One of the major complaints about George Bush's foreign policy is that by giving the Europeans short shrift, he kept them from providing the soldiers that would have made the Iraq occupation much easier. It is taken as simple fact that the lack of forces from certain European countries in Iraq is due to Bush's hubris and nothing else. If only Bush had asked pretty please and had a tea party with Chirac and Schroeder there would be tens of thousands of French, German, and other European soldiers in Iraq today. However, if the European militaries are analyzed it becomes apparent that no matter how nice and "multilateral" (apparently the multi part only applies when you hit the 33rd ally, since having only 30 or so allies is clearly being alone) Bush was, there simply could not be any significant numbers of French, German, or Belgian soldiers in Iraq.
First up is the Bundeswehr. It is a decent sized force on paper with some 250,000 soldiers. Its budget is only $30 billion which means the Bundeswehr is one of the least well funded militaries in NATO at only $116,000 per soldier. This compares to a nuclear-adjusted $245,000 for the U.S. Military. The Heer (army) is organized in 5 divisions which in theory is half the size of the US Army. These 5 divisions have 11 brigades between them. None of the divisions are capable of deploying overseas as a complete unit since they each have an inactive third brigade. 4 of these brigades are deployable while the rest are not fully manned and/or have conscripts who are not allowed to serve outside of Germany (not that their 9 month terms leave much time for overseas deployments anyways). The 4 brigades consist of 2 Panzer (armor) Brigades, 1 small Luftlande (air mobile) Brigade, and 1 mixed Panzer/Jaeger (light infantry) Brigade. Including soldiers from other services that would be attached to them when deployed, these brigades represent approximately 25,000 soldiers (based on U.S. figures of 130,000 soldiers for 17 brigades in Iraq, with slightly fewer soldiers per brigade in the Heer).
Obviously, except in times of extreme danger, all of a nation's soldiers cannot be deployed at once. The general rule of thumb is 1/3 can be deployed, though that can be increased to 1/2 for a time. The Bundeswehr can thus be reasonably expected to deploy around 8,500 soldiers overseas. While it could go as high as 12,500, it is somewhat ridiculous to think any amount cajoling could have gotten the Germans to consider supporting us in Iraq worth the issues that involves. It is obvious from the start that 8,500 soldiers are not exactly solving any problems in Iraq when there are 160,000 or so soldiers there to begin with. Further, it would be impossible for Germany to have even sent that number since they have soldiers deployed elsewhere already. The Germans have about 2,500 soldiers each in Afghanistan and Kosovo, 1,000 in Bosnia, and another 900 proposed for Africa. This leaves about 1,600 soldiers for other deployments. Since we do not want to lower the number of soldiers in Afghanistan and the Balkans, the most we could have expected out of Germany in Iraq is 2,500 soldiers. Certainly good if they would send them, but not quite the division of 25,000 some have claimed the Germans could contribute (which seems to come from assuming their military is exactly like ours).
If we assume that Bush was nice and that the Germans could have contributed the same number of soldiers as the British, roughly 10,000, it is still very unlikely that Germany would have sent them. One is financial the other political. The German government would never have appropriated the Euros to pay for the deployment. Germany had a deficit of $113 billion or 4.1% of GDP in 2005, compared to America's 2.8% (2.1% without war related expenses). Given that Germany is not going anywhere economically, the German government could not have been expected to incur an extra $2-4 billion a year in expenses to help us in Iraq. Of course in the real world the Germans would also need to invest billion in their armed forces before they could consider contributing even 10,000 soldiers. It was hard enough getting them to pony up the development funds they promised for Afghanistan and to commit 2,500 soldiers there and that was the good war they supposedly support.
In addition to the military and financial reasons, the Germans also had a political reason. There is a latent anti-Americanism in Germany that has again reared its ugly head. A responsible German government would have followed in the footsteps of Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl by standing with America and working to dissolve the anti-American feelings of the German people. Gerhardt Schroeder was the furthest thing from responsible. One of the new breed of leftwing men who want to be in charge for the sake of being in charge (think John Kerry in the U.S., Paul Martin in Canada, Gordon Brown in the U.K., and Jose Zapatero in Spain) his one accomplishment was perpetuating his time as Chancellor. Overall his time in power had been horrible for Germany with the slow economy slowing even further and already high unemployment rising higher. Therefore, since him being Chancellor was all that mattered in his eyes, and he had nothing else with which to win re-election, nothing would have stopped him from taking full advantage of the confluence of anti-Americanism and anti-Iraq War feelings in Germany. Again, no amount of niceties from Bush would have changed this picture. Although Chancellor Merkel is more agreeable with Bush on many issues, by this point anti-Americanism has been so cultivated in Germany that it would be political suicide to change course.
For these military, financial and political reasons, it is patently absurd to believe that the Germans would have helped us in a significant way in Iraq had Bush just behave better. Similarly, for all his nuance and general Europhilia John Kerry would have had no better luck. This is not to say that it would not be nice if the Germans would send the 1,100 or 2,000 soldiers they do have available. The Germans are excellent professional soldiers, and any number of them is a benefit. It is simply to say that the Germans cannot for mainly political but also financial reasons entertain even a small commitment like that.