For All Nails #179: One if by Land and Two if by Sea
Bogotá, Kingdom of New Granada
8 January 1975
"The first rule in a war," said Alexander Elbittar to the Privy Council, "is to
never fight more than one enemy at a time, unless you can't avoid it. Under
current circumstances, this means that we're going to have to ignore those
German missiles in Puerto Rico and direct our efforts toward defending
ourselves against the British."
General Augusto Jimenez spoke up. "I don't like it. The Germans have got
those babies pointed right straight at us. All they have to do is decide to
touch them off, and twenty minutes later we're toast."
"I don't like it either," Elbittar answered, "but, as I say, we can only fight
one enemy at a time."
"For whatever it's worth," said King Fernando, "since they re-aimed the
missiles, the Germans haven't made any hostile moves. In fact, they've offered
to mediate between ourselves and the British."
"Knowing full well that the British would refuse," said Elbittar. "At any
rate, we have to assume that we'll be at war with the British after their
demarche expires tomorrow, and plan accordingly."
Rising from the table, Elbittar walked over to a map that had been fastened to
the wall, showing the Caribbean and the northern half of South America. "The
British have military installations here, here, here and here." Elbittar
pointed to Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados and Grenada, each closer than the last to
the New Granadan coast. Grenada, the closest, was a mere 200 kilometers away,
and Elbittar allowed his finger to linger there. Something like a smile
appeared on his face, perhaps for the first time since the Christmas Bombing.
"At first, I thought it would be necessary for us to seize control of Grenada
and Barbados at least, and possibly all four, in order to forestall any British
attacks. However, events have been moving in our favor. The Jamaicans have
declared themselves neutral in the current crisis, and we've received reports
of growing sentiment for neutrality on the other three islands. If that proves
to be the case, then the British will have only three options: one, establish
one or more forward assault bases in northern Brazil; two, mount an amphibious
assault against us; or three, launch a submersible-based missile attack against
us." The Prime Minister returned to the table and resumed his seat.
"As regards the third option," Elbittar continued, "there is little we can do
beyond the current civil defense drills in the major cities." That was why the
Privy Council was meeting, not in the Royal Palace, but in one of the
conference rooms of the Bogotá Astor Hotel, on the city's eastern outskirts.
Tomorrow's meeting would be held in the Bogotá Grand.
"Concerning the second option, Admiral Soplador de la Bocina has units of our
Caribbean Fleet patrolling the coastline between Panama and the Orinoco delta.
This has the added advantage of giving our crews more experience handling the
fleet's newer units." Elbittar didn't bother to mention where the fleet had
acquired its newer units. It was said that half the ships in the AFANG had
wardrooms full of NUSM battle flags.
"And as for the first option, I've asked General Jimenez to draw up plans to
move elements of the FANG into northern Brazil, with the goal of establishing a
line of control along the fifteenth parallel."
"Prime Minister," said the King, "wouldn't an . . . occupation of Brazil tend
to conflict with your earlier statement about only fighting one enemy at a
"Unless you can't avoid it," Elbittar reminded Fernando. "If the Brazilians
allow themselves to be used as a staging ground for British airmobile strikes,
then we must intervene for our own protection." Elbittar did not resent the
King for questioning the necessity of a move into Brazil. Fernando had already
kept him from making more than one blunder during the course of the current
crisis. "If we can use diplomatic means to keep the Brazilians strictly
neutral," he continued, "then that would naturally be preferable to the use of
Fernando nodded. "As you say, Prime Minister, the Germans have indicated a
desire to mediate the current crisis. Perhaps they can be prevailed upon to
use their considerable influence with the Brazilian government to persuade them
that neutrality would be in their own best interests." Turning to Foreign
Secretary Quintana, he added, "If you wouldn't mind, Doctor, I believe that a
personal appeal by myself to Ambassador Schliemann would help to expedite the
"Not at all, Your Majesty," said Dr. Quintana, who as usual seemed relieved to
leave the Kingdom's diplomatic efforts in Fernando's hands.
I wanted a King, Elbittar mused, and I got another Foreign Secretary. And a
damn good one, too! What a team we make!
Between them, perhaps they could beat the British after all.
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
9 January 1975
Even after two and a half months, Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel still wasn't
used to attending meetings in the Chancellor's office. Perhaps he never would.
It seemed wrong, somehow, as though he were intruding into the sacred domain
of some ancient deity. Which was, he admitted to himself, a pretty strange way
to regard a politician's office.
But that was the way it was working out. When some people died, you just
attended their funerals, paid your respects, and then moved on with your life.
With others, though, a strange sort of alchemy seemed to take hold. Being dead
somehow made them more important, rather than less, than they had been during
life. In the nineteenth century, it had happened after the death of Pedro
Hermión; in the eighteenth, it had been the death of Thomas Jefferson.
And ever since 28 June, for reasons Merkel could not for the life of him
fathom, it had been happening to Adolph Markstein. No less than four German
cities had renamed themselves in his honor. Biographies of Markstein jumped up
to the top of the bestseller lists, and stayed there. Popular entertainers
were composing songs about him, and they became bestsellers too, and refused to
disappear from the radio. The current Chancellor, David Grauer, had garnered
ten minutes of continuous applause during his first speech to the Imperial Diet
with the words, "and there stood Adolph Markstein, TEN FEET TALL!"
Despite this, Grauer seemed determined to distance himself from Markstein.
Holding meetings in his office was one way; eschewing familiarity with his
cabinet ministers was another; never appearing in public without one of his
cigars was a third. Grauer insisted on being not at all like Markstein in any
respect, which seemed to have the paradoxical effect of making him seem more
like Markstein than any outward attempt at emulation could possibly have done.
