President Bush has concluded his meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the latest stop on what the mainstream media likes to describe as a "fence-mending tour" of Europe. As expected, Mr. Bush and Mr. Schroeder spent most of their time discussing Iran's nuclear program, and the threat it poses to global security. Both leaders stated firmly that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. But the U.S. and Germany still have different ideas over the best way to deter Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Schroeder wants to entice the Iranians to give up their uranium enrichment program, offering such "carrots" as possible membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). the German Chancellor also favors continuation of diplomatic talks between Iran and the European nations (Great Britian, France and Germany) that began last fall.
President Bush, by comparison, favors a tougher approach. While supporting diplomatic efforts, the President seems squarely against any rewards for Iran. As he noted today, Tehran needs to be held accountable for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (by enriching uranium), and its sponsorship of terrorist oganizations, notably Hizballah.
Haven't we been down this road before? In 1994, the U.S. and South Korea offered incentives for North Korea to give up its nuclear program, part of the "Agreed-to Framework" negotiated by none other than Jimmy Carter. The results? North Korea continued a covert nuclear program that allowed them to expand their arsenal. Meanwhile, the food and oil delivered by the U.S. and South Korea bolstered the logistical stockpiles of Kim Jong-il's military. More than a decade later, the Korean Peninsula is (arguably) a more dangerous place than ever, thanks to an ill-conceived rewards scheme.
President Bush is wise to reject a similar plan to Iran. But Mr. Schroeder's position seems to make another fact clear: if it becomes necessary to take military action against Tehran, most of old Europe will again take a pass.