Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

Michael Moore gives us a thoughtful article about Joschka Fischer (and some priceless Fischer anecdotes) in Slate today. Before going any farther I should make clear that I refer not to the notoriously fat filmmaker but to Michael Scott Moore, an American novelist living in Berlin. Of his fatness or otherwise I am entirely ignorant.

It took the Germans a long time to figure out what their recent election meant. One of its secondary meanings, though, became clear early on: Joschka Fischer would no longer serve in government. Moore points out that Fischer himself hardly sees his departure from power as an unmixed curse. But a lot of other Germans — by no means all of them supporters of the Greens — find this unfortunate; Fischer has consistently been among the German politicians that the public rates most highly. (Even the CSU’s Edmund Stoiber applauds Fischer, albeit only for Fischer’s fashion sense.) Moore’s premise is that Fischer’s departure is bad not only for Germany, but for America as well.

Moore could be right there. And there have always been those on the anglophone right with a grudging respect for Fischer, thinking him somehow a natural ally of America hobbled by his grandstanding prime minister. Maybe so. At any rate, the formation of a grand coalition led (just barely) by the CDU under Angela Merkel is not a victory for the Bush administration, and Moore does a good job making this clear to American readers who might have thought otherwise.

Indeed, his piece is helpful for anybody who, used to an American-type system, has difficulty understanding why the leader of a party that routinely polls about 8% would hold the second-highest post in government. It’s also helpful, for that matter, to those whose familiarity with very different systems of governance misinformed their reading of the recent election. You know the sort: ‘Why doesn’t Schröder back down? After all, the CDU won the election!’ Well, no; Merkel’s party won a couple of seats more than the SPD, and that is not quite the same thing as winning the election. To the extent the election can be said to have produced a victor, that victor is the upcoming grand coalition.

It’s on the subject of grand coaltions, though, that Moore is at his weakest. He writes:

The cliché about grand coalitions between Germany’s two major parties is that they get nothing done, but the last time German politics ground to a halt under a grand coalition was in 1966-69, when the nation’s rowdy New Left youth was at war in the streets with its Nazi past. Fischer was a rioting hippie. Those three years changed German society changed for good, by ushering in a generation that could articulate rage and shame over World War II.

I think most people would view those rioting hippies as effect rather than cause of the 1966-69 grand coalition. There’s a case to be made for the occasional grand coalition; they can get some things done that would be extraordinarily difficult under any other constellation. (The imminent grand coalition, for example, is likely to be better able to reform the state/federal relationship than a government of either major party would be). But grand coalitions also run the real risk of convincing a significant plurality that they have been excluded from the political process. It’s not unreasonable to assert that this is precisely what happened with Germany’s ‘ausserparlamentar-ische Opposition‘ during the time of the 1966-69 grand coalition. After all, those rowdy New Left youth were known as the ‘1968 generation’, not the ‘1965 generation’.

But that’s a minor quibble. Moore is certainly correct to identify the 1968 experience — Germany’s belated confrontation with its nazi past — as the key to Fischer’s Werdegang. (Paul Berman wrote a longer and very good essay about this in 2003, also in Slate, as a corrective to the dishonest and/or ill-informed misuse the late Michael Kelly had made of an earlier Berman piece about Fischer.) One can argue plausibly, as Moore does, that after his long march through the institutions, Fischer ended up a better ally to the Americans than Adenauer or Strauss or Kohl, if only the Americans knew it. Certainly Fischer’s admiration for America seems more genuine than that of many a member of Germany’s rightwing establishment, who are realist enough to recognise the postwar balance of power but apt to snigger up their sleeves about the ‘kulturlose American barbarians’.

37 thoughts on “Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

  1. >Certainly Fischer’s admiration for America seems >more genuine than that of many a member of German’s >rightwing establishment, who are realist enough to >recognise the postwar balance of power but apt to >snigger up their sleeves about the kulturlose >American barbarians.

    Great piece, Mrs T.. I recently spoke privately to a former senior CDU parlamentarian who – himself being a true admirer of the “land of the free” – reminded me to remember “who won the war” with respect to the two governments’ disputes since 2002. I didn’t ask which war he was referring to, but I should have.

  2. Well three cheers for MSM, we need more of him in the mainstream media! I’ll be cackling all night about the anecdote he closes the story with.

    And one of the neat things about Fischer is that he is every bit as funny in English as he is in German. His sense of timing made the transition, and it’s just brilliant.

    Let’s hope that he finds some other role on the world stage, not for his sake, but for ours.

  3. Can you explain to an ignorant American what exactly Joschka Fischer has done that would make him a friend of the US?

    What exactly does he admire about America? You can’t tell from the article. All I know about him is that he did his damnedest to oppose us over Iraq. Maybe that’s considered being a friend in a lot of Europeans books, but I need to hear more than that. Thanks.

