Saturday, February 08, 2003

TAKE TWO: The Internet site of Der Spiegel, true to its inflammatory nature, did its best to quote the war-like words of Rumsfeld's address to the security conference.

They first mocked what they called "Rumsfeld's logic." Their title ran, "Preparation for war brings peace." The Spiegel Online editors apparently think that the best way to bring about Hussein's disarmament is to... Well, actually, they've never made any suggestions.

For the record, here's how "Rumsfeld logic" actually goes, in his own words:

We all hope for a peaceful resolution. But the one chance for a peaceful resolution is to make clear that free nations are prepared to use force if necessary -- that the world is united and ready to act.
There are those who counsel that we should delay preparations for war. Ironically, that approach could well make war more likely, not less -- because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty, instead of a signal of unity and resolve. If the international community once again shows a lack of resolve, there is no chance that Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily or flee -- and thus little chance of a peaceful outcome.
But I guess they eventually realized that Rumsfeld's logic actually makes sense, so Spiegel Online has now changed the title of the same piece to "New Rumsfeld attacks: The UN is making a fool of itself." Their analysis:
Rumsfeld used his speech at the Munich Conference on Security Policy for attacks on procrastinators and new jokes about Europe and Germany.
You'd almost think that they asked Paul Krugman to translate the actual speech for them.
ON COLLECTIVE BLUFFING AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY: Selected passages from Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks to the Munich Conference on Security Policy...

On reconciliation with Germany's problematic no:

As to Iraq, we still hope that force may not be necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein. But if it comes to that, we already know that the same will hold true -- some countries will participate, while others may choose not to. The strength of our coalition is that we do not expect every member to be a part of every undertaking.
On the effects of September 11th:
It may be difficult for some to understand just how fundamentally September 11th transformed our country. Americans saw the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers as a painful and vivid foreshadowing of far more deadly attacks to come. We looked at the destruction caused by terrorists, who took jetliners, turned them into missiles, and used them to kill 3,000 innocent men, women and children - and we considered the destruction that would be caused by an adversary armed with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Instead of 3,000 killed, it could be 30,000, 300,000, or more.
On the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction:
There is a momentous fact of life we must come to terms with: it is the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction. On September 11th, terrorist states discovered that missiles are not the only way to strike Washington - or Paris, or Berlin. There are other means of delivery - terrorist networks. To the extent a terrorist state transfers weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, they could conceal their responsibility for an attack.
On the state of the UN:
Let me add these sad thoughts about the state of the United Nations. An institution that, with the support or acquiescence of many of the nations represented in this room, would permit Iraq, a terrorist state that refuses to disarm, to become the chair of the United Nations Commission on Disarmament, and which recently elected Libya - a terrorist state - to chair the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, seems not to be even struggling to regain credibility.
That these acts of irresponsibility could happen now, at this moment in history, is breathtaking. Those acts will be marked in the history of the UN as either the low point of that institution in retreat, or the turning point when the UN woke up, took hold of itself, and moved away from a path of ridicule to a path of responsibility.
To understand what is at stake, it is worth reminding ourselves of the history of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations. When the League failed to act after the invasion of Abyssinia, it was discredited as an instrument of peace and security. The lesson of that experience was best summed up at the time by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who declared, "Collective bluffing cannot bring about collective security."
German reaction to the Secretary's remarks to follow...
BACK IN OLD EUROPE: The opening remarks from Secretary Rumsfeld at the Munich Conference on Security Policy:
I'm delighted to be with you. It's a particular pleasure to be back in Old Europe! I'm told that when I used that term the other day, it caused a bit of a stir. Frankly, I don't understand what the fuss was about -- at my age, I consider "old" a term of endearment.
Excerpts from the speech to follow...
OPEN AND UNAMBIGUOUS: The Chairman of the Munich Conference on Security Policy, Prof. Dr. Horst Teltschik, opened the conference this morning by using the recent words of Paul Spiegel:
But the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, was right to recall that Auschwitz was not freed by German demonstrators, but by the soldiers of the Red Army.
The question remains: Can you topple dictators, who have at their disposal all of the modern means of suppression, without help from the outside?
And in introducing Secretary Rumsfeld, Teltschik said:
You are considered to be a politician who expresses himself openly and unambiguously, who says what he thinks is right. That wasn't always comfortable for those who felt addressed [by you] in the last few weeks. We are very eager to hear your remarks.
Mr. Secretary, you have the floor.

