Saturday, February 22, 2003

MORE DEMONSTRATORS: About 2,000 protestors spent a sunny Saturday afternoon in front of the US Rhein-Main airbase near Frankfurt. A favorite sign: No Blood for Oil. A human blockade apparently closed off the entrance to the base for a short time.

An important note is that the German military has been providing extra protection for the base since yesterday.

POLITBAROMETER: As I mentioned in a post below, I caught some numbers on television last night that shocked me...positively.

The television station ZDF, in conjunction with the research group Wahlen, has been conducting bi-weekly polls since middle December last year. It's known on TV as the "Politbarometer," measuring how Germans feel on a number of different issues.

Sure, most Germans continue to have an unfavorable opinion of Bush and believe that Germany's relationship to the USA has gotten worse. (Foreign Minister Fischer continues to be the most popular politician in Germany, and Schröder's SPD is still struggling.)

But the interesting number came from this question:

If it comes to a UN resolution for US military action against Iraq: How should Germany participate?
Leaving aside the obvious distortion of "US military action," only 50% of respondents said that Germany shouldn't participate at all. (The summary of the poll online put it this way: "a majority of 50 percent.")

And according to the Politbarometer from middle December, this sentiment isn't even new. Then, only 53% said that Germany should not be involved in any way.

From the other half of the "50 percent majority," 33% said Germany should provide matériel and financial support, while 14% were ready for the participation of German soldiers. Apparently 3% were undecided or did not know.

These numbers aren't making headlines, maybe because they aren't news to anyone. I don't know.

The dpa did pick up on the poll, but they didn't mention the 47% of Germans who, with the backing of the UN, would support at least some kind of German involvement in Iraq. To me, anyway, that's a good headline.

COTTBUS WINS AGAIN: Ok, I know I promised not to cover any more soccer until 2006, but American Gregg Berhalter, who plays for a Bundesliga team in eastern Germany, continues to get good press.
Cottbus and U.S. defender Gregg Berhalter remained the German league's hottest team. ... It now has the league's best record since the winter break of four wins and a draw.
The East German club beat Bremen 1-0 behind a goal by Marko Topic and a stingy defense led by Berhalter. During its streak, the club has yielded just one goal with the American World Cup player in charge of the defense.
Energie Cottbus is now ranked 16th out of 18 teams and needs to continue winning in order to avoid demotion to Germany's second league -- the teams with the three worst records are demoted.
ABSTRACT DANGER FOR THE NYT: Apparently, the Soviet Union didn't really represent a threat to West Germany or the United States. As taken from this piece on the people of eastern Germany today:
The Nikolai Church protests of 1989 grew out of an earlier church peace movement that spread east from the west in the early 1980's, when West German churches were protesting their government's decision to install medium-range Pershing II missiles to counter what Washington perceived to be the Soviet threat.
My history is perhaps a bit rusty, but somehow I recall that German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt also "perceived" the threat of Soviet SS-20s pointing at Bonn. Later, in the 1980s, Helmut Kohl found the USSR a bit threatening as well.

In fact, pretty much the entire free world, with China to boot, recognized very well what might be called "the Soviet threat."

And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it Washington -- under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter -- that initially failed to "perceive" any threat when the USSR began upgrading its middle-distance rockets aimed at Western Europe?

(See the post below for a look at the article's content...)

THEY BLAME AMERICA: There's an article in the New York Times today that takes a look at why the Volk in the eastern half of Germany are so opposed to a possible US-led war in Iraq.
What used to be called the German Democratic Republic stands out these days as the only former member of the Soviet bloc that does not back the American position on Iraq.
According to the article, here's where they're coming from:
Germany itself can show defiant independence of the United States because the cold war is over and it feels secure. But eastern Germans, many of whom have been very disappointed with the results of reunification, may reject American policy because they feel neither secure, nor sometimes even represented, in the new Germany of which they have become a part.
"It's because they are poorer in the east than in the west, and there's a kind of anger at America for this," said Christoph Dieckmann, a former dissident Protestant minister from eastern Germany who now works as a reporter for the weekly Die Zeit. "They blame America for their poor economic state."
This conclusion, to my mind, is way off target. The problems facing eastern Germany are the same problems facing all of Germany: high taxes, inflexible labor laws, and the Gemütlichkeit of their social system.

As another article in the Times today makes clear, the West has invested heavily in the other countries of the former Soviet bloc. But even Germany, when it looks east for investment, looks beyond the former East Germany.

German companies, building on centuries of trade to the east, spotted opportunities to offset their own record-setting wage levels at home. ... Laundry from Berlin's five-star hotels is reportedly sent each day to be cleaned in low-cost Poland.
This isn't bad. Indeed, it's good. But resenting America for the lack of investment and growth in Germany is also indeed ridiculous.