Whatever Grauer's reasons for meeting his cabinet ministers in his office,
though, when all was said and done, Merkel still found it uncomfortable. He
kept expecting Markstein to jump out from behind a cabinet and demand to know
what they were doing in his office. It was unnerving.
"Good morning, Herr Merkel," Grauer greeted him from behind the vast desk.
"What can I do for you today?"
"I've received a very interesting communication from Herr Schliemann," said
Merkel as he took a proffered seat. "It seems he had an interview with King
Ferdinand last night."
Grauer paused to blow a smoke ring towards a portrait of Heinrich von Richter.
"The gist of which was?"
"His Majesty wishes us to convey to the Brazilian government his belief that it
would be in their interest to remain neutral in any upcoming conflict between
New Granada and the United Kingdom." Merkel raised one eyebrow. "/Strictly/
The Chancellor studied the dully glowing tip of his cheroot. "Should we do
this, do you think?"
"Without a doubt," said Merkel. "The only question is just how emphatic we
wish to be with the Brazilians."
"So," said Grauer, "do you favor being mildly emphatic or strongly emphatic?"
"I believe that we ought to be strongly emphatic," said Merkel. "Our
relationship with the Brazilians goes back decades. They're our major ally in
South America, and if they did allow themselves to become mixed up in a
shooting war between atomic powers, the results would almost certainly be
unfortunate for them. Moreover, if the British do establish a military
presence there, Brazil will quickly cease being our ally and become theirs."
"I was under the impression," said Grauer, "that we were supposed to be
/supporting/ the British for the duration of the current crisis." The
Chancellor blew another smoke ring.
Merkel watched as the smoke ring drifted across the office, rebounded off a map
of the world, and dissolved. There's a potent metaphor there, Merkel thought,
though what it's a metaphor /for/ eludes me. To the Chancellor he said, "As
long as the British restricted themselves to the provisions of the Bornholm
Understanding, we did support them, as indeed we supported every other
signatory nation." With a roll of the eyes, he added, "Even Scandinavia.
However, the British government seems to have succumbed to what the military
planners call 'mission creep'. They've gone beyond the goals of the Bornholm
Understanding, and are now attempting to establish some form of military
control over New Granada."
"Would that be a bad thing, do you think?" wondered Grauer.
"On the whole," said Merkel, "perhaps not. Prime Minister Elbittar was running
out of control, upsetting the balance of power in that part of the world, and
making the Brazilians very nervous. From our point of view, having the British
slap him down and establish a permanent presence in South America would not be
completely undesirable. If the British have unfettered access to Neogranadan
oil, they might stop trying to pry Arabia out of our hands. And if they're
busy dealing with America, they'll have less time and energy to bother us in
Europe. On the other hand, the Bornholm process wasn't meant to be a
springboard for British hegemonism, and it's certainly not in our interest to
help the British become more powerful."
"So what you're saying," Grauer mused, "is that we don't want to help the
British, but we don't want to hinder them either. So what do we want them to
"From the German perspective," said Merkel, "the ideal situation would be a
stable low-intensity conflict between Britain and New Granada, rather like the
Australians' recent difficulties in Southeast Asia. Keep them busy snarling at
each other, and they'll be too busy to make trouble for us."
"In that case," said Grauer, "it seems to me that keeping the British out of
Brazil might not be wise after all. If we make it harder for them to launch a
conventional attack on New Granada, won't that make them more likely to resort
to atomic weapons?"
"They might if we permitted them to," said Merkel with a smile, "but I don't
think we will. The Scandies would certainly oppose first use of atomic weapons
against New Granada, and probably the Siamese as well. That would leave the
British with the choice of either restricting themselves to conventional
weapons, or breaking up the Bornholm coalition. If they choose the latter
course, then we can dissociate ourselves from the conflict, and leave the
British to stew in their own juices."
"That seems a bit cold-blooded," Grauer observed. "I thought you Merkelites
were supposed to be the /moderate/ wing of the Germany Party."
"We /are/ the moderates," said Merkel. "Voth's people wanted us to attack our
enemies. We simply want our enemies to attack each other."
"All the same," said Grauer, "I have my doubts about the wisdom of all this.
There are always unintended consequences. It might yet backfire on us."
"We've done well out of it so far," Merkel pointed out. "First the British
ended their alliance with New Granada, then they alienated the North Americans,
and now they're doing the same to the West Indians. And when the dust finally
settles, you know who's going be sitting there, waiting to pick up the pieces?
Us, that's who.
"Imagine the possibilities, Herr Chancellor. You've been telling me since
October what an infernal nuisance it is to keep those missiles in Boricua.
After this crisis ends, we can offer a deal to the North Americans - we sign on
to their Atomic-Free Caribbean Agreement and withdraw the missiles from
Boricua, and in return they lower their trade barriers to the Zollverein. The
very thought will have Frau Blücher  salivating.
"Perhaps we can even supplant the British militarily. After all, the North
Americans will still be looking to improve their military capabilities. Who
better to show them how than the people who beat them at Moca?"
Merkel paused to watch yet another smoke ring drift across the office, this one
impacting against a portrait of Karl Ollenhauer. "I tell you, Herr Chancellor,
the future is looking brighter than it has in ten years. And we owe it all to
Herr Mercator. It's a pity we can't award him the Iron Cross - he's certainly
Grauer frowned. "You don't suppose the North Americans will get into a war
with the British, do you?"
Merkel shook his head. "No chance of that, I think. However much Herr Skinner
might dislike the British intrusion into American affairs, he isn't going to
fight to keep them out." Looking thoughtful, the Exterior Minister added, "On
the other hand, if the British make the North Americans angry enough, perhaps
they'll declare independence again."
 Carlotta Blücher, the new Minister of Trade.