Condoleezza RiceColin Powell, who in all likelihood will renounce to using the phrase “between a rock and a hard place” for the rest of his life, is leaving the US administration, and Condoleezza Rice, currently US National Security Advisor, has been nominated by President Bush as next Secretary of State. Many in Europe, Deutsche Welle, I don’t think it matters if Powell’s departure strengthens hardliners who are insensitive to European sensitivities. Both European and American leaders have by now realized the need to work together, and they have – somewhat – adjusted their sensoric system and significantly reduced their mutual expectations. Pessimists may lead unhappy lives, but at least they are less likely to be disappointed.
Certainly, Mr Powell will be missed as a voice of moderation. Yet all too often he, and his partners, had to realize that nuanced diplomacy was only a viable option if it did not stand in the way of President Bush exercising “strong” – ie unrelenting – leadership. Remember how, in early 2003, the President “accidentally” met with German Conservative state premier Roland Koch in the White House, while Colin Powell was meeting the Chancellor in Berlin, for the first time attempting to straighten things out after the disgreement over Iraq had soured the relations of the two governments? I wonder who felt more embarrassed that day – Chancellor Schr?der, or Colin Powell.
The general “Old European” reaction to Ms Rice’s nomination is understandably a little reserved. After all, she reportedly stated in early 2003 that the US should “forgive Russia, forget Germany and punish France.” But the European, particularly the German, relationship with Ms Rice goes beyond her last office – and that’s why I think the above statement will probably not reflect her politics in the State Department.
She is no Michail Gorbachev, but political Germany still very much likes “Condi”, because of the important role she played in managing the process leading to the German reunification, working as an expert in Soviet affairs in President George H. W. Bush’s White House. Later, she and her colleague Philip Zelikow co-authored a remarkable book called “Havard University Press review of her book explicitly mentions that “the drama that would change the face of Europe took place largely backstage” -, and that the National Security discourse in the US mass media seems to have degenerated into a label bashing contest. It could be the leadership style of George W. Bush. Or she might have simply changed her mind about what is appropriate in national security politics – after 9/11. My bet would be the third option, but I don’t know.
However, fifteen years ago, Ms Rice earned a great deal of political capital in Germany, and some of it is still left – in spite of the last four years. And more importantly, it is hers, not the President’s. If used wisely, her more distant past may become one key to repairing the more recent transatlantic woes.
I don’t think she will ignore Germany. Quite the opposite, actually – and that may well be a little painful for Paris.