  4. Mark,

    if you would like to know what Fischer admires about America, my guess would be: its leading role in liberating Germany (and much of the rest of Europe) from nazi tyranny; its on the whole positive contribution to stability and prosperity and democrcay in much of the world during the post-WWII 20th c.; its seminal constitution, which takes as its starting point a healthy distrust for those in power. But then, all this is either expressly stated or else impied in the article; I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on it.

    As for what friendship consists in: you claim to be baffled by what Europeans think, so let me help you by working in the American idiom. When I lived in America, there was an oft-repeated public-service advertising catchphrase: ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk’. Very sensible, too. There seems to be a fair number of Americans these days, though — and unfortunately, they include those currently running the executive and legislative branches of its government — who would prefer this to read, ‘Friends keep their goddamn mouths shut and their goddamn opinions to themselves and hand us the goddamn keys, goddamit.’ If that is how you understand friendship, then no, I suppose Fischer is no friend of America. And, if that is the case, I wish you joy of such friends as you can find. (And keep; Uzbekistan hasn’t worked out very brilliantly, has it.)

  5. “Hello, what’s your name?” Bush said to Joschka Fischer. “My name is Mr. Fischer,” deadpanned Germany’s then-foreign minister. “What’s your name?”
    (No, I don´t want to comment. I just imagined that there might be readers who were in a hurry and skipped clicking the link to the Moore article.)

  6. Yeah, looks like the interchange with Fischer wasn’t sufficiently rehearsed ;).

    And Mrs T. is quite right – whatever happened is not defining Europe’s friendship to the US, it’s been the other way round. Anyone eating Freedom Fries in DC? Wasn’t that even turned into law? Let’s hope we’ll still be able about it to laugh when Jon Stewart does a “mission accomplished” farewell special in 2008…

  7. “Admiration”. Most endearing. But definitely not a category that should be relevant in this context. A minister or any member of a government is not supposed to base policy on likes or dislikes he may harbor. Strictly speaking they are supposed to act on enlightened national self interest.

    As for “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” the analogy is bad. You want to prevent it, yes, but if they get into the car despite your best efforts, you don’t report them to the police.

  8. Well, Mr. “I’m not convinced” Fischer sent an NBC unit to Kuwait for the war – perhaps now we know who is and who isn’t a “friend”.

  9. I find it rather rich that commentators in here are lauding the pro-American sentiments of Joschka Fischer of all people. If Fischer is the best we have to hope for from European “friends” then we are in deep trouble. It’s a bit like asserting that Che Guevara was pro-American. Most sane people could be excused for expressing some polite irony.

    I would argue that Fischer, far from being a subject of praise and accolades, should be doing time for activities that were virulently, even criminally anti-American.

    This man achieved name recognition in Europe as an anti-American, neo-Marxist radical. He aided and abetted members of Baader-Meinhof and gave shelter to members of the Red Army Faction in his “Revolutionary Struggle” house in Frankfurt. When then leader of Baader-Meinhof, Ulrike Meinhof, died in prison, Fischer was part of a protest rally in Frankfurt during which molotov cocktails were thrown, almost resulting in the death of a policeman.

    In 2001 Stern published photos of Fischer that dated back to April 1973. They show him engaged in criminal activity – viciously beating a young policeman named Rainer Marx.

    Fischer’s old pal, Hans-Joachim Klein, was a member of The Revolutionary Cells that had close ties with the Red Army Faction and PLO. TRC members helped to carry out the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972.

    The list of this man’s anti-American associates and anti-American activities would merit a book. His activities also extended to collusion with groups that were viciously anti-semitic. In 1969, with Fischer in attendance, a PLO meeting voted for the extinction of Israel. Some years after this, Fischer’s comrade-in-arms from Frankfurt, Wilfried Boese, hijacked an Air France plane. It was the intention of the hijackers to murder all the Jews aboard, but their aims were foiled by the heroic actions of Israeli commandos.

    I really don’t much care what comes from Joschka Fischer’s mouth with respect to his “admiration for the land of the free”. He has shown himself throughout his career to be a self-serving hypocrite.

  10. Usually I would not dream of defending Joschka Fischer, but this is a matter of principles. There is no and must not be guilt by association, nor is there criminal anti-americanism. Either an action is criminal and convincing evidence is available, or it is not.
    If somebody has evidence that will count in court, he shall present it, if not, the point is moot.

    Anyway, admiration and its expression get you exactly nothing. Deeds and public vocal support count. Alliances exist to provide a degree of mutual support, not to make the members feel good and be nice to each other.

  11. Aidan,

    I’ve glad you’ve got that off your chest. Feel better now?