And in the end, it always seems to come back to American imperialism and, of course, oil.

The other day, the German minister for the environment, Jürgen Trittin, said that the real interest of the United States in Iraq was oil, and this view, announced near the top of the German government, played to an audience in eastern Germany.
Like I also said the other day: I have accepted by now that many Germans feel this way. I was encouraged, though, by some numbers that I saw on television last night...

Friday, February 21, 2003

WHENEVER YOU'RE READY: A new poll from the Forsa Institute (dpa) says that 70% of Germans are against setting a deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm. To me this eliminates the credibility of 70% of the Germans who are against military intervention.

Whether the UN Security Council builds a deadline into a second resolution or not -- I'm guessing they won't -- we have to have a deadline. The deadline should be no further in the future than it requires Hussein to demonstrate he is willing to cooperate fully with the inspections process.

No one can argue that he is currently cooperating. And those who believe that Hussein can be peacefully disarmed against his will are simply no longer credible.

By my count, that number's up from 62% -- the percentage of Germans who thought that the Spiegel Online interview with Eugen Drewermann was "profound and correct."

UPDATE: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says that the US and Britain are ready.

UPDATE: I've been reminded that 62% of Spiegel Online readers does not necessarily represent 62% of Germans. Fair enough.

CONGRESSIONAL BLOGGING: In Bonn today as part of a German-American economic summit, Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, "read Schröder the riot act," as reported by the AP. He said:
It is sick when political leaders speak about Saddam Hussein as if he was Mother Theresa, and then about the USA as if it was a dangerous superpower that threatens world peace.
(Aside: Does Jay Leno still do the bit of matching two people to see how their kids might turn out?)

Even though Lantos made clear that he is no supporter of Bush the candidate, he said that to call the President a warmonger is "grotesque." He went on:

To achieve peace, sometimes it is necessary to conquer tyrants. We have done that in American history, and if necessary we will do it again. And Germany has a responsibility to participate, not for the sake of the USA, but for the sake of its own people.
Lantos also said that he was pleased Angela Merkel made clear in her Washington Post editorial that Schröder doesn't speak for all Germans. The AP reported:
He found it "amusing" that people in Germany were upset about that Merkel delivered her criticisms in a foreign newspaper. In the age of the Internet, he advised the German government, you'll have to get used to the fact that it makes very little difference where and when somebody says something.
And that for a 75-year old! Somebody get him a blog...
CITIZEN AND IMMIGRATION: The AP reported yesterday that the publisher of such family classics as "The Hitler We Loved and Why" has been deported from the United States to Canada.

According to the report, Ernst Zündel is a German citizen who immigrated to Canada in 1958. He wanted to avoid the West German draft. US officials returned him to Canada, though, because that was his port of entry.

(± Here's another article via AWZ with additional background information about Zündel's deportation from the US.)

Now Amiland reader AWZ sends me this article from Canada's National Post. It says that the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Denis Coderre, is determined to make sure that Zündel is not allowed to find asylum in Canada.

Asked what he might do to remove him, Mr. Coderre said: "Just watch me."
Also according to the article, German authorities have issued a new arrest warrant, which could finally lead to Zündel's extradition.

± And here is reaction from a survivor of Nazi concentration camps.

ANOTHER ABSTRACT DANGER: I found this bit in an opinion piece today by Ken Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, interesting:
Then another batch of important defectors escaped to Europe and told Western intelligence services that after the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort.
The reports of these defectors prompted the German intelligence service in 2001 to conclude that Iraq was only three to six years away from having one or more nuclear weapons.
Josh Marshall over at TPM has just published the second part of his interview with Pollack. Go here for parts one and two together. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

THE FAZ GOES OFFLINE: Starting today (Thursday), I noticed something different about the Internet site of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung... It appears that they've moved all of their print content behind password protection, only available to subscribers.

They continue to maintain FAZ.NET, but the lack of access to the newspaper itself is quite/rather unfortunate. The weekly edition in English-language is still available.

UPDATE: TS sent me a tip that FAZ.NET will continue to carry some articles from the Foolathon section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung print edition. They'll be integrated online in the Kultur area.

It's possible that other select articles from other sections of the print edition will also be thus integrated. I think it's still too bad. The FAZ online presence has gone from lackluster to, well, lacking. But times here are indeed very tough on the publishing industry...

WHO IS RAINER BARZEL: Another bit of coincidental history is that the first no-confidence vote in Germany took place against Willy Brandt. (See post below and here for context.) In 1972, having just pulled off large gains in a state election, the CDU/CSU opposition tried to oust the weakened Chancellor.

