For All Nails #221: Such Sweet Sorrow
by Johnny Pez
After six months in David Grauer's cabinet, Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel had learned how the Chancellor liked things done. Unlike Adolph Markstein, Grauer did not look upon cabinet meetings as a source of policy options. To the extent that it was possible, Grauer preferred to reach policy decisions in personal meetings with his cabinet ministers, then ratify them in the course of his weekly cabinet meetings.
Merkel could see the reasons behind it. Grauer's cabinet included half a dozen political parties, representing a wide range of viewpoints. Lacking Markstein's skill at managing debate, Grauer would never have gotten anything done if he relied on his cabinet to do it. Merkel had attended enough futile cabinet meetings under Frau Bitterlich to appreciate the formal clockwork precision of Grauer's meetings, but he still missed the freewheeling (yet effective) style of the late Chancellor.
As he entered the Chancellor's office, Merkel dismissed these thoughts and turned his mind to the business at hand. Grauer was already seated behind his desk, smoking his inevitable cigar, and two of Merkel's cabinet colleagues were seated in armchairs facing him. A third armchair was empty, and Merkel greeted the others before assuming his place in it.
"Gentlemen," said Grauer between puffs, "we are here this morning to discuss the recent report from the British on their raid on Ciudad Camacho, and to formulate a policy for the upcoming telephone conference of the Pact membership." As always, the telephone conferences were held by the Bornholm Pact members at 9 am Greenwich Time, that being most convenient for an alliance whose membership were scattered across (and in Australia's case, beyond) the Eurasian continent.
Nodding toward his Science Minister, Grauer continued, "Herr Kausler, I'd like to begin with a summary of the report's scientific findings."
"Yes, Herr Chancellor," said Kausler. Besides Merkel himself, Kausler was the only remaining holdover from Markstein's cabinet. Kausler had joined Merkel in his break with the imperialist wing of the Germany Party, and Merkel had been able to keep Kausler at the Science Ministry. "Briefly," he said, "Dr. Braxton's team learned that weapons research and production at Ciudad Camacho had already ceased for some time before the raid, at least two weeks. It seems clear that Colonel Elbittar had reason to suspect that the raid was imminent, and he responded by withdrawing the facility's technical personnel, as well as the power station's atomic fuel. Based on evidence obtained from other sources, the British have concluded that the New Granadans are relocating their atomic weapons program to another facility under construction somewhere to the south of Bogotá, on or near the Cordillera Oriental. They estimate that work on the new facility will be completed late this year, and that New Granada's production of atomic weapons will remain in suspension until then."
"Thank you, Herr Kausler." Grauer turned to look at Defense Minister Scheibl. "Herr Scheibl, how will this affect the military situation?"
Scheibl, like Grauer, was a member of the German Democratic Party, and had only held his current office for the last six months. However, he had been Shadow Defense Minister for six years before that, and he had had little trouble adjusting to his new position. Merkel found him a positive relief after Voth.
"Herr Chancellor," said Scheibl, "it makes the military situation immensely more complicated. The Bornholm Pact's objective in going to war was to establish permanent control over New Granada's atomic weapons program. Up until now, this meant gaining control of Camp Adolfo Camacho, which would involve maintaining control over the Orinoco Delta and the lower course of the Orinoco itself up to Ciudad Camacho. Our best estimates predicted a successful campaign by Pact forces of six to nine months to accomplish this.
"If the British are correct about the location of the new facility, then it would require nothing less than the outright conquest and occupation of the entire country to bring their atomic weapons program under our control. If the New Granadans continue to resist with the determination they have already demonstrated, we may be looking at a duration of two to four years for the actual conquest, followed by an occupation of indefinite duration."
"Thank you, Herr Scheibl," said Grauer. He turned to look at Merkel and said, "Herr Merkel, how will this affect our relations with the other Pact members, and with the world at large?"
"Herr Chancellor," said Merkel, "the longer the war in America lasts, and the greater the scale of the conflict, the more pressure we can expect to come under from the other members to expand our own military role. There will inevitably be calls for us to commit German military forces, including ground troops, to the New Granada campaign.
"The governments of Mexico and the CNA already regard the Pact's intervention in New Granada as an unwarranted intrusion into American affairs. Herr Monaghan has stated his belief that the CNA and Mexico ought to adopt a policy prohibiting nations from outside the Western Hemisphere from involving themselves in American affairs, and support for this policy, which has become known as the Monaghan Doctrine, is already considerable in both countries. If we widen the war against New Granada, support for the Monaghan Doctrine will increase further, to the point where it may become official policy in one or, more likely, both countries.
"Herr Chancellor, the current détente between Mexico and the CNA has already altered the geopolitical landscape beyond recognition. If the two should form a military alliance based on the Monaghan Doctrine, it would result in potentially the greatest concentration of military force in the world. The diplomatic consequences are literally unpredictable, but I think I can safely say that it would be better to be regarded by such an American alliance as a friend than as an enemy."