    It’s probably not worth taking too much time to point out that some of what you write is quite possibly libellous. After all, Fischer will almost certainly never see your words, let alone file a complaint in the unlikely event he did see them. I will say, though, that you seem to have got your knowledge abour Fischer, such as it is, from sources like Michael Kelly. You would do well to supplement your reading by looking into somebody who is not, like Kelly, a dishonest hack. Berman, for example (who is no friend of Fischer’s, BTW, and certainly does not share Fischer’s views on America’s Iraqi adventure); I’ve linked to one of his pieces on Fischer, and you should be able to find the other (in TNR) easily enough.

    The catalogue of criminal anti-Americanisms you believe Fischer should be doing time for, I will note in passing, assumes a novel definition of ‘American’. It will be news to you, for example, that Rainer Marx was not an American policeman. Try not to be shocked at this, but America wasn’t actually the biggest concern of the dirty smelly hippies of Germany’s 68 Generation. They didn’t have a high opinion of what your government was doing to the Vietnamese at the time, it’s true. But really, there were things much closer to home that worried them more; like Germany’s chancellor Kiesinger, who began his political career as a nazi party member and official in Goebbels’s propaganda ministry.

  12. Oliver,

    Deeds and public vocal support count. Alliances exist to provide a degree of mutual support, not to make the members feel good and be nice to each other.

    Quite so. And you might recall the vocal public support and deeds of the German and other European governments (not to mention the proffer of mutual assistance through Nato, though the Americans rejected this) after the 9/11 attacks. Over here, people’s shock, and their expressions of support, were entirely genuine. The support of the rest of the civilised world was America’s to lose. In Germany and most other countries, George Bush and his team were spectacularly successful at losing it.

  13. Mrs Tilton – with all due respect, these facts about the background of Joschka Fischer are well known, not whispered in back alleyways. If he wants to start charging people for libel he will have to find a court room the size of an olympic stadium and maybe a couple of hundred lawyers.

    These concerns you cite from the period in question … “things much closer to home that worried them more” … could have been addressed in a democratic fashion. Are you attempting to excuse the murders and terrorism of Baader-Meinhof because you find someone like Kiesinger objectionable? I also find him and others like him objectionable, just as I find aspects of extreme N.Irish Unionism objectionable.

    I happen to be a Canadian who grew up in N. Ireland during “The Troubles”, and I certainly believed there was discrimation toward the catholic nationalist minority. Having said that, there was no moral justification whatever for members of the catholic nationalist community aka the IRA, to plant bombs in pubs and restaurants and slaughter innocent people. They, and their backers and those who gave them shelter, were engaged in a human rights violation of the most abhorrent kind.

    Fischer has had some very fishy (no pun intended) connections throughout the years. Sure, he appears to have changed his tune. I guess the priveleges and perks of political office have something to do with that, not to mention the biological fact of aging.

    I’m glad he has mitigated his views. However I still think it is a bit of a stretch to present Joschka as some type of bright-eyed America lover – unless of course early onset Alzheimers is playing some role in this.

  14. So, Aidan, you agree that the US bombing of Iraq is a human rights violation of the most abhorrent kind?

    Because being a state doesn’t give moral carte blanche.

    DSW

  15. Anotonio – even though my opinion is on the right side of the spectrum, I also have questions about the American air campaign. I would like more factual and objective information, but this is hard to obtain because every side seems to spin the facts to suit their agenda.

    I regret the loss of any innocent Iraqi life, but show me any war in which innocent people haven’t suffered. I think Clinton was right to bomb Yugoslavia because it hastened the end of that conflict. Do I regret loss of innocent life in Kosovo? Of course!

    Iraq, and the Middle East, is a region in transition, and without this necessary transition we could all be in deep trouble.

    Nuclear technology has moved out of the cold war context and is now in the possession of states who aren’t reliably stable; states with security arrangements that leave much to be desired. It’s just a matter of time until this technology finds its way into the hands of people who would like to use it to achieve terrorist goals.

    When the world becomes more dangerous than we would like to conceive, I would much rather not have the Middle East serving as the primary home for dictators and religious fanatics, some of whom are avowedly anti-Jewish and proponents of the the total destruction of Israel.

    So I think this American effort transcends many of the objections raised by its detractors. Yes, yes … I agree the air campaign was at times inaccurate and perhaps too cavalier in its readiness to attack targets where civilians were present. However, this American campaign has been misrepresented, villified and virtually cast as criminal. I can’t agree with this assessment.

    George Bush has become the scapegoat for every finger pointer and nay sayer around the globe. However in my opinion, there is something truly amazing at work here that is being overlooked. The saying “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform” can also be applied to history. Civilization it could be argued, has progressed on the back of war. War has essentially been the engine of change and progress. When you look more deeply into the the ramifications of this Iraq war for the region, you find a surprising sea change under way.

