- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

When America was still in shock immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, Germany was one of the first allies to offer specific assistance. It offered medical and humanitarian help, and the German Embassy raised $28 million for the victims and their families. But, now, the country, which until the Kosovo war kept daisies firmly in place in its rusting guns, is providing military assistance to help the United States fight the war against terrorism. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's visit last week to Washington the first by a head of state since the beginning of the reprisal attacks on Afghanistan showed how far the German-American relationship has come.

It is not just that Germany is slowly moving beyond its postwar guilt syndrome that is remarkable. After all, it was more than two years ago that Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the leader of the Greens, swayed even the most skeptical pacifists in his party to send troops to join U.S. soldiers in the mission in Kosovo the first time that German troops had served abroad since World War II.

"This phase of German postwar politics has passed irrevocably," Mr. Schroeder told the Bundestag on Thursday. Mr. Schroeder said that his people, "who overcame the effects of World War II thanks to the help of their American and European friends, now have a duty to meet this new responsibility," and this includes military operations.

The Bush administration had made clear that this war will not be another Kosovo or Persian Gulf. It will not be over in a matter of weeks or months. And, still, the Germans are with us.

Between 50 and 60 German soldiers have been deployed as part of the crews of NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft conducting surveillance over the United States, the German Embassy said. Germany has also stepped up its role in the Balkans freeing other allies to be deployed to the Middle East. For the first time in NATO history, Germany will serve as the lead nation in an alliance mission outside of NATO territory. German troops will provide 600 of 700 troops in Macedonia, and a German commander will lead the mission.

It's not that the German on the street has forgotten his country's history, or that he is enthusiastic about a new military involvement. But for a country that has lived through a world war on it soil, and had learned to fear the sudden bombs and yesterday's conscience, last month's attacks brought the United States closer. Mr. Schroeder's promise of "unreserved solidarity," which includes military assistance, shows that the Germans have entered into a new era of deeper friendship with the United States and that is good for both nations.

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