They fell short of the necessary majority in a secret ballot, 249-247. And if you're curious why the opposition today is reluctant to challenge Schröder, see if you can remember the name of the CDU/CSU's candidate who lost that vote...

MORE GERMAN DOMESTIC FOREIGN POLICY: Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition CDU in Germany, will be visiting the US this weekend. She has taken the opportunity to bring Germany's domestic foreign policy squabbles to the editorial page of the Washington Post.

Most Germans I know draw on their interpretation of post-WWII history when explaining their current antiwar position. But Frau Merkel goes back to the books, too:

The most important lesson of German politics -- never again should Germany go it alone -- is swept aside with seeming ease by a German federal government that has done precisely this, for the sake of electoral tactics. ...
But the history of Germany and Europe in the 20th century in particular certainly teaches us this: that while military force cannot be the normal continuation of politics by other means, it must never be ruled out, or even merely questioned -- as has been done by the German federal government -- as the ultimate means of dealing with dictators.
The FAZ.NET is reporting that Merkel will meet with Cheney, Rice, and Armitage. They also write:
Such a series of high-ranking meetings is unusual for a foreign politician in the opposition. During his most recent visit to Washington in October, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Green) was met solely by his political colleague, Colin Powell.
Spiegel Online is also covering the WaPo column, but they went with a different lead: "Merkel Bows to Bush."

[In German, the headline runs: Merkels Bückling vor Bush. Thanks to "d" for translation support. For an interesting discussion of the best translation for Bückling (from "bows" to "kowtows" to "brown-noses"), follow this link to LEO.]

While I don't necessarily agree that Merkel is joining the "war chants of the US government," I do think Spiegel Online is correct for criticizing her. She's taking Germany's domestic fights overseas, which they rightly say marks a "crass break in the local political culture."

At the same time, Spiegel Online reminds us of another instance where Germany's infighting went international and partially contributed to the fall of a chancellor. It was 1973, in Moscow, the capital of the enemy from the (first) Cold War.

Herbert Wehner, then the SPD's faction leader, was at odds with Chancellor Willy Brandt over, among other things, the government's Ostpolitik. In September 1973, while visiting Germany's embassy in Moscow, Wehner let fly some of the most bitter words in German politics: "That man likes to take lukewarm baths."

No, really. That's what he said. It appears he was criticizing Brandt's indecisiveness.

The Chancellor himself was too tired and weak to confront Wehner, who was actively working against him. In May 1974, shortly after the Chancellor's buddy, Günter Guillaume, was captured as a spy, Willy Brandt resigned.

Now, I'm not sure whether Angie knows how Gerd takes his bath, but I reckon she wouldn't mind if he slipped in the tub. (Go here if you're interested in how Merkel could try to make him fall.)

DOES PAUL READ AMILAND: Paul Krugman, as if he was a regular Amiland reader (I've posted, you decide) wrote in his column on Tuesday that it's not so much culture or history that divides Europeans and Americans, but our news coverage.

While Paul focuses on television news programming, I think newspaper and (especially in Germany) radio reporting are also quite influential, particularly among people who are sincerely interested in an issue. Indeed, that's the basis for much of the work I do on Amiland.

In the op-ed, Paul poses two explanations for the current "great (media) divide" among the western world. Just judging by his tone, I suspect he considers the first not really plausible: "That European media have a pervasive anti-American bias that leads them to distort the news."

Well, that just can't be...except for maybe the occasional mis-quote to support an "oil for war" argument.

The other explanation, the one which (I'm just guessing) he would support, is that some US media outlets are selling a war for patriotic reasons.

Of course, the situation isn't as black-and-white as, say, my television when I try to watch SAT1. But I'd still invite Paul to read through some of the pages here on Amiland.


Interestingly but perhaps not shockingly, the German media has picked up quite jovially on Paul's piece. For the most part, they just summarize it in German.

But the best introduction of Paul's op-ed goes to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which wrote (my emphasis):

Paul Krugman, Professor at Harvard University, risked a small comparison in Tuesday's edition of the otherwise quite patriotic New York Times.
As Professor Glenn would say: Heh.

Now I'm not calling the New York Times unpatriotic, but by "patriotic" here, the SZ is implying pro-war.

And I'm not sure how Harvard comes into it.


Yep, the "clever" (SZ) Paul is right: "We have different views partly because we see different news."

YES, SADDAM DOES CARE: After I posted that the deputy prime minister of Iraq was praising Schröder's antiwar stance, a fellow blogger from Germany sneeringly asked me in an email: "Do you really think that it matters what Saddam thinks of the German position?"