    Recently I watched a debate on BBC world from the Middle East – part of the “Hard Talk” series that took place in Qatar. I was impressed by the english fluency displayed by the Muslim women who stepped up to the mike in traditional Arab dress (how many of us can speak even a word of Arabic?). Their grace and deeply held convictions about the state of their culture and region was impressive. In every case when it came to a vote, the numbers were on the side of the values of freedom and equality; values that are struggling against the odds to emerge in a part of the world that has long been host to tyranny.

    I would argue that the views expressed in these debates, the sense of an emerging new order in the region, would have been entirely absent, if this invasion hadn’t taken place. Even for those in the region not directly effected, the sight of a legendary tyrant falling along with his empire had profound repercussions that went far beyond the political. It impacted the collective psyche of the region in a most profound way, and has compelled re-assessments across the board.

    There is so much that is emerging that is encouraging. For example, in a recent article for Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens spoke of visiting the holy city of Qom in Iran, where he met with the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomenei, one Hossein Khomenei (a cleric in his own right). This Shi’ite leader said these remarkable words to Hitchens :

    “Only the free world led by America can bring democracy to Iran.”

    Since the invasion we have seen Mohammar Quadaffi disarm and take his country along a more peaceful course; we have seen a elections in Saudi Arabia; the retreat of Syrian forces from Lebanon, where there is now a burgeoning democratic movement (the same is true in Egypt). These developments are unheard of and could never have come about without this courageous intervention on the part of the U.S.A.

    So while I agree that there has been bungling, inefficiencies, not to say plain stupidity in the way this campaign was handled … while I agree that the air campaign was flawed, I would still argue that there is something of huge significance happening here, that will help in the end to move civilization forward and secure our world against terror and tyranny.

    You know, I don’t think the moral debt to the world’s oppressed and starving begins and ends with foreign aid. I think we have a moral obligation to use our arms in a positive and pro-active fashion in support of emerging democratic movements. Let’s face it, many of the medical and economic problems faced by people around the world is directly attributable to corrupt government. By helping to empower the peoples of these nations, we are handing them a gift greater than bread or coin, we are handing them the keys to their own freedom.

    I find it ironical that France is the cradle of the Revolution of 1789. This was a Revolution that triggered a great surge of the human spirit in its quest for freedom. It overthrew the oppressive Ancien Regime and reverberated so powerfully around the world, that its effects led to the toppling of governments and the creation of a new order. These days it seems, the country that gave birth to this revolutionary zeitgeist is more keen to prop up tyrants and negotiate self-serving “arrangements”.

    All of the accusations levelled at America, notably those that flow from the pen of arch-detractors such as Noam Chomsky, do not take away from the central truth that America is a catalyst for global transformation. You can argue the pros and cons of that and question American motives etc. But this central truth has to be recognized.

    What disappoints me is the eagerness of many in the West to trash these efforts. The tendency to demonize America and point only to the negatives and obstacles. Christopher Hitchens put it well in reference to the recent anti-war rallies across America. He had this to say …

    “Was there a single placard saying, “No to Jihad”? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, “Yes to Kurdish self-determination” or “We support Afghan women’s struggle”? Don’t make me laugh.”

  16. Antoni – apologies for misspelling your name above, also for the length of my above post. I intended to copy only one paragraph of an earlier piece I wrote and ended up transferring all of it.

  17. Before I abandon this thread, a couple of thoughts for Oliver and Mrs Tilton.

    When I said “he should be doing time for activities that were virulently, even criminally anti-American” – I was of course expressing my personal view about the brand of outlaw politics he espoused and the people he was associated with. Oliver is correct in saying that there “must not be guilt by association” and I agree with this as far as legal matters are concerned.

    One reason I feel as strongly as I do about groups that use terror as a preferred strategy, is the hell we have endured in N.Ireland at the hands of the IRA, UVF, RHC, RIRA etc who turned the province into a fortress of fear. I have heard too many stories from family and associates about the heart breaking loss of life and the damage to families caused by the activities of these groups (from both sides of the political/religious divide). Many of the people involved have been given a free ticket. Many of them are now in politics, and have to pay no price for the crimes they committed.

    Let me say that my primary objections are moral, legal issues aside.

    I’m not going any further than suggesting Fischer was involved. I have no knowledge of any activity on his part that could be described as terror related in any active way. So, questions of guilt or innocence in a legal context are a moot point.

