What matters substantively is that France and Germany (and Belgium) elected on Monday to reaffirm their month-long opposition to pre-emptive, pre-war help to Turkey. What drew attention was the novel invocation by Turkey of Article IV of the NATO treaty. It is not surprising that no one knew what it says, even as no one remembers what Article IV of the U.S. Constitution says. The mind skips over to NATO Article V, which is the pledge of NATO nations to help one another when attacked.
Turkey, which has promised bases to the United States when and if needed in the proceedings against Iraq, had been turned down by NATO in its request for anti-missile missiles, and now invoked Article IV, which calls for "consultations" among NATO allies against a potential threat.
What happened at NATO was a refusal, engineered by France and Germany, immediately to grant the implicit fraternal succor of consultation against potential aggression. The French argued that this would presuppose an act of aggression by Iraq, and to do so would be to compromise ongoing U.N. inspection procedures. And indeed, Iraq has decreed that any arming of Turkey designed to augment the U.S. effort in the area would be deemed an act of war.
Two days before, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Sen. John McCain were among the speakers at the Munich Conference on European Security Policy. Mr. Rumsfeld reiterated the reasons given by Mssrs. Bush and Powell for proceeding against Iraq. There were no surprises in the Rumsfeld speech, though it was vigorous and persuasive, exhibiting his skills as a confident and resourceful leader. He called shrewd attention to the progressive isolation of the NATO dissenters, up against the growing coalition of world leaders joined in the adamant stand we have taken on Iraq.