Friday, February 07, 2003

WHAT CHOICE?: Here's not a very InstaClever comment: "Apparently, the choice of Munich for the conference was, well, appropriate..."

The Conference on Security Policy has been held in Munich since 1962.

A PIECE OF HIS MIND: According to Spiegel Online, German Defense Minister Peter Struck (of Scröder's SPD) is not willing to let Rumsfeld's remarks be water under an Isar bridge.

In a private meeting tomorrow, Struck plans to tell Rumsfeld how he really feels [die Meinung sagen] about the Secretary's remarks. Remember, this is the same guy whose hand Rumsfeld refused to shake at a previous NATO meeting. I bet that'll be a pleasant conversation...

TO RULE THE WORLD: The AP provides us with our first look at the protestors in Munich:
"I'm protesting against the war and against the hegemony of America," said Gerold Geiger, a 45-year-old Bavarian art restorer. "They want one superpower that dominates the world. And the hardliners behind Bush want to rule the world."
I guess he's still upset that Sports Illustrated picked Italy to win the World Cup last year.

Either that, or he's a friend of the mayor...

HAVANA, TRIPOLI, SAN FRANCISCO: In a television interview, the CSU Oberordner of Bavaria, Günther "unqualified-escessive-violence" Beckstein, now thinks that it's excessively safe for Americans in Munich. He had this to say about the US State Department's special announcement warning American citizens to avoid Bavaria's capital (I'm translating freely):
Americans in Munich this weekend will be safer than those going for a walk at night in San Francisco or Chicago.
But I'm left to wonder if San Francisco is more dangerous than Havana or Tripoli after nightfall. Probably. I'll be following the conference this weekend to find out...
THE LEANING TOWER OF GERMANY: John Schmid has a good piece today in the International Herald Tribune that takes a look at the (non-)workings of Germany's education system.

Germany has been gnashing its teeth for more than a year now over a poor showing in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The tests are being administered worldwide at the grade school level. They cover reading literacy, mathematics and science.

German 15-year olds, for example, scored below the OECD average, as well as behind EU members Britain, Austria and France. Overall, Germany landed in the bottom third of participating countries.

A planner from the German Ministry of Education summed up how Germany has been taking the news: "It is a question of the future of individuals but really also of the future of the whole society."

Maybe. But then again, the United States also finished below the OECD average.

The IHT article also touches on Germany's state-sponsored university system, where it takes on average more than six years to complete a degree and the average age at graduation is 28. Even though they pay no tuition, only 16% of Germans have a university degree, and a decreasing number of those are studying engineering and mathematics, traditional hallmarks in the land of Mercedes and Benz.

Having seen just some of the internal workings of the German university system, I'm definitely not an expert. (I made my degree in the US.) But I'm also far from impressed.

In my opinion, though, the greater problem lies not with the students or even with the system, but with the labor market that awaits a newly minted graduate (or drop-out).

German industry and Germany's politicians must walk a fine line to maintain their "socialist-capitalist" Sozialmarktwirtschaft economy -- one that still tries to promise lifetime employment (or else support from the state) while at the same time competing in the global marketplace.

Germans typically deride what they refer to as "American-style hire-and-fire." But in their legislated attempts to reduce the firing side of the equation, Germany has increased the risk of the hiring side. Since it's immensely expensive and almost socially unacceptable to fire employees, industry often avoids hiring them in the first place.

The result: growth remains flat; competition is weak; optimism is low. And for Germany's young, the chances are few. Times are bad.

I really have to wonder what effect this overwhelming national mood has had on Germany's nearly unanimous rejection of confronting Iraq with force.

PAPAL CORRECTION: Previously, I had posted that when France eventually sides with the US, Germany would be left standing alone. But as this report from the AP demonstrates, I was wrong:
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer met with Pope John Paul II on the Iraqi crisis Friday, saying both Germany and the Vatican are deeply worried about the possibility of war and insist that Iraq disarm.
No word yet on whether Vatican City will grant over-flight rights to US planes.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

TRAVEL WARNINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS: In testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered this bit:
And then there are three or four countries that have said they won't do anything. I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are the ones that I have indicated won't help in any respect.
I suspect that this will trigger Foolathon II.

For German readers, here's a nice little story about the US State Department's warning for Americans in Munich, which I first posted about here. The author notes that Germany now stands alongside Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen as "possible danger zones."