  18. There are several flaws in Aidan´s argument. It really amazes me to see him refer to revolutionary France as a parallel for Bush´s vision of America´s role in the world. What about Robespierre´s reign of terror – wasn´t that part of the story?
    The ultimate test will be whether an invasion that was initiated in bad faith (remember the WMD ploy) and involved breaking international law could nevertheless bring lasting positive results. As of now, the evidence is that the freedom women had in Iraq is going to be constrained. There is no sign yet of economic progress in Iraq, either – implying that the promise of a democratic future will prove to be elusive.
    It should also be noted that Wolfowitz´s claim that the WMD story was concocted “for bureaucratic reasons” doesn´t mean that Arabs aren´t ready for a crusade in support of democracy – rather, it boils down to an accusation against Wolfowitz´s compatriots that they need to be tricked into allowing their government to do its allegedly good work. Are we supposed to conclude that the neocons prefer playing King George to the American people because the latter don´t exude the spirit of 1776 anymore?
    I´d also like to know what Aidan thinks the U.S. government´s response should be in case another attack like that on 9/11 happened (and proved not to be traceable to any state actor).

  19. the U.S. government´s response … in case another attack like that on 9/11 happened (and proved not to be traceable to any state actor).

    That’s easy, Joerg. The Chaz Johnson/Michelle Malkin ticket elected; Mecca nuked; and (most importantly of all) further massive tax cuts for the highest bracket.

  20. Let us also not forget that Gerhard Schroeder was a defense lawyer for people accused of working with (or being part of, I forget) the RAF. And let us also not forget that all of this was known about both Schroeder and Fischer before their election in 1998 and their re-election in 2002. Germany’s most influential newspaper (the one whose web site could be much better organized) ran at least two witch-hunts against Fischer based on these stories, and his popularity moved not a whit.

    More to the point, however, we should also not forget that Schroeder and Fischer put their government on the line in a vote over supporting military intervention in Kosovo. Their generation certainly does have a suspicion of American power, and particularly of American military power applied in third-world countries, that is a direct consequence of their views on Vietnam. They put that aside, and they put aside the very deep feeling that war should never again issue from German soil, because they saw no other way to rein in Milosevic in Kosovo. They put everything they had achieved in politics on the line to convince their thoroughly skeptical parties that military support of an American policy was the right choice. Fischer was convinced, and he was convincing, and the choices that he made were a significant contribution to both transatlantic cooperation and to something like peace in Kosovo.

    Aidan’s argument seems to be that the sole measure of whether someone is pro-American or anti-American is their support for George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. This is wrong.

  21. Doug – No, I don’t view support for the war in Iraq as a sole litmus test for a pro-American position at all. I have also had many issues with the way this war has been handled.

    Aspects of the air campaign were too punitive, and ended up targeting too many civilians. Even though I don’t think you can even begin to compare American “torture” with the barbaric methods used by the Ba’athist secret police, and by Syria and Iran today, I still think the events in Abhu Ghraib were a disgrace. These activities should be thoroughly exposed and those involved made responsible. When you are presuming to export freedom and civilized values, there is no way in hell you can stoop to this level.

    That said Doug, it is one thing to oppose the war and remain positive toward the Americans, it is quite another to attempt to demonize America and present Bush as a latter-day Hitler. Fischer as a national politician cannot be seen to stoop to this level, but the culture he helped to create doesn’t know when to stop. The leftist press in Europe is completely unbalanced when it comes to fair coverage of Iraq. They constantly focus on every American fault and understate or overlook Islamist atrocities. They rarely expose the horrendous human rights abuses in Arab countries, in their zeal to show America as some type of Nazi power. Even the intellectual idiot Chomsky, has the temerity to call the U.S. Nazi without parenthesis.

    The leftist European culture that spawns this anti-Americanism is the culture people like Fischer helped to create; he was an integral part of the old anti-American intelligence community. It is a culture that reflects a gross over-reaction to the excesses of the Nazis in WW2; a culture that has developed a loathing of the traditional values Europe once used to represent. Oriana Fallaci, a woman who came from within this culture as both a leftist and atheist, was hounded out of Europe by people who wanted to destroy her. Her crime? Making statements about the Arab “invasion” that the fashionable members of nouveau Europe don’t want to hear. I don’t agree with everything Fallaci says, but I think the witch hunt against this woman was scandalous and reflects something akin to a cultural fascism.

    In order to understand how biased and anti-American this European culture has become, you have to look at the media. Despite daily human rights crimes of monstrous proportions carried out by Musab al Zawqari and his associates, there is little outrage in the European press. In all their years of operation, neither the IRA or ETA ever stooped to the deliberate slaughter of unemployed young men, women and children. Yet even Amnesty International took a long time before targeting some of this. Recently a Zawqari bomber detonated his device deliberately in a street full of children, and BBC World just gave it the usual mention … no outrage, no investigation, no calls for an end to the deliberate targeting of children.

