Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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A former policy advisor to Helmut Kohl weighs in on the consequences of Schroeder's actions before the war in Iraq.
Wars always have winners and losers. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein -- dead or on the run -- is, of course, the Iraq war's biggest loser. But Germany has also lost much, including the many US troops who will now reportedly be re-deployed to bases in other countries. Despite the announcement of plans to create a European army along with France, Belgium and Luxembourg, Germany is less relevant in both European and world politics than it was before the Iraq war. Repairing the damage will not be easy.
Every part of Germany's international position has been wounded by the Iraq war. The country can no longer play the role of transatlantic mediator between France and the US. It can forget about US support in its campaign to gain a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Instead of forging a "third way" for Europe's left with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder needs Blair to plead his case with US President George W. Bush, who feels personally betrayed by the chancellor's conduct in the run-up to the war.
In postcommunist Eastern Europe, Germany is no longer perceived as an absolutely dependable advocate of the region's needs. Multilateral institutions that served as pillars of German foreign policy for almost half a century have been weakened -- the EU's hopes for common foreign, security and defense policies have been gravely jeopardized.
And what has happened since the end of the major combat actions.
But wartime victory makes cowards of leaders who backed the wrong side. So, with Baghdad's fall, Schroeder began to send conciliatory signals to Washington and London. Schroeder implicitly began to welcome regime change in Iraq. During a Franco-German-Russian summit in St. Petersburg, he explicitly refrained from criticizing the US and Britain. "I don't want to speak about the past," he emphasized. "We should think about how the military victory can be turned to help the entire region."
That French President Jacques Chirac is even less popular in the US than Schroeder gives German diplomats slight consolation. But opposition to US policy from France never comes as a shock. Indeed, Chirac's tone and tactics conform to textbook Gaullist patterns. By contrast, German assertiveness vis-a-vis the US was stunning -- perhaps because, as it is said, you have to be fully behind someone who you stab in the back.
The chancellor's aides try to justify his rhetoric as an expression of the country's political maturity. At long last, they say, German leaders can use the unrestricted sovereignty Germany acquired with reunification in 1990.
But the chancellor's juvenile experiment in mature diplomacy has diminished, not expanded, Germany's prestige.
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