Currently, travel warnings and special announcements for Americans are in effect for Algeria, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany, and a host of others. Let's be careful out there [mid audio].

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

GERMAN DRUDGING: Via Andrew Sullivan, I checked out a flash on the Drudge Report about Abu Mossab al Zarqawi, whom Colin Powell fingered for the UN Security Council as an al Qaeda terrorist with close ties to Iraq.

Drudge reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung has the Thursday morning scoop that federal investigators in Germany have opened official proceedings against Zarqawi.

Back in April 2002, one man was arrested in Germany in connection with planned terrorist activities in the country. Arrest warrants were issued for eight others. At the time, Zarqawi was named as the "operative head" of the cell.

Zarqawi's name surfaced again in November 2002, during another heightened state for terrorist threats in Germany. At that time, he was still thought to be involved in the channeling of terrorists into Germany.

And now we learn in Thursday's SZ -- in an extraordinary piece of timing -- that the German government has commenced preliminary proceedings against Zarqawi, based on the suspicion that he was the ringleader of the terrorist cell in Germany.

The SZ scoop -- released to the dpa, where Drudge picked it up -- emboldens the accusations made by Colin Powell yesterday in the UN Security Council. First of all, there can be no doubt that Zarqawi was involved in the planning of (prevented) terrorist attacks in Germany against Jews.

Additional details of the Zarqawi case are provided in the "In Profile" section of Thursday's SZ. While the German authorities do have concrete evidence against Zarqawi, they don't believe he provides an al Qaeda terrorist connection to Iraq.

But the profile goes on to relate his stay in a Baghdad hospital to have a leg amputated. "When the Jordanian security services learned of [his whereabouts], they immediately issued a request for extradition. At that point, Zarqawi allegedly defected to the north of the country [i.e., Iraq], where the Kurds are in control."

And therein lies the connection. If Saddam claims he did not know that Zarqawi was receiving treatment at one of his hospitals in Baghdad, then how did the al Qaeda terrorist know he had better disappear? And if Saddam knowingly gave support to the al Qaeda terrorist, first by notifying him of Jordan's extradition request, and subsequently by helping him escape to the north, isn't that a smoking gun?

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL, STUPID: As much as the next guy, I'd like to see German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder back away from his problematic no to confronting Iraq. Here, I wrote that Schröder's "No 'Yes' is a Problem." And here I reviewed in detail the domestic circumstances surrounding his Kein Ja.

But I'm just not seeing what others seem to be looking for: That the crushing defeats of Schröder's SPD in Hesse and Lower Saxony last weekend are somehow pressuring a "lonely" Chancellor "to relent" on his problematic no.

This article, for example, from today in the International Herald Tribune, is winning a warm, if still mistaken, reception. The piece itself is actually a balanced take on the current situation in Germany.

In sum: Even though he has been both personally and politically stunned by the outcome of the state elections, Schröder remains adamant in his Iraqi stance. Sensing a wounded Chancellor, though, the opposition CDU/CSU parties are showing some teeth.

The piece rightly states:

Many, not only opposition party members but German foreign policy experts, have been privately critical of what they have seen as Schroeder's unyielding position on Iraq, arguing that it has needlessly harmed German relations with the United States and caused divisions inside Europe.
Of course the opposition's teeth were nothing but pacifist smiles before the elections. Sure, they consistently offered harsh criticism of the Chancellor's position, but they weren't calling for much action, either.

Whether you agree with it or not, the German people are overwhelmingly (as high as 90%) against a military confrontation of Iraq. In that environment, a group of opposition politicos holding a press conference doesn't generate "domestic political heat" (InstaPundit).

Think of Senator Edward Kennedy's response to the State of the Union address:

President Bush cannot expect the international community to salute America and march with us into war when the Administration has made no convincing case for war.
The next day, Senator Kennedy even introduced a new resolution on the Senate floor, challenging the President's authority. Did all this constitute "pressure to relent" for Bush?

Even more, the CDU/CSU opposition isn't even trying to hide its initial silence or to disguise its current grandstanding. The CSU's foreign policy spokesman -- who is no Ted Kennedy -- is quoted in the IHT (my emphasis):

The majority of our electorate, the conservative electorate, is against any military action, so we haven't wanted to put that to the test before.
But now that they sense the Chancellor is reeling, the CDU/CSU is moving in for a knockout punch. That's not an opposition movement to Schröder's problematic no -- that's just an opposition party.
SADDAM MUST DISARM: I was highly encouraged by the strong words of German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, at today's session of the UN Security Council. In his way, he was convincing and resolute.

