November 26, 2002 | Commentary on Europe
ED112602: Europe's New German Problem
What Gerhard Schroeder proudly calls "the German way" is actually
Europe's new German problem. It's become clear that Berlin's recent
break with Washington over Iraq signals a fundamental clash of
U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
agree on the nature of the Iraqi threat because they share bedrock
convictions about the nature of international terrorism. President
Bush was the first to compare global terrorism to the lawless evil
of Fascism -- and quick to link Iraq to both.
"The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion," he
told the U.N. General Assembly. "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave
and gathering danger." Prime Minister Blair employs the same logic
and vocabulary. In Mr. Blair's words, the West faces "an appalling,
brutal, dictatorial, vicious regime."
Chancellor Schroeder resists this characterization. He downplays or
ignores Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism; his record of
aggression; his yearning to acquire -- and use -- weapons of mass
destruction; and the repeated violations of U.N. resolutions
against Iraq. Worse, Mr. Schroeder offers no realistic plan to hold
Baghdad accountable. No wonder Saddam's son Uday has lauded the
German Chancellor's stance as "more honorable than that of the Arab
Herein lies the values gap between the German and U.S.-British
positions. The Western alliance remains driven by leaders who
engage the world with a heavy dose of moral realism. They believe
that some regimes represent unmitigated evil and -- in an age when
weapons of mass murder are widely available -- must be confronted
by civilized nations. Under this view, a war to remove Saddam
Hussein would be a just war, both for international security and
the liberation of an oppressed people.
The reason Germany has isolated itself on Iraq is that its ruling
party, the Social Democratic Party, and its Green Party allies,
bitterly reject this argument. They can't envision circumstances
warranting the use of force against Iraq. Seeing only imperialistic
motives at work, they've likened President Bush to Julius Caesar
and Adolf Hitler. Some German intellectuals even call the U.S. war
on terrorism an exercise in "mass murder."
Such confusion can be traced in part to Germany's Marxist
radicalism of the 1960s, with its atheism and deep-seated hatred of
the United States. Both Chancellor Schroeder and his Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer cut their political teeth as Communist
revolutionaries. Mr. Fischer, erroneously described as a "moderate"
by American commentators, spent his youth assaulting German
Old habits are hard to break. German nationalism is now expressed
as America-bashing. At the same time, pacifism provides an escape
from international obligations. Thus, war critics soft pedal
Saddam's atrocities and his nuclear ambitions. Many Germans seem to
believe that appeasement is the best way finally to silence the
ghosts of National Socialism.
A better approach is to prepare to confront Baghdad forcefully.
Messrs. Bush and Blair are ready to fight now to prevent a future
in which nuclear-armed blackmailers and state-sponsored murder
become international norms. In this, they are reminding Europe that
a just peace depends on moral seriousness -- and the political and
military will to back it up.
The other option on Iraq -- hoping that the U.N. inspectors conduct
their investigations successfully -- is fraught with danger. What
happens if the Iraqi dictator plays his game of evasion and won't
surrender his weapons of mass destruction? Mr. Schroeder has vowed
to oppose military action, and the U.N. Security Council position
remains shrouded in diplo-speak. Germany could be leading Europe in
embracing moral ambiguity -- a mix of zealous nationalism and
The question for the rest of Europe now is, is it willing to join
the leadership being offered by Messrs. Bush and Blair. If so,
Europeans must abandon the "German way." Its destination is well
known in the European continent: isolationism, passivity in the
face of genocidal regimes. The German way already has been tried --
and found wanting.
Loconte is the William E. Simon fellow in religion
and a free society at the Heritage Foundation, where Dr.
Nile Gardiner is a visiting fellow in Anglo-American
Originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe.