ of reconciliation with Pyongyang (which implies a ‘No’ to MD) reflects the mood of many South Koreans who tend to regard dialogue as the best way of easing tensions and threats, as Byung-joon Ahn has observed.
As far as Japan is concerned, Ishikawa has pointed out that there has not been a major debate on BMD as part of the broader issue of Japan’s foreign policy identity change, i.e.
the country’s willingness to assume a greater role in global politics. What is more, Tokyo’s defence activities are accepted by the public to a considerable degree. This is somewhat surprising, Ishikawa admits. The reason for this acceptance is that the government could convince the public that MD is purely defensive and hence compatible with the Japanese Constitution.
In sum, the aspects of this major finding can be best explained by the structural/cultural predispositions and constellations of the individual domestic setting and not by the status of old and new democracies or the regime type in terms of a (semi-)presidential (France), majoritarian (e.g. United Kingdom), consociational (the Netherlands) democracies or a mixture of the last two variants (Germany), as illustrated by the discussion on the consensus aspect. Moreover, the expected difference especially between the strong traditional democracies and Russia did not become visible in this regard.
2.6 Sixth Major Finding: The United States Has Structured the Entire MD Issue Area to a Considerable Degree The MD issue area, as presented in this comparative undertaking, comprises major countries in three continents where this topic is relevant. The United States as the ‘sole superpower’ is in the unique position of being present in all these political and geographical entities and of enjoying a technologically superior position which is second to none. Its MD budget of some $ 10 billion per year is many times higher than the expenses of all its partners in this military field combined 25 (Germany for instance will spend some € 120 million per year for co-developing the anti-tactical MEADS with the United States and Italy).
What is more, the George W. Bush administration has continuously and energetically enhanced and enlarged its co-operative security and technological relationships.