"Thank you, Herr Merkel," said Grauer, and the room was silent for a time as those present digested the information.
"I think we are all agreed," said Grauer at last, "that Germany should not become more deeply involved in the American War." Merkel had noted before that Grauer commonly referred to the German Empire as "Germany", where the members of Markstein's cabinet had usually said "the Empire". Merkel was sure that this reflected a fundamentally different conception of the relationship between the Fatherland and the Empire than that held by his former colleagues in the Markstein cabinet. What it portended for the future, he was still unsure. "The disadvantages," Grauer continued, "clearly outweigh the benefits."
Merkel was relieved to hear the other two men join him in concurring with the Chancellor.
"That being the case," Grauer concluded, "what steps can we take to avoid it?"
There was a long pause before Merkel spoke up. "There may be a way for us to withdraw from the Bornholm Pact," he said. "Legally, if not exactly gracefully."
"Say on please, Herr Merkel," said Grauer.
"In an address to Parliament that was broadcast over the radio yesterday afternoon," Merkel explained, "Herr Gold was quite eloquent on the subject of Colonel Elbittar's villainies. He concluded his address by calling for Colonel Elbittar's ouster and the establishment of a more cooperative regime in Bogotá.
"This call for regime change definitely goes beyond the stated purpose of the original Bornholm agreement. If Herr Gold again insists upon Elbittar's ouster during the upcoming telephone conference, then we would be well within our rights in withdrawing from the alliance on that basis."
"Is the Prime Minister likely to insist upon this regime change, do you think?" Scheibl wondered.
Merkel smiled. "It was a very popular speech in Britain. Herr Gold is being compared to George Bolingbroke as a master of rhetoric. I think we can count on him to repeat his demand."
"If we do withdraw from the Pact," asked Grauer, "what will be the consequences for us?"
Merkel shrugged. "Vilification by Herr Gold, but that's nothing new. He can't very well declare war on us, not while he's already committed to stepping up his war against New Granada. Since Chrissie has lowered his profile in Copenhagen, the Scandies' support for the war has been lacking in fervor, so I don't foresee them making too great a fuss. The Taiwanese and Australians will not be pleased, but like the British there is little they can do but complain. The Siamese will probably issue a formal protest, but nothing more. On the whole, therefore, the negative consequences should be minor.
"Meanwhile, withdrawing from the Pact will place Germany in an excellent diplomatic position vis-a-vis any emerging American alliance. With proper encouragement," Merkel added with a smile, "we might even allow ourselves to be persuaded to endorse the Monaghan Doctrine."
"But what of our position in Boricua?" Scheibl asked.
"Moving into Boricua was a good idea three years ago," said Merkel, "but our relationship with the government there may have outlived its usefulness. We have already agreed in principle that the missile base at Moca may be removed in the interest of improving relations with the CNA. If we could gain the friendship of the CNA and Mexico, then the loss of Boricua would be a small price to pay."
Grauer sent a smoke ring towards the ceiling of his office as he considered Merkel's words. "One final question," he said at last. "What effect will our withdrawal have on the course of the American War?"
Scheibl said, "Without our logistical support, the buildup of Pact forces in Trinidad will be delayed by at least three months, perhaps as much as six months. I would expect to see the planned resumption of the offensive against New Grenada delayed until September at the earliest, and perhaps as late as December."
"But it will not prevent the offensive?" said Grauer.
"No, Herr Chancellor. Even without our participation, the remaining Pact members will have sufficient force at their disposal to carry the war to a successful conclusion. In, as I stated earlier, two to four years."
"And you, Herr Merkel, believe that this will drive the Mexicans and North Americans closer together, possibly to the extent of forming a military alliance."
"I do, Herr Chancellor," said Merkel. "Currently, the effectiveness of the North American military is considered low, but given their resources, and given the will to do so, the CNA could create a sizable military force. I believe that occupation of New Granada by the Bornholm Pact would foster that will."
"I am inclined to agree," said Grauer as he stubbed out the butt of his cheroot. "As you say, Herr Merkel, if the Mexicans and North Americans should form an alliance, it would be much better for us to be regarded as friends than as enemies, and I see no reason why we should not pursue such a friendship." Glancing up at the stylish Italian wall clock to his right, he added, "The telephone conference is due to begin in fifteen minutes. Are we agreed on the line to be followed? We are opposed to an expansion of the war, and if Herr Gold insists upon regime change, we will withdraw from the Bornholm Pact."
"Agreed," said Kausler.
"Agreed," said Scheibl after a momentary pause.
"Agreed," said Merkel with a silent sigh of relief.
Forward to FAN #222 (13 April 1975)(American War): Robots and Empire.
Forward to Germany: Look for the Union Label.
Return to For All Nails.