    It took a brave Iraqi journalist, Aziz Al-Hajj, to speak the words any decent human being wants to hear, and this is what he said …

    “What kind of national cause is this that uses children like kerosene for igniting a total war of destruction in the name of national and religious liberty? The Islamic-Arab terrorism has turned into the greatest danger in the world, and threatens civilization, security and life everywhere. It is today the symbol of evil, religious fanaticism, and moral degradation, and it is the essence of political crime…”

    The silence of the European left on these and other crimes by radical Islamists is disgusting.

    I can’t remove the Joschka Fischer from the culture he has created, and his position within it makes any pro-American sentiments he may express, politically opportunistic at best.

  22. Joerg said …

    “It really amazes me to see him refer to revolutionary France as a parallel for Bush́s vision of Americás role in the world. What about Robespierrés reign of terror – wasńt that part of the story?”

    With all due respect Joerg, I never said anything of the sort. I drew no working “parallel” whatever between revolutionary France and modern America. I said that the values which revolutionary France helped to create – Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – have been turned by the present French government into a hollow slogan. Rather than confront repression and human rights abuse in other countries, the French have shown a preference for brokering arrangements. You know, if the Ba’athists had still been around and the Mukhabarrat still breaking skulls in the back room, Chirac and associates would have been quite happy to sip cognac with Saddam. Let us not forget “l’exception française”.

    Despite what Wolfowitz had to say on the subject of WMD, there are still many unanswered questions about what actually transpired in Iraq during the pre-invasion period. I don’t personally subscribe to any of the theories I hear – such as the involvement of Russian spetsnaz units in the removal of materials to locations such as Syria and the Bekaa Valley. But I do know that even IAEA inspection teams noted some peculiar circumstances. Close to 400 tons of heavy ordinance disappeared from the Al-Qa’qaa facility outside Baghdad. According to those in the know, such an operation couldn’t have been undertaken under the nose of the Americans. We are left to conjecture whether this happened prior to the invasion. I really have no hard opinion one way or the other, but I don’t think the WMD issue is an open and shut case.

    “History”, as Chirac said, “will judge”.

  23. Joerg said …

    “It really amazes me to see him refer to revolutionary France as a parallel for Bush́s vision of Americás role in the world. What about Robespierrés reign of terror – wasńt that part of the story?”

    With all due respect Joerg, I never said anything of the sort. I drew no working “parallel” whatever between revolutionary France and modern America. I said that the values which revolutionary France helped to create – Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – have been turned by the present French government into a hollow slogan. Rather than confront repression and human rights abuse in other countries, the French have shown a preference for brokering arrangements. You know, if the Ba’athists had still been around and the Mukhabarrat still breaking skulls in the back room, Chirac and associates would have been quite happy to sip cognac with Saddam. Let us not forget “l’exception française”.

    Despite what Wolfowitz had to say on the subject of WMD, there are still many unanswered questions about what actually transpired in Iraq during the pre-invasion period. I don’t personally subscribe to any of the theories I hear – such as the involvement of Russian spetsnaz units in the removal of materials to locations such as Syria and the Bekaa Valley. But I do know that even IAEA inspection teams noted some peculiar circumstances. Close to 400 tons of heavy ordinance disappeared from the Al-Qa’qaa facility outside Baghdad. According to those in the know, such an operation couldn’t have been undertaken under the nose of the Americans. We are left to conjecture whether this happened prior to the invasion. I really have no hard opinion one way or the other, but I don’t think the WMD issue is an open and shut case.

    “History”, as Chirac said, “will judge”.

  24. I can’t remove the Joschka Fischer from the culture he has created, and his position within it makes any pro-American sentiments he may express, politically opportunistic at best.

    Created single-handedly? Gracious that’s a lot of influence … apparently it reaches well beyond Germany, given this The leftist European culture that spawns this anti-Americanism is the culture people like Fischer helped to create

    Not that the left has any monopoly on feelings of superiority to America that easily shade into anti-Americanism. See Tobias’ recent experience above for yet another example. Richard Pells’ book, Not Like Us, gives 100 years’ worth of examples. None of this stuff is really new, nor most of the time is it more than background noise. Certainly American politicians feeling superior to France or Russia does not prevent them from dealing with their respective counterparts.

    a gross over-reaction to the excesses of the Nazis in WW2

    Will have to take issue here, as I find it difficult to over-react to what the Third Reich was all about, much less to grossly overreact.

    That said, I’m glad you’ve stopped by and stayed to argue. We wouldn’t get much of anywhere at afoe if we didn’t argue (whether we get anywhere when we do I will leave as an exercise for the audience), and the right side of the aisle is under-represented.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Fischer live in DC in 2000, and he was very good. I think that he genuinely enjoyed the give-and-take in an open forum with students. I’ve seen that openness in longer media reports of other forums, and at one remove from people I know who have worked with his staff. I think the picture you present above is a caricature, an abstraction of “the left”, not an actual minister, parliamentarian and party leader.