Well, now we have the answer:

President Saddam Hussein's government, apparently emboldened by antiwar sentiment at the U.N. Security Council and in worldwide street protests, has not followed through on its promises of increased cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors, according to inspectors in Iraq.
Of course, Schröder's own SPD party isn't helping the situation either. For the first time, a cabinet member has publicly accused the Bush administration of wanting to start a war for oil interests.

In an interview with Die Welt, Jürgen Trittin -- who was part of the record setting 500,000 last Saturday -- said:

The critics are exactly right when they use the slogan: No war for oil.
So insightful. But I have accepted by now that many Germans feel this way.

It's interesting, though, to look at the question he was actually asked: "But if a majority in the UN Security Council [were to support a war], then it would be a multilateral action, wouldn't it?"

You might be confused by now... How did Trittin get from the interviewer's question about possible support in the UN to such an insightful "no war for oil" answer? Maybe the cabinet member's explanation, from the same question, will help to clarify:

Democracy must protect the relationship (± proportion) between ends and means. That's why a war is not legitimate.
Still not clear? Allow me to interpret: You see, no matter how large the coalition of the willing actually is, the US will be acting unilaterally. And no matter what the UN decides, the US will be acting illegitimately. It's all about oil, no matter what anyone else says or does.

No wonder Saddam is pleased to have Germany on his side. Which reminds me, I wonder how Miss Germany is getting along...

UPDATE: Right on cue, the opposition CDU is demanding the dismissal of Trittin from Schröder's cabinet. Please move along...

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: According to press reports, Miss Germany has started off on a weeklong "peace mission" to Iraq. Immediately after her coronation in January, Alexandra Vodjanikova had said that she "would like to meet Saddam Hussein."

She wants to discuss with him "the dangers of weapons of mass destruction," reports the AFP, and "prompt him to let the UN weapons inspectors do their job."

UPDATE: The dpa is reporting that a meeting with the tyrant is still "in doubt."

FALSE ASSUMPTION: I'm still following the deutsche waves caused by Josh and Andrew's posts from yesterday (see my post below). In short, they both picked up on a single sentence from a Deutsche Welle story, which itself was reporting on an interview with two SPD ministers.

The sentence in question is indeed less than clear. On account of its complex structure, a typo and debatable word choice, it is possible to imply more than the sentence actually says. Here's the original again:

In the interviews, two German government ministers let readers know that there is little danger now that that [sic] American-hating terrorists could unleash the smallpox virus on the German population.
I have since traded a few emails with the editor of Deutsche Welle who is responsible for English content online. While I still think the sentence is less clear than it could be -- and the use of the phrase "American-hating terrorists" is unnecessary -- I am sure that an implication of any sort was not intended.

The "that that" typo, which has now been corrected online, was perhaps the smell of smoke that caused some suspicions.

Further, I agree with the DW editor, who wrote in his email, "The content of the story is correct."

Not being a native speaker in my own country of residence, I can also understand the difficulties of "shifting very quickly between two languages," to use the editor's phrase.

As clear as they could be, are not either all of my sentences. Doch.

In his original post on this issue, Josh was prudently circumspect in his conclusion: "I'm curious to hear more about just what these ministers said, the precise quotations and context and so forth." And now the original interviews are available online.

[Warning: The Bild website, not unlike its print edition, often has pictures of less-than-fully-clothed women. (Remember that cultures are different.) Do not follow the link below if you do not want, even accidentally, to view such content.]

Here is the abstractly dangerous link to the interviews from Bildzeitung.

For the most part, the interviews aren't worth all the excitement they've aroused, including here on Amiland. (They're not worth translating, so you'll have to trust me.) Both ministers just say that the whole smallpox vaccine "scandal" is a non-story.


Over the past couple days, some Amiland readers have written in about the vaccine story and asked why I haven't posted on it yet. (Even though I didn't move on the topic right away, sincere thanks to all for the tips.)

But I have to agree with Schröder's party on this one. While they've handled themselves and the issue less than brilliantly, I'm not sure there's anything concrete behind the opposition's accusations.

My fellow Ami, PapaScott, sums it up best: "No, this is just domestic politics as usual, nothing to see here." Scott also has a good link to an English-language summary of these domestic goings-on.

Please move along...

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION: I just went to the corner and bought today's (Tuesday's) Bildzeitung for 50 eurocents. I had to read the original interviews with Interior Minister Schily and Health Minister Schmidt (both of Schröder's SPD), which Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan refer to in recent posts.

