Man Without Qualities

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Is Germany Completely Lost?

Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to have settled some major points even in the minds of most of those adamantly opposed to war with Iraq: Iraq definitely has (1) a lot of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, (2) an active program to acquire nuclear weapons, (3) extensive contacts and cooperation with al Qaeda and (4) deliberately and energetically fooled the United Nations inspectors.

Even the ever willfully foolish New York Times has been forced to admit its prior denialist carpings were mostly in error, although the paper's foolish waffling on the al Qaeda connection remains:

Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have. ...
Mr. Powell's most convincing evidence was of efforts by Iraq to shield chemical or biological weapons programs from United Nations inspectors. The intercepted conversations of Republican Guard officers that he played, in which they urgently seek to hide equipment or to destroy communications in advance of inspections, offered stark evidence that Mr. Hussein has not only failed to cooperate with the inspectors, as Resolution 1441 requires him to, but has actively sought to thwart them. Mr. Powell also offered new evidence that Al Qaeda terrorists have found safe harbor in Iraq, but the links between Baghdad and the terror network seemed more tenuous than his other charges. ... It may not have produced a "smoking gun," but it left little question that Mr. Hussein had tried hard to conceal one. In response to Mr. Powell's presentation, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, China and Russia called for extending and strengthening the inspection program in Iraq.

Evidence and its presentation sufficient to bring even the blind dullards at the Times largely to heel is potent indeed. And because the evidence is so convincing, Germany's particular history may play a big role in whether its agreement to some form of new Security Council resolution is possible. German agreement to a resolution specifically authorizing a military incursion is unlikely. Gerhardt Schroeder has pointedly said he would not agree to such a thing and, since German voters are not amenable to an incursion, German government support would require the kind of real leadership from Herr Schroeder that he has singularly lacked.

But German agreement to a Security Council resolution declaring Iraq to be in "material default" is possible.

As distinguished from authorizing war, declaring a "material breach" is mostly a matter of fact: Does Iraq have weapons of mass destructions and is it hiding them from the inspectors? The answer is plainly "yes" and the evidence is strong. Is Germany ultimately prepared to deny the convincing nature of the evidence to the point of denying that there is a material breach here? The evocations here of holocaust denialism and the historical propensity of Germans to refuse to see signs of government preparations for mass murder are very strong. Perhaps they are strong enough to bring the German people and government around. There is some evidence that German officials sense the problem lurking here for them in particular. The Washington Post reports, for example:

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a vocal opponent of war, supported the French proposal to extend the inspections. But, he pointedly noted, Germany does not "hold any illusions on the inhuman and brutal nature of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. The regime is terrible for the Iraqi people." Fischer added that he lacked the technical expertise to assess whether the intelligence presented to the council by Powell was convincing.

The United States' public posture doesn't seem to take the Germans seriously, as the Post also reports:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in testimony before Congress today, lumped Germany with Libya and Cuba as countries that have ruled out any role in a U.S.-led attack or postwar reconstruction of Iraq. "I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are ones that have indicated they won't help in any respect, I believe," said Rumsfeld, who last month angered the German and French governments by referring to them as "old Europe."

But if the United States decides it wants only a declaration of "material breach" from the Security Counsel, the Germans should not be written off too early. Since the establishment of their Federal Republic, one of the very good things the Germans have accomplished is repeatedly overcoming much of their societal inclination towards denialism, although in particular instances it has required a fair amount of public debate to bring about the proper result after initial resistance. In this respect Germany is light years ahead of Japan.

To get a real debate going in Germany, it would be helpful if a major internal German political organization had the guts to point out what is at stake here for the Germans in the denialism that would be implied by German refusal to acknowledge formally the existence of a "material breach." The Germans will pay for any such denialism for many years, especially once the incursion delivers even more evidence of Hussein's atrocities into the hands of the Americans. It may be that Chancellor Schroeder's political opponents are prepared to force his hand:

"The majority of our electorate, the conservative electorate, is against any military action, so we haven't wanted to put that to the test before," Christian Schmidt, the foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Christian Social Union, said in an interview Monday. "Now we will repeat a little louder what we said before - go back to the alliance." Many, not only opposition party members but German foreign policy experts, have been privately critical of what they have seen as Schroeder's unyielding position on Iraq, arguing that it has needlessly harmed German relations with the United States and caused divisions inside Europe.

Comments: Post a Comment