    From your tone, I don’t think that I will convince you, which bothers me not at all. I will just note that there are very few actual persons taking the actions that you describe: it is all “they” and “their”. Without agency, there is no action. Without specifics, there is no argument.

  25. Doug – yeah, although my views seem to differ from most commentators in here, I appreciate the fair manner in which arguments have been presented. Afoe is an excellent forum – I’ve actually gleaned a lot about happenings in the EU by stopping for a read now and then.

    I do grant that my portrait of Fischer has been a bit too one dimensional, and I will take the trouble to familiarize myself with his views in more depth.

    I guess coming as I do from Ulster, I have an issue with people who side-step a struggle for rights (however arduous), in order to reach for a bomb or gun. What follows from that is criminal because laws are summarily broken and human rights violated – ostensibly because of some “higher cause”. I’m sorry, but no cause within the context of a western democratic society, is more important than even the life of one child. In the context of a struggle taking place in a country with a repressive dictatorial regime, then of course I support armed resistance.

    So-called “freedom fighters” in western Europe with their regional grievances, ethnic and linguistic rights issues and socialist agendas who resort to blowing up civilians in order to compel compliance with their demands, become criminals as a consequence of these actions. I think it is scandalous the way Blair has brokered deals with Sinn Fein, on the back of the people of Ulster who know only too well the crimes these people have been engaged in. Not merely terror attacks against British authorities, but drug running, smuggling and black market activities, coercion and blackmail, not to mention subjecting “wrong doers” in their communities to summary knee capping and execution. We had the recent attack on an IRA man named McCartney in the Short Strand area of Belfast. He was guilty of speaking back to a senior IRA associate and for this was gutted with plumbers rods on the street outside the pub and left to bleed to death like an animal.

    When these self appointed and anointed activists decide to override the law and every civil code in order to murder and intimidate, they invoke a demon that turns them from idealists into the worst kind of thug. When those who have headed down this path then seek to re-enter political life after having struck a deal or as a consequence of evading justice, many find it hard to overlook the inherent injustice in this transformation. Many men and women who have stayed the course and worked within the system are shunted aside to make way for some newly minted ex-terrorist who must be appeased and accommodated at all costs. This is wrong.

    Yes I agree, it is indeed hard to avoid over-reacting to the legacy of the Third Reich. However, I do feel that the rush to multi-culturalism and the naive fashion in which is has been implemented, has created a potential for a major disaster in the future. There was story over on Harry’s Place I found illuminating. It relates to a small incident, but I found it very telling with respect to the types of tensions we will see more of in future. Some local Counsel in England took the step of banning pigs in the workplace – I mean plastic, porcelain piggies, pigs on coffee mugs and such. Why? Because a Muslim staffer complained. I’m in touch with some Muslim associates online, one of whom is well versed on Islamic law, and when I told them about this they said it is total BS, because any injunction in Qu’ran involving pigs – relates to actual pigs and their meat – not to figurines and cartoons. Along the same lines, the Guardian recently ran a poll to ask Brits whether or not the flag of St George should be ditched for reasons of cultural sensitivities.

    I assume you are the Doug who posts in here. Enjoy your work very much.

  26. Oh, the bejeez!

    Just in case somebody else from the New World stumbles in here, in time and for the record: The simple answer is this: Joschka does get it, as in, knows how to differentiate the forefathers intent from the [now 22 Oct ’05=pre-indictement] neocon neofascist imperialistic candour.

    Thus, seeing the good in the US by it’s constitutional embedded checks & balances, and not merit the whole of a population by its temporary governance.

    A carrier diplomat or a clandestine directorate operative in D.C. will exactly know what I talk about – some “Mark” may not…

  27. neocon neofascist imperialistic candour

    They are not. In fact, this is a major cause of the difficulty they are experiencing. If they were, the country would be quiet and nobody would consider resisting. No, we have to face it. The US is really serious about exporting democracy. They mean it and mean well.

    Thus, seeing the good in the US by it’s constitutional embedded checks & balances, and not merit the whole of a population by its temporary governance.

    He was foreign minister, not a referee on applied governance methods or a judge on morals of governing. Acting on such categories would be a dereliction of duty.

  28. And you might recall the vocal public support and deeds of the German and other European governments (not to mention the proffer of mutual assistance through Nato, though the Americans rejected this) after the 9/11 attacks.

    I do remember. And they were universal. Which is the problem. An alliance is by definition useful in a controversy only. That is not to say that the strategy of the US in Iraq is wise or even realistic. But I do mean to say that the very public rejection and attempts to stop the US have weakened the Euro-US alliance. Perhaps this was unavoidable sooner or later and perhaps even desirable, but we are kidding ourselves claiming it didn’t happen. And it could have been postponed. Europe could have shut up and cited inability to simply do nothing.