Both Josh and Andrew zoom in on this sentence from a Deutsche Welle piece that is reporting on the interviews:

In the interviews, two German government ministers let readers know that there is little danger now that that [sic] American-hating terrorists could unleash the smallpox virus on the German population.
Now, I'm not sure what the heck DW was trying to report here... But nowhere in the actual Bildzeitung interviews does either Schily or Schmidt say anything that remotely suggests what might be construed from the DW coverage.

On a whim, I did a search for a corresponding DW piece in the German language and came up empty.

Perhaps the "that that" repetition in the DW sentence suggests a last-second edit of some sort. I mean, if you read the sentence closely, it doesn't really say that terrorists will now attack the US instead of Germany. In fact, the sentence as written actually doesn't say anything that makes sense. Deutsche Welle needs to issue a corrected version.

At the same time, I do agree with Andrew that "an underlying assumption" exists here in Germany, that "by appeasing these thugs, [Germany] could deflect the horror toward the Brits and Americans."

[± I should have pointed out initially that Josh had also made a similar, albeit more circumspect, point in his original post: "But, as it reads, that quote really does tend to confirm the least generous interpretation of German motivations in the current situation: why stick our necks out when it's the Americans who are going to take the hit anyway?" Sorry.]

In fact, the assumption is not even so underlying. In a sidebar disgustingly titled "Pointer for Terrorists" in this week's Der Spiegel (not online), the writer makes this very point.

[As compared to terror warnings and threats in the US and Britain], only in the German capital of Berlin was there no trace of the panic that gripped the world last week. Instead of being concerned about terrorists, last week the main issue at Tegel airport [in Berlin] was an increase in pay rates for the personnel.
As opposed to the Americans and British, the Germans feel largely safe from terror attacks. But the relative calmness is only determined by one thing: the clear anti-war stance of Gerhard Schröder. If that were to change, according to a secret analysis of the security services, then the threat would increase abruptly. Then, terror attacks would also be feared in Germany.
Did you get all that? Let's review. The title is a notice to terrorists: look, we're anti-war. Don't attack us. Get America and Britain instead. Then the conclusion: Germany is safe unless Schröder changes his anti-war position.

I'm almost afraid to know how many Germans nodded their heads when they read this crap. Have they forgotten the dozen or so terrorists arrested on German soil, with plans to attack sites in Germany, since September 11? Indeed, I'm almost afraid what might happen over here...

UPDATE: I've written to the folks at Deutsche Welle and DW-World -- who I think generally do quite fine work -- to ask for a clarification of the "that that" sentence.

MEISTER CHIRAC: While I can't argue with their one conclusion that Schröder is the biggest loser from the EU's "single" voice, I'm not quite sure how Spiegel Online concludes that President Chirac is the "Meisterdiplomat."

My buddy Erik over at Bite the Wax Tadpole led with the hypothesis that "Chirac was blinded by his world view." Professor Glenn linked to Erik, asking, "How Stupid is Chirac?" He now has a solid piece at Others, from Daniel W. Drezner to Collin at Innocents Abroad, are criticizing the French blowhard.

But Spiegel Online sees him as the master diplomat. Interesting analysis...

To be fair, within old Europe, Chirac is perhaps the winner of the "emergency conference" of the EU in Brussels. Britain couldn't pass the "time is running out" phrase and Germany had to accept to the word "force." Vive la France!

But all the world's a stage, froggy. All the world.

SPINNST DU: Ever since Schröder signed up to the EU paper that supports the possible use of force in Iraq, Germany is spinning out of control. The CDU/CSU opposition is "praising" the Chancellor for his changed position. And for his part, the Chancellor is maintaining that his government has always held this position.

Angela Merkel, leader of the CDU opposition, said, "The election-influenced position of Schröder is no longer valid." [Schröder announced his absolute no to war -- what I call his problematic no, paraphrasing Secretary Rumsfeld -- in a campaign speech in January this year. I wrote about it here.]

Another prominent CDUer, Wolfgang Schäuble, had harsher words for the Chancellor:

Of course this shows that Schröder can't stick to what he has said. That's actually been expected from the start. Now that once again we don't have any elections in front us, things are again being expressed a little differently.
But that's not even so important to me. That's how it's occasionally been in the months before. And we said back then: Now he's starting to fall down. But he fell down in the right direction. And we won't prevent him from doing that. We will support him.
Actually, such nice supportive words... But the real harsh words came from the leader of the CSU opposition, Edmund Stoiber, who said, "The actor Schröder has been very publicly debunked on the international stage." The Chancellor is a "fall-down guy" [Umfaller], he said.

On the other side of the aisle, Schröder's Foreign Minister Fischer continues to stand by his man. He said, "[The EU position paper] is a declaration of principles, which doesn't change the fact that Germany will not participate in a military action."