His final sentence declared that Saddam "must" fulfill all its obligations to the UN. Saddam "must" disarm.

Or else...?

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

GERMAN LEADERSHIP: We've already witnessed the qualities of German leadership at the federal level with Schröder's problematic no. Now the Oberbürgermeister [mayor] of Munich, Christian Ude, who is also of Schröder's SPD party, is taking a lead role in organizing demonstration protests around the "Conference on Security Policy" in his city this weekend.

The "Conference on Security Policy" is an annual forum that brings together secretaries of state and defense, in addition to about "250 decision-makers from more than 40 countries," according to the official website.

To set the stage, this week's Focus magazine (generally not an alarmist publication) ran a piece about Munich, the host city of the conference:

City in a State of Alarm -- If US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld Comes to the Conference on Security Policy, Radicals Could Turn Munich into a Battlefield
So what has the mayor of Munich done? He's joined with the Revolutionary Socialist Federation (RSB) and the German Communist Party (DKP) in calling for street protests. Not against the conference, mind you, but against US policy in Iraq. Not that it will make much difference to the police who have to keep the protesters under control. (Yes, Ude is calling for peaceful protests.)

But the vice-president of the Munich police is not so confident: "To this day, many of these groups have still not separated themselves from violence." The Bayern Oberordner warned that if Rumsfeld comes to the conference, he fears "unqualified excessive violence."

Although they have no "evidence" of planned violence, 4,000 police officers will be on duty. The area around the conference site, the "Bayerischer Hof Hotel" will be completely closed. And the US State Department has issued a special public announcement advising Americans to avoid the area and "exercise caution" throughout the weekend. According to German newspapers, US Ambassador Dan Coats has called the protest developments "unsettling" [beunruhigend].

Yet here is where it only starts to get interesting. A news item from sueddeutsche.de, the Internet site of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, has reported that Ude -- you remember, the mayor -- took out half-page advertisements in local newspapers today. He's calling for more demonstrations!

In his advertising call to arms, the mayor of Munich declared that the US is "obviously striving for war, which would impinge the deepest suffering on the oppressed Iraqi people." At an open panel discussion, Ude also criticized the Americans for their "strategic arrogance."

The other half of the ruling coalition in Munich, the Greens, have themselves passed a party resolution calling for demonstrations, as reported in the Munich-based Merkur Online.

Reaction from the opposition party in Bayern is rightly shocked. The General Secretary of the CSU, Thomas Goppel, "has demanded that Ude apologize to the Americans." He said, "Whoever invites slobs [Chaoten] to vandalize Munich has no right to call himself an apostle of peace or to portray the USA as a war monger."

In case you're interested in who this Ude character is, go here. You can also send him a missive of peace here.

Chancellor Schröder had already announced two weeks ago that he would not be attending the conference. But maybe he just wanted to be at the demonstrations instead...

Monday, February 03, 2003

AMERICAN SOLDIER SHOT IN GERMANY:
BERLIN - A U.S. soldier was seriously wounded by gunfire early Monday after he pulled his car off the road in southern Germany to clean ice from the windshield, police said.
The 26-year-old soldier from the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry was wearing civilian clothes when he was shot in the left hand and leg on his way to the barracks in Schweinfurt, 60 miles east of Frankfurt, Schweinfurt police spokesman Karl-Heinz Schmitt said in a statement.
The soldier was able to drive despite being wounded and later underwent surgery, the statement said. The injuries were not life-threatening.
Police said they had no leads on who fired the shots or the motive for the attack, which happened around 5 a.m. They appealed for witnesses.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry confirmed the incident but declined to give any further details, including the soldier's identity.
The incident was under investigation. Police said they would not be able to question the soldier until Tuesday because of his injuries.
Not enough information is available about the incident to draw conclusions, so I won't even speculate. (Thanks to Mrs T for the tip.)

UPDATE: The AP reports, "Police said they were focusing on a personal motive, after both German investigators and U.S. military officials said there were no indications of a terror attack."

UPDATE: According the AP, a reward of 5,000 €  is being offered for leads in the case. The soldier "is in stable condition after undergoing surgery."

UPDATE: It appears that the US soldier shot himself, although it is not clear whether it was intentional or accidental.

BLAME THE AMIS: In a question put to Germans recently, 63% blame the Americans for the "obvious worsening of the diplomatic relationship" between Germany and the United States. A full 87% agree that Germany should not vote for war against Iraq, in case a resolution comes before the UN Security Council.