  29. “America seems more genuine than that of many a member of Germany’s right-wing establishment, who are realist enough to recognize the postwar balance of power but apt to snigger up their sleeves about the ’kulturlose American barbarians’”

    Afraid not.

    Fischer’s supporters, most of whom are “watermelons”-green on the outside and red on the inside-generally dislike America more than the average right wing German.

    I don’t see anyone of Merkel’s or Stoiber’s persuasion in Germany trying to equate Bush with Hitler, or trying to blame the hurricane tragedy in New Orleans on Bush, only the German (and euro) left does that.

    You EUnuchs here gotta get out more. You are starting to believe your own propaganda, sorry.

    Tschuss!

  30. This discussion seems to have overlooked what may be the most serious pro-/anti-American political fight in Germany of the last five years (at least to us here on the Western side of the Atlantic): the EU Chinese arms embargo.

    Fischer has shown that he cares about the well-being of the Atlantic alliance by supporting the arms emabrgo that is critical to the security of the United States and our Asian allies. While it may not have gotten the play that the Iraq debates have, the potential consequences could have been far more severe (even those of us who are hard core Atlanticists in the Democratic Party find lifting the embargo unacceptable becuase of its impact on the East Asian balance of power).

    In losing Fischer, the West has lost one of its best leader who will be sorely missed.

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  32. “As for what friendship consists in: you claim to be baffled by what Europeans think, so let me help you by working in the American idiom. When I lived in America, there was an oft-repeated public-service advertising catchphrase: ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk’. Very sensible, too. There seems to be a fair number of Americans these days, though — and unfortunately, they include those currently running the executive and legislative branches of its government — who would prefer this to read, ‘Friends keep their goddamn mouths shut and their goddamn opinions to themselves and hand us the goddamn keys, goddamit.’ If that is how you understand friendship, then no, I suppose Fischer is no friend of America. And, if that is the case, I wish you joy of such friends as you can find. (And keep; Uzbekistan hasn’t worked out very brilliantly, has it.)”

    Yawn. What is it with Europeans and their egos? As if the US is going to take geo-political advice from Germany.

    Yeah, they never get the big stuff wrong… Any day now and they’ll turn that corner and prove everybody wrong on socialism!

    Getting back to the original point, I suppose Americans might not think Fischer is a friend because most friends tend to agree about things more than they disagree.

    Mrs. Tilton’s analogy is a good example of someone who’s not a friend. First the U.S. is dangerously criminal, then we’re disagreeable about it as well (an even worse crime, to a leftie). Now that she’s established a perfectly objectionable strawman, she demonstrates how you use that strawman to then attack your “friend” (over Uzbekistan of all things).

    It’s more important in Europe to espouse friendship with the U.S. than to actually be a friend. That way their criticisms carry more weight, because they come from a professed “friend”. It’s nothing to do with beliefs (we have few in common anymore), everything to do with posture.

  33. critical to the security of the United States and our Asian allies

    What is the problem? The balance of power in east Asia is shifting. You are merely delaying the near inevitable by a few years at considerable cost in terms of export gain and more importantly Chinese good will. The US will have to arrive at a modus vivendi with China and will have to give up some positions.

    Seeking a peaceful relationship with China is in everybody’s interest. So unless there’s clear and present danger of war, selling weapons to China is a good thing. The US is turning a misguided reaction to Tian-Men into an instrument of containment.

  34. Mrs. T – Sounds like he’s our friend in the “I’m your friend and I know what’s best for you.” mode.

    Well, color me unimpressed.

    Though kudos to Fischer if he did help stop the arms sales to China.

    I’ll remain a Fischer-skeptic re: his friendship. As I am a Euro-skeptic on the same subject.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  35. The case of Fischer is complex. Yes, he was a militant left in the seventies, which included a view of the US as an enemy. However, in the late seventies and the eighties, he changed his view radically, as many others in his milieu. He became pro-Western, pro-liberal in political mattes (in the European sense), pro-American. America the oppressor became America the liberator. And when Fischer became, in 1998, German Foreign minister, he stepped in the tradition of German transatlanticism – he positioned himself in the tradition of Adenauer and Kohl.

    As a foreign minister, Fischer had little impact on the curse of German FP. It was more and more conceived in Kanzleramt РSchr̦der took over FP, especially in his second term. Fischer became a kind of special envoy, his job was to go to Jerusalem and especially to Washington, to calm the anger over Schr̦der.

    Fischer was never effective as a foreign minister. He has left no heritage. There is nothing notable about his term. Maybe convincing the Greens to go to war in 1998 (Kosovo), but this he did as a leading Green politician, not as a foreign minister. Fischer did not achieve to counterbalance Schröder’s foreign policy, especially not Schröder’s attempts to copy French foreign policy – Chiracs old fashioned power games.

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