Friday, December 10, 2004

Schröder's Asia trip "revolved around a depiction of rivalry with America and an attempt to win capital from Germany's position on the Iraq war"

You have heard angry voices spew cynical comments about America's reasons (their real reasons) for going to war against Iraq, niechtwar?
Since Germany's military and strategic responsibilities in the Far East are virtually nil, [Gerhard] Schröder's position [of support for a plan to lift the European Union's embargo on selling arms to Beijing] demonstrates pretty substantial disregard for the American view that German and French arms sales to China (the real issue at hand) will not make Beijing less expansionist, more sensitive to human rights, or unvaryingly reliable
writes John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.
… Schröder's pressing forward with the issue has a rather exceptional, or quixotic, aspect in that it clashes with both an EU consensus against supplying China with arms and motions passed by the Bundestag (widely supported by the chancellor's own coalition) and European Parliament urging that the embargo be retained. …

Voices within the German government have said everyone should understand China feels itself "politically discriminated against." [Apparently noone should ever pay any attention to the fact that United States, at times, might find itself politically discriminated against.] The idea has a violently counterinstinctive quality to it, but Schröder, who seems to want to cast himself as China's best friend in the West, may choose to make this case directly to George Bush when he travels to Europe in February in what is being described as a "reaching out" initiative by the White House. … The grand idea there would be to proclaim a restoration of trans-Atlantic cooperation. In the German-American case, the get-together would be aimed at rekindling a notion of shared sentiment in a country where Michael Moore, as the newspaper Berliner Zeitung noted last week, creates a thousand times more enthusiasm than an explosion of democracy in Ukraine. …

As consensus views go, there is a fairly wide one in Europe that a "non-U.S.A." identity for Europe is firm if deniable French policy. This notion casts French and German resistance to the Iraq war as the basis of a genesis legend for a future Europe's arm's-length relationship with the United States.

How much has Schröder the short-term tactician bought into this line? On one hand, better relations with the Americans, however desentimentalized, just might be a help when he likely seeks a third term in 2006. On the other, Schröder justified his actions on Iraq to his party leadership last year, not so much in terms of international law or doubts about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, but as "protecting European sovereignty." He argued then that he and Jacques Chirac's decision to oppose the war would determine the development of Europe over the next 10 to 15 years.

This casting of Europe's development in opposition to America — the refrain goes the Iraq war had to be opposed to unite Europe in escaping America's hegemonic grasp — resurfaced in another form, according to accounts of Schröder's most recent trip to Asia, in October.

Jochen Buchsteiner, the politically astute Asia correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who accompanied Schröder to New Delhi and Hanoi, wrote that the trip revolved around a depiction of rivalry with America and an attempt to win capital from Germany's position on the Iraq war. He described Schröder as saying that a domineering power could only generate resistance, but out of embarrassment, avoiding any specific mention of the United States. Schröder's behavior in Asia, Buchsteiner reported, followed "an anti-Atlanticist direction" that resembled that of Chirac, who was in China at the same moment. …
Coupled with Chirac's trip to China, Schröder's Asia "trip revolved around a depiction of rivalry with America and an attempt to win capital from Germany's position on the Iraq war". Do you get it? Those who have said that America's position (the Iraq war) was all for riches (oil) have countered that the "peace camp's" position (amplifying the demonization of the Bush administration's position in the Iraq war while defending the status quo, sorry, I mean, standing up for world peace) was all for the highest humane considerations (standing up for world peace). This has nothing with (the United States) being "politically discriminated against"? Maybe it is not for Uncle Sam that one should reserve an attitude of the deepest disbelief, cynicism, und, ja, disgust…

Update: Don't forget to read Ray's excellent Spreading Christmas Joy in China ("In Beijing they are making a list and checking it twice. And frankly, Santa Gerd doesn't really care whether the Chinese have been naughty or nice"…)

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