No word on how many would vote Saddam Hussein as the next recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

AMI GO SOUTH: In response to today's early-morning post about the "gruffiness" of Germans, an Ami who used to live around Munich writes in:
You need to move south! Bayern is where the sun shines, the Weissbier flows, and the people are friendly!
Better go pack my bags...

UPDATE: I'm now in the south... And another Ami with a bit of German-Heimweh writes:

I agree with you that Germany is not the land of opportunity, but there are still many things I miss (Gemütlichkeit, Bautechnik, Bier, Brot, ... ).
Beer seems to always make the list, but the others here are quite nice as well.
PUNDITSCHAU: Being in Germany, I am grateful to Punditwatch for its weekly recap of the Sunday morning punditry back at home.

For my part, tonight (Sunday night) I watched the Sabine Christiansen show, one of the most popular weekly "discussion forums" in Germany. Usually, the show takes on the political topics of the day.

Tonight, the semi-big politco guns were out, including the "Superminister" Wolfgang Clement (SPD), Go-Get-Em Guido Westerwelle (FDP), Don't-Call-It-A-Comeback Friedrich Merz (CDU/CSU), and Miss Strategary Angelika Beer (Green). Rounding out the politicians was Happy-Go-Lucky Frank Bsirske, the arm-twisting mob union boss. (Some no-name management consultant was also part of the group.)

As to be expected, the guys and gal spent most of the evening discussing Schröder's freefall from grace. Today's elections in Hessen and Lower Saxony can only be interpreted as a loud and clear signal from the voters: let's get this economy working again. Also to be expected, no policy changes were really advanced -- the mob union boss is there to make sure that no one is mean to the workers.

The end of the program turned briefly to the "Iraq-Crisis," which was interpreted as a question about Schröder's problematic no. Saddam who? Let's squabble amongst ourselves...

First, the no-name consultant said something forgettable. Then it was Westerwelle's job to criticize Beer before Merz piled on some more. Beer defended herself and the problematic no, and Clement said something while getting cut off by the host, Sabine. All in all, a nice summation of how German foreign policy ended up where it is today.

GET ME OUTTA HERE: No, not me -- but that's what more and more Germans are saying about Germany. According to a current piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung [I can't find it online], more than 110,000 people leave Germany for broader horizons each year. The author writes:
Nothing moves in Germany. Someone who wants to affect something had better try someplace else. The favorite destination of German emigrants is the land of unlimited opportunities, the United States.
According to Christina Busch, a consultant for Germans looking to get out, the feeling is the same with all of her clients:
It is the unfriendliness that appalls everyone in this country who's even spent just 24 hours in America; this gruffness [Ruppigkeit] that apparently everyone would like to change but hardly anyone can.
Actually, it's not all that bad. In fact, more than one Amiland reader has written in to say that he misses a good beer and brat in the land of Goethe. And with Karneval season just around the corner, Germans have even been known to smile and have fun.
THE TRUTH HURTS: In an interview in Thursday's Süddeutsche Zeitung, Richard Perle bluntly described the effect of Schröder's Nein:
Germany has become irrelevant.
Ouch. And the title story of this week's Focus magazine draws the same conclusion: "Schröder's Affront to the USA Weakens Germany's Influence in the World." Tune in this week for more...
POP QUIZ: If you're German -- or just want to practice your German-language skills -- try this test of your Amerika-Wissen.

I'm not revealing my score.

THE WELL IS DRY: With his problematic no, Chancellor Schröder went back to the anti-war well in hopes of pulling out another election victory today. Instead, he was dealt a triple blow: a devastating loss in Lower Saxony and another (more predictable) in Hessen -- and most damaging, a loss of prestige and influence on the world stage. Germany voted its pocketbook today. German-language coverage of the Länder elections at the Netzeitung.

UPDATE: Not only did Schröder go to the well one time too many, he fell in. In his home Land, Lower Saxony, Schröder's SPD party finished with just 33.4% of the vote -- down from nearly 48% in the last election five years ago. Not good.

It's important to clarify, though, that Schröder's abysmal showing has absolutely nothing to do with his problematic no in foreign policy. The Nein was a tactical ploy, a last-ditch effort to win a few more votes. It didn't work. As opposed to the federal elections last fall, the voters this time still agreed with Schröder but voted their pocketbooks instead.