Here, Fischer is exercising selective memory. You see, Schröder promised in the federal elections -- last fall -- that German soldiers would not take part in any American "adventures" in Iraq. This position was in fact supported by Fischer.

But in January this year, in local state elections, the Chancellor went further. Germany would not agree to support, in any way, the American-led catastrophe about to be visited upon Iraq. Fischer is still trying to forget that bit.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't agree with Schröder's last stand. I just think he has a tough sell ahead of him. Here is his first attempt at unloading this jalopy:

Of course we had to make concessions. It can't be any other way. ... The fundamental position of the German government has not changed. ... Germany's position has not changed in any way whatsoever, and it will not be the case [that it changes].
Huh? I guess I am confused now...

I think his argument runs thus: Germany agrees that war must always be an option, the last option.

Even in Iraq, the Chancellor agreed, war is an option.

But for Germany, he's saying, war is not an option in Iraq.

Any questions?

AS A LAST RESORT: In the post directly below, I mentioned that the European Union, in its joint statement issued last night [English | German], acknowledged war must remain an option in disarming Iraq.

But the leaders of both old and new Europe emphasized that war is not the first option:

Force should be used only as a last resort.
Ground shattering. As if a new doctrine was fought for and won, the German media and even the Chancellor are emphasizing today the "letztes Mittel" [last resort] wording of the statement.

Don't get me wrong. I agree. War should always be the last resort. And this may come as a shock to Germany and the rest of old Europe (France, Austria?), but President Bush agrees as well.

In fact, he said just as much on October 16, 2002, in the highly publicized signing ceremony of the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq:

If we go into battle, as a last resort, we will confront an enemy capable of irrational miscalculations, capable of terrible deeds.
In his weekly radio address on December 7, 2002, he said so again:
Americans seek peace in the world. War is the last option for confronting threats.
Most recently, at Naval Station Maypot in Florida last Thursday -- five days before the EU came up with something to say -- President Bush made his position clear once more:
Military force is always this nation's last option.
And doing just a cursory search of the Internet site of the White House, the Press Secretaries Fleischer and McClellan repeated the President's position on 11/12/02, 11/23/02, 12/04/02, 01/24/03, and 02/14/03.

So tell me again. What was so remarkable about the EU finally speaking with a "single" voice? And does Schröder really hope to distract anyone from the fact that he's just about compromised his problematic no?

Monday, February 17, 2003

TIME IS NOT RUNNING OUT: According to the AP, and celebrated tonight on German television, Gerhard Schröder worked to nix the British-sponsored phrase, "time is running out," from the joint EU declaration on Iraq policy. The AP reports:
France and Germany, who oppose war, appeared to emerge in a strong position Monday night after the EU statement backed more time for the U.N. weapon inspectors, without giving a deadline.
I'm not sure I see it as a "strong position," but anyway. On the bright side, both the EU and NATO have finally acknowledged officially and publicly that war must remain a consideration in dealing with Iraq. This stance marks a considerable compromise on the part of Germany and its Chancellor.

We'll see how the media covers this latest German maneuver in the next couple days, especially if a vote of some sort comes before the UN Security Council.

After tonight, I just can't imagine Germany voting against a UN resolution that France, Russia and China would agree to; at most, they'd abstain. But is it perhaps even possible that Foreign Minister Fischer would show his green rebel colors and vote yes...?

MORE PRAISE FOR SCHROEDER: In this post (second update), I linked to an interview with the Iraqi charge d'affaires in Germany. He's a strong supporter, along with Berlin's 500,000 marchers, of Schröder's Iraq policy.

Today's Bild newspaper quotes the deputy prime minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, as also praising the Chancellor:

Herr Schröder is a clever politician. He has analyzed the situation well. ... Germany is leading the UN Security Council in the right direction.
No comment necessary...
NO CONFIDENCE IN MY GERMAN HISTORY: Some people have written to Amiland with questions about the formalities of a possible no-confidence vote in Germany. (If you're coming from Instapundit, first read this post below.) I'm not a constitutional expert or a Germam historian, but here's how I understand it...

A vote of no-confidence is in fact a vote for a replacement chancellor. When a new chancellor is voted in, the old one is effectively pushed out. This method ensures that a head of government is always in place.

It also raises the bar for a successful no-confidence vote. The CDU/CSU would have to propose a replacement chancellor from their own ranks, something they will likely be scared to do. (A failed no-confidence vote could also turn out to be a crushing defeat for the named replacement, perhaps ending his (Stoiber) or her (Merkel) chance in the next scheduled elections, in 2006.

According to Article 67 of the Grundgesetz, the vote would take place in the Bundestag, the upper house of German government. A simple majority is required.

