John Vinocur published a must-read article this week in the IHT and New York Times. Excerpts:
"There's a maxim in German politics, sometimes attributed to
Bismarck, that if a subject gets too miserably uncomfortable to discuss
with an unmistakable German voice, bid it up, and carry on in the name
So there are times when Germans call their own issues European ones
in an attempt to legitimize them, or try to blur their motives or goals
by insisting German concerns foreshadow or encapsulate Europe's less
well-articulated views — while stating them better, quicker and more
This is the case now as some of Germany's deepest and
hardest-to-admit worries — how to preserve its special, advantageous
relationship with Russia without betraying its status as a Western
player and ally of the United States — rise to the surface of its
The context is Poland and the Czech Republic's acceptance, over
Russian threats and objections, to participate in an American
antimissile shield that could block Iranian nukes.
The particular German conundrum lies here.
Angela Merkel wants to avoid Germany becoming the fulcrum for a
maneuver by Vladimir Putin that seeks to cast the United States,
regardless of the defensive nature of the U.S. system, as the cause of
a new arms race in Europe.
But for some in Germany, those fears mean a chance for domestic
political profile and profit, a wide horizon depending on their
exploitation and Europeanization. Inside Germany, that diffuse
fearfulness is there for the taking: polls not only show that around 70
percent accept Putin's characterization of America-the-aggressor but 77
percent opposed the Bundestag's decision over the weekend to send
Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to support NATO troops in Afghanistan.
So it's open season for opportunism, encouraged by the ambiguity,
accommodating Russia's line, expressed on the missile shield by
Merkel's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The German landscape, right to left, is crowded these days with pols
who cannot swallow the idea of "new Europeans" like Czechs or Poles,
European Union members since 2004, assessing their security
requirements in ways that do not please the Russians. These are the
same pols who don't like other EU members asking why Germany has
abandoned pressing Russia for an energy charter that would outlaw
blackmail on oil and gas supplies as a condition for renewing the EU's
"strategic partnership" with Moscow."
In thinking about this situation, it is actually useful to quote Richard Nixon. In his book "Seize the Moment," published in 1992, he writes on pages 119-120:
"While Germany's power will inevitably grow, the key question is how it will be used. Germany is not a potential rogue state or threat to its neighbors. The changes wrought by forty years of democracy and close association with Western institutions have transformed its society. But Germany must undergo a profound adjustment. During the cold war, free Germany lacked the power and confidence to chart an independent foreign policy and felt compelled to maintain a tight alliance with the West. With the waning of the cold war, that has changed. While still limited by the legacies of World War II, Germany is now tentatively staking out its new European and global roles. Our challenge lies in helping the Germans define constructive ways to use their new power.
Their are two key concerns. The first centers on the re-emergence of Germany's geopolitical tradition of keeping one foot in the East and one in the West. The cooperation between Imperial Germany and Tzarist Russia, the covert rearming of Germany after World War I, Germany's role in the industrialization of Soviet Russia under the Rapallo Treaty, and the division of Eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin marked the darkest chapters of that tradition."
Mr. Vinocur's article reminds us that the German tradition of keeping one foot in the East and one in the West is alive and well. So does this. (Posted by Ray D.)
Check out this outstanding article on the Arab media in the International Herald Tribune. The similarities to the German media are striking. Numerous German "Amerika-Korrespondent" types also seem to have little or no clue about the USA outside the beltway or beyond Manhattan.
PARIS: With Europeans lining up and shelling out to read Bill Clinton, he turns out to be a guy who insists on reminding people that two-thirds of the Democratic Party in Congress voted George W. Bush the specific powers he needed to make war in Iraq. Then, piling it on, he goes and says that France and Germany wrongly made light of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. (...)
For Der Spiegel, the Hamburg newsmagazine that has never found an American president subtle enough to match its tastes, this was clearly a problem as it completed its second installment of extracts. In its table of contents last week, it announced a conversation with the former president about "Bush's Iraq debacle."
In the headline over its interview, it promised Clinton's take on "the Disaster of the Bush Administration in the Iraq War."
As it turned out, the single time the word "debacle" came out of anybody's mouth in the Q-and-A, it belonged to the Spiegel people asking Clinton questions. The former president verbally sprinted in the other direction.
It was this kind of whoosh: Clinton said his successor was now moving toward a turnaround in Iraq that
Die "International Herald Tribune" (IHT) berichtet vom Schicksal des Journalisten Alain Herthoge: er wurde von seinem Arbeitgeber "La Croix", einer katholischen französischen Tageszeitung, gekündigt. Das Vergehen Herthoges: er hat die verzerrte, antiamerikanische Darstellung des Irak-Krieges in französischen Medien kritisiert. In seinem Buch "La Guerre à Outrances" wirft er französischen Medien vor, daß sie den Krieg beschrieben, wie sie ihn gerne gehabt hätten.
