- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

The Greens' party conference in Rostock proved to be a watershed for Germany's colorful peace party. Arguing that international terrorism has changed its anti-militaristic outlook, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Social Democrats adjusted its pacifist position. To safeguard global security, this terror has to be fought with all possible means, not just with police actions and court orders, proclaimed the Greens when they endorsed Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's plan to send 3,900 troops to Afghanistan. It was a move that virtually destroyed the ideological basis of the party's singular role as an independent alternative to the mighty power blocs of the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.

While the Greens' power elite, led by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, celebrate the rescue of the red-green coalition, the party's leftist wing as well as its conservative critics were quick to charge that the Greens had sacrificed their principles and moral credibility for expedient power politics.

Mr. Schroeder's considerable pressure on the Greens to fall in line by linking the continuance of his party's coalition with the Greens to the deployment of German soldiers with a vote of confidence had paid off. Pointing to the humanitarian conditions and military limitations the Greens managed to impose on the deal, they pledged a "new peace policy" centering on quick humanitarian responses and a political offensive to aid the population. For this purpose 96 million marks are earmarked for humanitarian aid and 160 million for rebuilding shattered Afghanistan.

To be sure, their resolution does not empower their government to take part in air strikes or the deployment of troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or other countries. Their objectives are focused on the transport of civil goods and military equipment, evacuation of the wounded, naval units for the protection of ships in the Horn of Africa and a contingent of specialists commissioned to finding and identifying terrorists and delivering them to justice. But it was up to the rank and file to ensure that its membership merely chose to "accept" the resolution instead of "supporting" it, and it remains an open question whether it would bend even further should Washington initiate phase two.

Mr. Fischer left no doubt that a responsible peace policy for the 21st century includes military involvement in anti-terror warfare, as well as strengthening of the United Nations and the World Court. Reminding members of the party's ecological-social roots and the importance of keeping the red-green coalition alive because it is good for humanity and for Germany, the reformed radical shifted to the political future of Europe. With Joerg Haider, Silvo Berlusconi and now Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark or perhaps Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union in charge, he warned, Europe would look very different.

Astonishingly, the term pacifism was hardly mentioned and even disparaged by some as "not a means to anything." Led by parliamentary chairman Kerstin Mueller, other faithfuls of the 20-year-old party sharply attacked the United States for the use of cluster bombs and their refusal to respect an international court of justice. Comparing the Greens' successful coalition with the powerful Social Democrats that propelled them into government vis-a-vis the consequences of the abandonment of power, Ms. Mueller stressed how the Greens have changed the face of the republic step by step. Her statement that, thanks to their effort, the German republic has become more liberal and more open, laced with dire conclusions that the wheels of history would be turned around should the conservatives regain the lead, were greeted with thunderous applause.

Once more the metamorphoses of the Greens demonstrates that an ideology does not survive the confrontation with a reality that denies it. The development of the movement of concerned environmentalists, zero-growth romantics and Kulturpessimists subscribing to a form of ecological, self-administering , emancipated socialism into an anti-military, anti-nuclear, anti-NATO peace party had certainly broadened its base. But regardless of Mr. Fischer's push for a conference on the interim government of Afghanistan, the latest conversion into a conventional party is a switch that may have its price. Feeling betrayed by their leadership, a number of true believers are leaving the party. And while the Greens' unexpected partnership in government and power exudes great attraction, it hardly strengthens the concept of an alternative to existing conventional parties.

The drafted platform emerging from the party convention in Rostock has cleared the air about the standing of Germany's feuding Greens. A dismissal of the deployment of German troops abroad most likely would have endangered the coalition. This was a chance the majority of the Greens and its pragmatic leadership were not about to take. Proud about their rejection of political naivete, they played their solidarity card in the fight against international terrorism. With their concentration on unemployment in Germany's eastern states and partnerships with the Third World, the Greens have become a normal party.

However, having joined mainstream politics, they also may face political oblivion. As the popular Stern magazine suggested, the times of the Greens may have passed.

Viola Herms Drath is a member of the executive committee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.


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