Currently, there are 603 representatives in the upper house: Schröder's coalition holds a majority with 306. The CDU/CSU opposition, plus the Free Democrats (FDP), number 295. They would need to pull seven in order to have a majority. (The PDS stands tall with 2, but they would likely never join the fracas.)

The only successful vote of no-confidence in German history took place in 1982, when Helmut Kohl (CDU) replaced then-chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD). It was a passing of the helmet, so to say. (Sorry...)

Then, as now, the CDU was looking to replace the SPD, which had attained its majority in 1980 elections with the help of a junior partner (then it was the FDP). The country was also suffering from rising unemployment and low stagnating growth. Sound familiar?

After the SPD and FDP squabbled amongst themselves over possible reforms (the SPD wanted to raise taxes while the FDP hoped to lower social expenses), the FDPers in the cabinet (led by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher) walked out.

Also similar to 1982, the very question, What it means to be sozialdemokratisch, is making the rounds today.

Of course, too close a comparison with today doesn't hold up to scrutiny. While it is within the realm of possibility that current Foreign Minister Fischer would take his helmet and hit the road, it is impossible to imagine a scenario where the Greens would change sides -- or even the SPD wanting them.

It is possible, though not at all likely, that the Greens would grow completely disenchanted with being in charge and return to their natural position as minority, albeit a strong one, opposition.

Another difference is that in 1982, the ruling party was in disagreement over how to strengthen the economy and eventually crushed itself under the weight of this disagreement. Current Chancellor Schröder has learned from history: As long as he doesn't make any bold new suggestions, there'll be nothing to crush him, domestically at least.


To follow-up: The AP is already reporting that Angela Merkel, chairperson of the CDU, is trying to distance herself from the "absurd discussion" of a no-confidence vote. That makes sense. If such a vote failed (which, at this point, it likely would), even being linked to the discussion could have a negative impact on her.


As another update: Much of the mainstream media is staying for the most part away from this whole story. A German colleague tells me that it's too dangerous and controversial for them to touch right now.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

GASOLINE ON THE BONFIRE: When I first checked out this week's cover of Der Spiegel (on newsstands Monday), my first thought was, Oh well, just another anti-American Spiegelism.

It's a picture of President Bush, I think taken from an address he gave last year. There's a silhouetted cross in the background. Surrounding Bush and the cross is a collage of military photographs.

The title reads, "On a Godly Mission: The Crusade of George W. Bush."

In a previous post, I mentioned a Spiegel Online interview with one Eugen Drewermann. His thesis: "God and President Bush senior have melted together into some kind of force. And it is this force that is driving the current president to conduct a bigger and better war in Iraq than his father did." (If you're interested, my buddy tictoc has translated a bit more of the garbage. When I read it now in English, it only seems the more absurd...)

Anyway, it appears the 62% of Germans who thought this interview "profound and correct" convinced the Spiegel editors that they had found the theme of their next anti-American crusade. Thus the title.

But like I said, it didn't impress me at first. Then Amiland reader Jim sent me a second mail on the topic:

Can't quite get that cover out of my head. Specifically, I keep thinking about all the Muslims walking past the kiosks on the street or in the U-Bahn [German subway], nodding wisely, gratified by the German alliance in the war against the Ami-led Crusaders and their obsessed warlord, Bush. In the current situation it's gasoline on the bonfire. It's truly serious.
And he's right. What I never seem to remember is I often laugh at the "arguments" many Germans take seriously. For some, the fact that Bush's administration has ties to the oil industry is enough evidence that a war in Iraq would only be about oil. Why? Because it was in Der Spiegel, they say.

In my very first post to Amiland, I wrote that it's a shame Der Spiegel is on the disingenuous slant it's taken. They have never honestly addressed the problem of Iraq. And oftentimes, they've done it dishonestly. A damn shame.

INSTA-NO-CONFIDENCE: If you're coming from Instapundit, the post on the possible vote of no-confidence for German Chancellor Schröder -- Schroeder's Last Hurrah -- is a couple scrolls down.

But be sure to read your way down there -- it was a record-setting-ly disparaging protest in Berlin yesterday...

RECORD SETTER: One of the record setting 500,000 demonstrators -- Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul -- will be a guest on the German political discussion show, Sabine Christiansen, tonight. When she's not marching for peace (see below), Heidemarie also serves on Chancellor Schröder's cabinet as Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Come back to Amiland later for Punditschau, the German version -- which I shamelessly nicked -- of Punditwatch.

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM: Much celebration has surrounded the fact that yesterday's anti-war protests in Berlin were the largest ever in Germany. Indeed, February 15, 2003, was a day for the record books.