Das bedeutete die Hervorhebung der Vietnams und Stalingrads, die nicht stattgefunden haben, sagte er, und so viele weitere Berichte über amerikanische Schwierigkeiten anstatt Fortschritten, daß es "unmöglich war zu verstehen, wie die Amerikaner gewonnen haben."...
Hertoghes Buch zeigt die Berichterstattung von vier nationalen Zeitungen und der größten regionalen Tageszeitung over eine dreiwächige Periode in März und April (2003). Das Buch behauptet, daß die Berichterstattung ideologisch war, in Übereinstimmung mit der Position der französischen Regierung gegenüber den USA, und daß man bevorzugt eine große Katastrophe für die Amerikaner vorhersagte.
Der IHT-Artikel geht auch auf die in diesem Blog bereits erwähnte Studie des "Medien-Tenor" ein, der die verzerrte Darstellung des Irak-Krieges in deutschen Medien analysierte.
Glenn von HipperCritical hat mich auf einen Artikel von Graf Lambsdorff in der IHT aufmerksam gemacht. Lambsdorff - unter Kohl Wirtschaftsminister - verweist auf die Verantwortung der Bundesregierung für die Verschlechterung der deutsch-amerikanischen Beziehungen. Außerdem bietet er einen hoffnungsvollen Ausblick.
Whatever doubts some (not I) may have had about the wisdom of the coalition's very ambitious intervention in Mesopotamia, our obvious collective interest as allies is to do everything to avoid its eventual failure, and to participate in full in pacifying and rebuilding a viable Iraq - with all the positive ripples that could ensue in this tortured region.
How did we get to this pass in the first place? Surely, there is much blame to go around. On Europe's part - and speaking only for myself - I believe that German and French behavior, and especially language, were inexcusable. For a major ally of the United States to announce in advance that it would not abide by any United Nations resolution asking for military action was to drive an unprecedented political wedge among us.
On the face of it, it amounted to unilateralism at its worst. The standing official declaration from Berlin that no German troops will be sent to Iraq makes no sense: If it is all right for us to be present and effective in Kabul, why would Baghdad be of less concern to us?
Fortunately, there are signs today that some repair work is under way. It is visible in the German stance, more modest in France, and very real in Russia. The latest UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, No. 1511 of Oct. 16, shows a considerable American desire to compromise. Above all, it opens the way to a genuine "internationalization" of the conflict, through which, in turn, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's proven peacekeeping capabilities can be brought to bear in the region, with the active participation of German and French troops, among others.
(German translation at end of post / Deutsche Übersetzung am Ende des Eintrags)
The cover page of the German weekly ZEIT (Oct. 30, 2003) displays a large rigged photo of President Bush which presents a stereotype of him that the German media just can't get enough of - the stupid cowboy from Texas.
Isn't it amazing that this stupid cowboy's economic policy seems to be doing quite well, especially when compared to the not so successful efforts of his smart German counterpart? 7.2 % annual growth in the US compared to zero in Germany - what a difference!
Given Schroeder's less than stellar economic record, it seems more appropriate to put this design created by Ray on the cover of the ZEIT...
Update: Check this interesting comparison of Bush's economic growth data with those of preceeding presidents.
Deutsche Übersetzung / German translation
Auf der Titelseite der aktuellen ZEIT (30.10.03) prangt ein großes verfremdetes Foto von Präsident Bush, das ihn als texanischen Cowboy-Trottel präsentiert - ein Bush-Bild, das bei den deutschen Medien so außerordentlich beliebt ist. (vgl. oben)
Ist es nicht seltsam, daß ein solcher Volltrottel eine Wirtschaftspolitik mit hohen Wachstumsraten fertig bringt, ganz im Unterschied zu den deutschen Besserwissern? 7,2 % jährliches Wirtschaftswachstum in den USA im Vergleich zu null Prozent in Deutschland - eine ziemliche Differenz!
Vor dem Hintergrund der schwachen Wirtschaftszahlen Schröders wäre es wohl eher angemessen, wenn die ZEIT diesen Entwurf von
Ray auf ihre Titelseite setzte... (vgl. oben)
Update: Hier findet sich ein interessanter Vergleich des Wirtschaftswachstums unter Präsident Bush mit dem seiner Vorgänger.