ED110102b: Germany Isolates Itself...Again
To hear German officials tell it, it won't take long to heal the
rift that developed between Washington and Berlin during Gerhard
Schroeder's campaign for re-election as chancellor. "I'd be very
surprised if we had a prolonged crisis of confidence," a senior
German diplomat told The Washington Post. Adds Wolfgang Ischinger,
Berlin's ambassador to the United States: "I cannot believe that
our two governments … cannot find a way together again to
Believe it. German politicians and diplomats, and indeed the German
people, greatly underestimate the rancor that exists in Washington
over Schroeder's vitriolic election campaign, which was tarnished
by crude anti-American polemic of the lowest common denominator.
Schroeder questioned U.S. motives over a potential war with Iraq,
and declared, in a reference to German funding for the first Gulf
War, that "we're not available for adventures, and the time of
checkbook diplomacy is over once and for all."
In particular, the remarks made by former Justice Minister Herta
Daubler-Gmelin comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler in the
1930s, caused deep-seated anger in the United States. Schroeder's
refusal to condemn the comments reflected his inability and
unwillingness to confront political extremism within his own Social
One of the first priorities of the new German administration will
be to repair the immense damage done to U.S.-German
Ambassador Ischinger has his work cut out for him. As Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it, the U.S.-German relationship has
been "poisoned," making a mockery of the Clinton administration's
claim that Germany had become America's number one ally in Europe.
This is a genuine crisis that won't be mended with empty platitudes
Crucially, Berlin has squandered much of the goodwill it garnered
in the United States over its support for Washington through NATO
immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. NATO took a courageous step
at that time. It invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty, which
recognizes that an attack against one NATO member represents an
attack against all. With this stance, all the NATO countries
committed themselves to fighting the war on terrorism.
The failure of the German government to continue standing with its
NATO allies in confronting a major state sponsor of terrorism
raises serious doubts about its commitment to the anti-terrorism
war. While fledgling members of the alliance, including Poland and
the Czech Republic, eagerly offer their services in defending the
West against the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, Germany, one of
NATO's oldest and most powerful members, is unwilling to fight
alongside its allies.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the recent election was the
German public's acquiescence in the anti-American rhetoric of the
country's leaders, and their willingness to allow a domestic
contest to be turned into a referendum on the Bush administration's
foreign policy. The polls clearly demonstrated that as Schroeder's
anti-U.S. rhetoric intensified over the course of the campaign, his
popularity went up.
The election result also symbolizes the huge gulf that exists
between the United States and Germany. While the American public
overwhelmingly recognizes Saddam Hussein's regime as an evil
dictatorship that poses a growing threat that must be dealt with,
German voters appear willing to look the other way. Armed with
self-righteous arrogance, they questioned the moral authority of
the United States to liberate the people of Iraq and to take
military action to defend itself and the free world.
The onus now is upon Chancellor Schroeder and Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer to demonstrate that Germany is serious about being
a key ally of the United States. Germany's offer to take over the
leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in
Afghanistan is a welcome step in the right direction.
The new German administration will need to do more to convince its
critics that it is taking the evidence of the growing threat posed
by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction seriously. Otherwise, Germany
risks standing in splendid isolation in both Europe and on the
international stage. Its opposition to war, even one backed by the
United Nations, jeopardizes not only its relations with Washington,
but with London and Paris as well.
The tide is turning against the Iraqi regime internationally, and
Germany has a clear choice: either it can join in what will be one
of the biggest coalitions ever assembled to remove a dictatorship
from power, or it can stand alone in pursuing its misguided policy
Nile Gardiner is a visiting fellow in Anglo-American
security policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org),
Spring is the F.M. Kirby research fellow in national
Distributed nationally on the Scripps Howard wire.