February 24, 2005


Could George W. Bush Be Right?: Germany loves to criticize US President George W. Bush's Middle East policies -- just like Germany loved to criticize former President Ronald Reagan. But Reagan, when he demanded that Gorbachev remove the Berlin Wall, turned out to be right. Could history repeat itself? (Claus Christian Malzahn, February 23, 2005, Der Spiegel)

Quick quiz. He was re-elected as president of the United States despite being largely disliked in the world -- particularly in Europe. The Europeans considered him to be a war-mongerer and liked to accuse him of allowing his deep religious beliefs to become the motor behind his foreign policy. Easy right?

Actually, the answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush's visit, Reagan's trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate -- and the Berlin Wall -- and demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this Wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.

But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination -- a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany. Those who spoke of reunification were labelled as nationalists and the entire German left was completely uninterested in a unified Germany.

When George W. Bush requests that Chancellor Schroeder -- who, by the way, was also not entirely complimentary of Reagan's 1987 speech -- and Germany become more engaged in the Middle East, everybody on the German side will nod affably. But despite all of the sugar coating the trans-Atlantic relationship has received in recent days, Germany's foreign policy depends on differentiating itself from the United States.

And differentiating yourself from America has always meant opposing the spread of liberty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2005 8:49 AM

Why would it be in Germany's national interest (or for France too, for that matter) to stop the spread of liberty?

Posted by: Bartman at February 24, 2005 10:22 AM

The economics of it is quite simple really.

You get less money in bribes and kickbacks from corrupt regimes, making it harder to support a moribund and systemically diseased economy.

And by vividly demonstrating how your vaunted world views are so full of flatulence, you have to spend that much more energy, and money, proving your superiority and sophistication not only to your own populace (many of whom already know it to be guff), but to the world at large.

Life can be tough. And expensive when certain convenient tyrannies inconveniently fall.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 24, 2005 10:32 AM


They don't have national interests anymore. They're secular individualist societies.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2005 10:32 AM

Thanks guys.

Posted by: Bartman at February 24, 2005 11:02 AM

Good observation. I suppose it applies equally to Democrats who despise the U.S.A.

Posted by: jdkelly at February 24, 2005 1:47 PM