Skip to comments.Germans don't realize what they have lost
Posted on 04/14/2003 6:34:14 AM PDT by MadIvan
BERLIN - The sun was shining, the linden trees were starting to show a little green and, as ever, there was an anti-war demonstration down by the Brandenburg Gate. I headed out into the crowd of 15,000 or so amidst the fluttering rainbow flags, the "No Blood for Oil" placards, the usual array of Palestinian scarves and rubber George Bush masks and even one or two posters reading "Michael Moore for President." And then it struck me. The signs were the same as they had been two weeks ago, so were the chants and the people. In downtown Berlin, at least, it was almost as if the war hadn't started at all.
I stopped a young student with a "Shame on You Mr. Bush" poster and asked him why he was there. 'To protest against American imperialism," he said earnestly. And what of the pictures of Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein? "Didn't you see the looting?" he replied. I tried another protester, a young woman in a red costume and with rouge on her cheeks. "I am proud to be German again," she told me. "Our history has told us that all war is wrong." War against dictators too? "They have to be removed by other means," she replied.
I wasn't going to bring up words like "appeasement," but for a brief moment I was reminded of the days when I lived in proto-Stalinist East Berlin and would cross the Wall into the West only to run into demonstrators protesting against the "illegal American occupation" of the city.
This particular form of political naïveté is not new in Berlin, but in the past, the West German political class tended to ignore such attitudes. Not any more, on the contrary, it now seems Gerhard Schroeder has become their champion.
This weekend, as American troops headed towards Tikrit, Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, and Schroeder met in St. Petersburg "to discuss the future of Iraq," as if it was they who had won the war.
Neither France nor Russia had much to lose by attending the conference and calling for the United States to step back after winning the war. But Germany did.
Chirac was en forme, saying of the U.S. success in Iraq that "even in bad we can find good," and stating that "only the United Nations" will have a "political, economic, administrative and humanitarian" role to play after the war. Putin, clearly suffering from amnesia about Russia's role in Chechnya, was equally hostile, going so far as to accuse the United States of "colonialism."
The U.S. State Department was said to be "extremely annoyed" by the meeting and Colin Powell pointed out that the United States had not gone to war merely to pass all responsibility on to the UN afterwards. But Chirac's raison d'être is to define France as a great power whose role is to oppose the United States. And Russia, having lost superpower status, has to insist on an important role for the UN since the permanent seat on Security Council is one of the last remaining bastions of power in the international arena. It is also in Russia's national interest to cause rifts both in NATO and in the European Union.
For Germany, however, the St. Petersburg summit will go down in history as one of the great follies of its history. Schroeder does not seem to understand that both France and Russia are taking advantage of Germany's naive pacifism. Before the Iraq war, Germany was in an enviable position. Unlike the French and the Russians, Germans seemed to be comfortable with their reduced role in the world and did not "long for Empire." Germany was the wealthiest state in Europe with a strong position in the EU and excellent relations with the United States -- indeed a decade ago it appeared that it would be Germany, not Britain, that would be America's main ally in Europe. But the Chancellor has thrown that all away.
Schroeder first jumped into this hole by fighting for re-election on an anti-American ticket and then going on to oppose war under any circumstances, even if sponsored by the UN Security Council. The trouble is, he's still digging.
At the summit this weekend, Schroeder told the United States that the reconstruction of Iraq "must take place through the UN although obviously the details will have to be discussed with the coalition as well." Needless to say, the United States has ignored this diktat, announcing instead that the four countries which contributed fighting ground troops to the war -- namely the United States, Britain, Australia and Poland -- will play the leading role in the transitory administration of Iraq, thank you very much, Herr Schroeder.
Germans claim to have learned the lessons of history, but on the streets of Berlin today the irony that their country is turning its back on the United States in favour of the likes of France, Russia, China and Syria -- countries engaged in places such as Ivory Coast, Chechnya, Tibet and Lebanon -- indicates that they haven't learned quite as much from the past as they would like to think.
When asked in St. Petersburg about the reasons for the U.S.-German rift, Schroeder shot back: "I don't want to speak about the past." For a German politician in the process of wrecking the post-war consensus, it was the wrong answer.
The flag of Canada...before the trouble started.
I wonder how many protests against the "illegal Soviet occupation" were held in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechlosovkia, the Baltic Countries .....?
Excellent point. Where are all of the protests by the euro-weenies about those invasions?
Ignorance is bliss. The Iraqis sure seem to be happy even if "the world" isn't. I live in Los Angeles, less than 10 years ago we were plagued by 3 days of riots and looting because our fine "black community" didn't like the verdict in the Rodney King trial. Yes I said LOOTING, LOOTING, LOOTING (so what)
Well said! Well said!
It won't work - it is already creaking under its own unwieldiness and inflexibility, and is supremely subject to being suborned by a determined "maximum leader." Chirac sees himself in that role in Europe. Clinton sees himself in that role worldwide. It is essentially a large organization full of representatives of smaller organizations, themselves representatives of still smaller ones - it is the model from which the Soviet Union was built. The attraction it has to a self-proclaimed elite is that it allows a very small number of people - a vanguard - to wield an inordinate amount of power - oh, for the purposes of good, of course, but that is a self-defined good that its supposed beneficiaries, poor unenlightened souls, find rather dubious. The principal problem is that it can promise peace and prosperity but cannot deliver, and so with the German government of the moment, so with its East German predecessor built on the same ideological hopes, so with the Soviet Union itself.
with its fall, the world socialist vanguard has lost its shock troops...
why do you think there were so many protests, all coordinated and synchronized against this war. you actually think these protests were "spontaneous"???
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