- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The most interesting fact about the German national elections, which on Sunday brought the governing red-green coalition a paper-thin victory, was not actually the rampant and vicious anti-Americanism that suffused the campaign run by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Nor the fact that Mr. Schroeder sunk to a new low in German politics, choosing to pollute relations with his country's most important military ally, the United States a first for any German chancellor since World War II in order to pull off a puny election victory. (The fact that France now appears a better ally of the United States has been noted with satisfaction in Paris.)
No, what was truly interesting about the German election was what it told us about Germany of the 21st century. This "new" Germany has no qualms about breaking ranks with its European Union allies on foreign policy when it feels like it, specifically over Iraq in this case, throwing the EU's aspirations for a common foreign and defense policy out the window.
Nor does this German chancellor think much of the United Nations and its resolutions. Even with a U.N. mandate, Germany will not go along with George Bush's Iraqi "adventure," Mr. Schroeder has promised. No German boys will die in the sand. This is hardly the posture of a leader making a serious bid for German permanent membership on the Security Council.
There have been intimations of the "new" Germany before. It will be recalled that following reunification in 1990, concerns were raised in Europe that Germany, which is by far the largest European power with 80 million people, could start flexing its political muscle again internationally. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, French President Francois Mitterrand and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev expressed extremely grave doubts about the wisdom of allowing East and West Germany to reunite. Chancellor Helmut Kohl's decision during the breakup of Yugoslavia to recognize Croatia before other European leaders, for instance, was cited as an example of Germany's new unilateralism.
Ironically, it was actually the American government under the current president's father that advocated, supported and helped bring about the reunification of the two Germanies. Just as it was the United States, which had helped rebuild this former enemy after World War II with the Marshall Plan, and which had protected West Germany from Soviet expansionism through all the years of the Cold War.
Today's generation of German politicians, unfortunately, seems not just forgetful of the past, but hate being reminded of it. They represent the march of the 1960s radicals through Germany's institutions and feel no obligation to carry the guilt of their parents' generation, which they rebelled against in their student days.
It was with a sinking feeling that one watched the German election slide into a morass of vicious anti-American sentiment. Mr. Schroeder's election victory may have been minuscule with the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens winning 47.1 percent of the vote to the 45.9 percent won by the alliance between Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. But the fact that Mr. Schroeder pulled off an election victory at all, was due to his success in exploiting popular anti-American resentment among Germans voters.
Anyone who doubted the existence of a continental rift between Europe and the United States ought to take a look at some of the statements of Mr. Schroeder and his Cabinet. In the German chancellor's book, the threat to world peace is not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but U.S. President George Bush. In the view of now-resigned German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, "Bush wants to distract attention from his domestic political problems. That's a favorite method. Hitler did that, too."
It is hard not to sympathize with the sentiments expressed last Thursday by Sen. Jesse Helms, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "If Chancellor Schroder succeeds in winning re-election through America-bashing, and if Germany does not join the other more responsible leaders in Europe in a constructive dialogue on how best to confront the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, then Congress must consider moving U.S. forces out of Germany and stationing them on the territory of other NATO allies who do support the United States and who do wish to be relevant to the alliance in the 21st century."
If the Germans really want to go it alone, it can certainly be argued, why not let them? Why should we commit to defend their country, when so many Germans have shown themselves to despise the United States? Well, because if the 20th century taught us anything, it is that it would be a hugely expensive mistake to leave the Germans to their own devices. Let's remember that before we bring the American troops home.


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