Organizers and police say that more than 500,000 demonstrators crowded the city center, spawning out from the Victory Column [Siegessäule], which commemorates the military "adventures" of the 19th century Prussians.

Speakers in Berlin recalled that in January 1991, about 200,000 anti-war demonstrators massed in Bonn, the former capital city. Then, as now, the biggest applause line in Germany was "No Blood for Oil."

But the previous record holder for peace demonstrations in Germany was in 1982. Also in Bonn, about 350,000 people gathered in June of that year to protest the deployment of Pershing rockets and cruise missles to German soil.

History tells us that in 1991, a coalition of the willing did go to war. Led by the US, Kuwait was liberated and Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs were initially neutered.

We can also learn from history that the strategic placement of American rockets in Germany played a not insignificant role in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

With a record like that, it's amazing the German peace movement even has the self-respect to take to the streets. And in ever greater numbers to boot. Germans have a saying: aller guten Dinge sind drei.

But the situation in 2003 is even more disparaging. At least in 1982 and 1991, the (West) German government found itself on the right side of the debate.

UPDATE: In case you were wondering, Spiegel Online provides a list of demonstrations from Saturday and the number of participants for each. Fair enough. As part of the list they include Baghdad: hundreds of thousands, as reported by al-Dschasira, protested against a possible war. (± In its gushing piece on the worldwide demonstrations (not against America, mind you, but against Bush), the New York Times says that only "several thousand" Iraqis were protesting in Baghdad. Here's a tough one: Who to believe?! NYT or Spiegel?)

UPDATE: Via a fellow Ami here in Germany, Rick Wallace over at Ground Plums & Gun Smoke, I found everything I need to know about the ultimate effect of Germany's record setting 500,000 on Saturday.

Sure, the demonstrators weren't marching for Saddam -- but try telling that to him and his state-controlled media.

In this interview (conducted even before members of Schröder's cabinet mit-marched), the Iraqi charge d'affaires in Germany praised the German stance as helping Iraq. Here's one of his statements:

We don’t care about what [the United States is] saying about us because all the world is with us. It's not easy to start a war against us because of this resistance.
It's clear: Saddam Hussein will only take seriously a serious threat. Unfortunately, not only has Schröder's government made Germany irrelevant, it's made any type of threat irrelevant, as well.
SCHROEDER'S LAST HURRAH: According to a report today in Welt am Sonntag, the German opposition party CDU/CSU is considering a vote of no-confidence against Chancellor Schröder. In German, it's called a "konstruktives Misstrauensvotum."

According to the German constitution, a majority vote in the Bundestag can replace the ruling chancellor with a new one. Currently, the opposition parties would have to pick up seven votes from Schröder's SPD and Green coalition.

One of those votes could come from Hans-Ulrich Klose, an SPD expert on foreign policy, who wrote a highly public and highly critical article about his Chancellor in Friday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. (I'll look at the piece in more detail later...)

The day before, on Thursday, Schröder gave an address [Regierungserklärung] to the Bundestag, explaining the course of his government. Spiegel Online interpreted his speech as an exulation for Germany: Hurra, Deutschland.

The last hurrah, maybe.

UPDATE: Amiland reader Tobias (via Glenn's link) has written in to remind me that I'm not as clever as I sometimes pretend to be... According to my German source, the Hurra, Deutschland headline from Spiegel Online is actually "subtly ironic."

The title was lifted from an old television and radio program by the same name, where puppet-politicians lampooned their originals. A short trip here might have keyed me in that something was afoot.

Tobias' interpretation of the title: "Hooray! and down the tube."

BUT, Spiegel Online does reuse the headliner when it describes Schröder's "exultation for Germany" (to use my phrase) under the section, "German's Large Contribution." Here, I don't think Spiegel Online was being ironic in reporting the Chancellor's argument that Germany has indeed made a substantial contribution worldwide in the war against terror.

Either way, Hurra Tobias! (And I don't meant that ironically...)

GLOBALIZATION OF DUCT TAPE: Thanks to a fellow Ami, Scott over at PapaScott, for subtly reminding all of us why the idea of boycotting French and German products is a stupid one. I mean, without German duct tape, what would I use to keep my computer from falling apart?
THE NYT IS CONVINCED: Rumsfeld and Powell may not have convinced German Foreign Minister Fischer, but they have convinced the New York Times:
The only way short of war to get Saddam Hussein to reverse course at this late hour is to make clear that the Security Council is united in its determination to disarm him and is now ready to call in the cavalry to get the job done. America and Britain are prepared to take that step. The time has come for the others to quit pretending that inspections alone are the solution.
It is time for the demonstrators to go home. It is time for Germany to keep pacifistically quiet. It is time for the UN Security Council to act with courage and pass a second resolution.