October 8, 2002
GERMAN TLC FROM THE DLC:
Despite some of the fiercest competition we've ever seen, this--Fraying friendships (Peter Ross Range, October 4, 2002, Baltimore Sun)--has to be the worst piece written on the deterioration of German relations with the United States. Mr Range, who it has to be noted is an employee of the Democratic Leadership Council, which gave us Bill Clinton and Al Gore, combines the worst elements of self-loathing, self-serving, factual error, excuse-making, and purblind analysis. His words are in italics:
The outbreak of anti-Americanism -- or, more properly, anti-Bushism -- in the German election campaign bears a salutary lesson for the Bush administration.
No matter who started this playground brawl -- Gerhard Schroeder with his adamant anti-war-in-Iraq stance, or Vice President Dick Cheney with his damn-the-inspectors speech in August -- important relations between major countries can clearly be damaged when neither pays enough attention to the other's interests and concerns.
Yes, Chancellor Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer shamelessly played the Iraq card in their campaigns, and it probably made the difference in their victory. Yes, there was a coded anti-Americanism in their populist message, though it in no way went as far as German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin's stumblebum comparison of President Bush's political tactics to those of Adolf Hitler.
This is simply bizarre. When we proposed dealing with a fascist dictator the Germans, no strangers to fascism themselves, broke out in anti-Americanism. Mr. Schroeder immediately resorted to it as a tool to rally his faltering political fortunes. His lackeys, following his lead if not his precise phrasings, then implied that George W. Bush is acting like a Nazi. And that's our fault.
One can't help but notice that no one in the Bush administration made the far more plausible connection between German anti-Semitism and fascist tendencies and their support for an anti-Semitic fascist dictator. Mr. Range's inability to determine who is more to blame here is presumably feigned, to serve some domestic political purpose. No objective observer could apportion blame equally between Bush/Cheney and Schroeder/Daeubler-Gmelin, for there are no instances of the former cynically trying to whip up anti-German feeling in the U.S..
By the time of the German election, bad will toward President Bush was so rampant in the German public that tapping into it on the Iraq issue was a no-brainer for Mr. Schroeder. Combined with historic German pacifism ("To us, war means Dresden," a German politician told me), anti-Bushism was a powerful force that saved Mr. Schroeder's foundering campaign, especially in the formerly Communist eastern Germany.
You really need to pause and reread that absurd phrase--"historic German pacifism". Then move on to the point, that Mr. Range leaves lying there, like a fish rotting on a dock, about the anti-American ploy working best in "the formerly Communist eastern Germany". Of course, eastern Germany was ruled by either the Nazis or the Communists from the 1930s until very nearly the present day. Their affinity for brutal dictatorships seems damn near genetic. And you have to love that quote from the German politician: "To us, war means Dresden." A non-apologist might, rather than selfishly dwell on a bad moment for the Aryans, point out that for Germany war means being stopped from killing other people, particularly Jews when we speak of WWII. This viewpoint has the great advantage of making it more understandable why they don't want to get rid of Saddam.
Clearly, much of Mr. Bush's problem in Germany is, well, George W. Bush. Before the election, I asked a number of Germans in the political class how they would feel if the president were named Clinton or Gore, if he had signed Kyoto, had supported the ICC and had not introduced steel tariffs -- but still had the same Iraq policy as Mr. Bush. Would they feel differently about Iraq? Almost all said they would.
In a related story, Karl Rove says that his informal polling shows 102% of the people on Earth feel more comfortable with George Bush running the country.
Germans are America's biggest fans in Europe. A significant portion of their leaders have strong personal ties to the United States--Mr. Schroeder's wife once lived in New York -- and send their children to our colleges. But at the same time, one hears words like inferiority complex, fear of dominance and the complaint of not being consulted in matters of war and peace.
The Brits, the Czechs, the Poles, etc., etc., etc., are all bigger fans and better friends than the Germans. Of course Germany has an inferiority complex; the strongest tie between Germany and America is that we defeated them in three different World Wars over the course of the 20th Century. Their lot in history seems to be playing the Washington Generals to our Harlem Globetrotters.
Yet the lack-of-consultation argument cuts both ways. Throughout the summer, as a robust debate over Iraq policy emerged in the United States, Germany slept. Its policy community barely discussed the issue, to the point the American director of the Aspen Institute Berlin wrote an opinion piece admonishing Germans to get involved. But their debate never really happened, says one German journalist, partly because much of the country's policy discussion is stifled by political correctness.
"You could never publish an op-ed piece asking whether Iraq might become a democracy, or oil prices might go down, two years after a war in Iraq," he said.
So what would be the point of consulting with them? A nation that is so politically correct that open discussion of issues is forbidden can hardly add anything useful, can it?
Mr. Range, in this piece, presents a laundry list of German pathologies many of which have endured or developed over decades--though he leaves out several of the most important, such as statism, racism, demographic catastrophe, economic decline, etc.--and then tries to implicate George Bush in them, though he's been President for just two years. That dog won't hunt.Posted by Orrin Judd at October 8, 2002 10:22 AM