September 23, 2002

Let's Not Be Beastly To the Germans

Like all sensible Tories there’s only one result I really wanted to see from the German federal election, and that, of course, was an SPD/Communist coalition. As of the time of writing, it looks as if Chancellor Schröder’s just going to scrap back in with the detestable, and slightly unsettling, Greens, but still, that’ll do. As things stand, that means the far more communitaire Edmund Stoiber will be kept out of power, and as far as Britain vis-à-vis Europe’s concerned, that’s all to the good – and it does absolutely nothing to restore the fractured Franco-German alliance. So all in all, a good night for the right. What makes it even better however, is the sand it kicks in the face of Britain’s fifth column, the ‘pro-Americans’, who infest things like the leader columns of The Daily Telegraph. They had got all in a lather about this unacceptable display of independence from America by Germany (certainly, we’re not meant ever to contemplate attaining even Hunnish levels of self-respect), and to no avail. In a week that has seen the US announce its intention to establish a thousand year military reich – to increase ‘human freedom’, natch – why do such people exist in Britain, and can anything be done about them? Well, it’s worth looking at Germany because they’ve had even further to travel to a foreign policy of their own than we still have to go. And frankly, if they can do it, anyone can.

Even by the Telegraph’s alpha-grade standards of hysteria, their squeaking and hissing about the Boche has been something to behold. Under a headline which brought to mind more Latinate forms of ‘chief eunuch’, the paper kicked off its treatment of the German elections with a leader article entitled, ‘Blair, the first ally’. The reason for the keen-eyed interest was that Herr Schröder had reluctantly stumbled upon the fact that, er, he had an election to win, and as the idea that Germany might in any way participate in America’s attack on Iraq is massively unpopular with the German public, well, QED.

Just to point up something out that every reader of will doubtless know, but it’s always worth reminding ourselves, the reason why the US government is bothered by this campaign trail rhetoric is actually pretty up front and personal as far as imperial war-making is concerned. To illustrate that – do you remember, a few weeks ago, some character was arrested by the German police because, apparently, he was minded to bomb some US military installations in Northern Germany? And his girlfriend, she worked in one? And that, just in this one sector of Germany alone there were 16,000 US military personnel and their dependants? Thought that struck a cord – lots of US military personnel in a foreign country, and whadya know, it becomes an issue for the ‘host’ government what they might get up to.

Anyway, to return to that Telegraph leader from the start of the month, which was ululating because the Prime Minister (and no one else!) had been called to Camp David for a pat on the head and a rub on the tummy. And maybe an extra game of ‘fetch’, but mostly it was standard American Kennel Club rules, and Mr Blair stood very neatly on his podium, his coat well brushed, his eyes alert, and his nose gleaming and only agreeably wet. Showing the absurd, anachronistic and downright alien capture by neo-con ninnies of this ever sillier paper’s editorials, the first thing they did was take the Administration to task for not having united to fight quick enough: ‘the public arena was dominated by an older generation of doveish has-beens such as James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger. Senior figures now in office, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, were hamstrung by the President’s hesitation.’ Thank goodness that’s been settled. And now, America having made up her mind, it’s time for the rest of the world to.

In Europe, however, the peace party includes not merely unelected bureaucrats such as Chris Patten and Javier Solana [groan – who voted for Mr Rumsfeld?], but also the leader of the largest country: Germany. Chancellor Schröder is in the final stages of an election campaign in which he has been the underdog. This in part explains, but in no way excuses, his demagogic denunciations of American policy. [...] This brought a sharp rebuke from the US ambassador in Berlin, who warned Mr Schroder that his ‘absolute opposition’ had aroused ‘a certain doubt’ about US-German relations. President Bush has pointedly ignored Mr Schröder in his plans to consult the allies. [...] If Mr Schröder wins, President Bush will just have to call his bluff. He could point out that the Americans and British are, by proposing to replace an evil dictatorship with democracy, only doing for the Iraqi people what they once did for the Germans.

We’ll come on to the state of Kraut-US relations in a moment (but golly, imagine if there was a ‘Helmut Yankhammer’ scribbling away in Germany – think how hurt the poor Americans would be by now, truly that country becomes ever more like late imperial China by the minute, always ready to burst into tears if some breach in formal diplomatic etiquette occurs, but equally always demanding of the right to abuse in whatever fevered terms she wants the outer world) but that last line is just, ‘lets all look the other way and pretend this didn’t happen’ stupid. Because, let’s never forget, whatever we did for the Germans, we only ever did it for some of them, and we abandoned the other half of the country to Soviet tyranny for forty years, but on and on this campaign of denunciation went. Though the best laugh, obviously, comes from that delicate use of the word ‘consult’, don’t you think? No doubt it was a mutually pleasurable piece of consultation.

In another leader, this time called, ‘Schröder’s cynical gamble’, the paper contrasted, in shocked tones, the Gerhard Schröder of support for military intervention in Iraq (last time), and Kosovo, and Afghanistan, with the one who won’t say Yes to Iraq this time. If he even really means it, but that’s another issue. For you see, it’s like riding a bike for neo-cons: to be on the side of right and justice and truth there aren’t any let-outs, you have to keep peddling to keep on the road, otherwise you fall over in the swamp of French-style moral relativism and personal decay. Which is to say

Domestically, the chancellor’s cynical gamble, backed with equal cynicism by his Green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, is paying off. Within the Western alliance, it leaves the country extraordinarily isolated. The two men have opened up the most glaring gap between the German and American governments on a foreign policy issue since the war [...] By his own admission, Mr Schröder has failed on the economy. Now he is demonstrating that he is an unreliable ally as well.

Strange that, you do what the public likes and you become popular – let’s hope such a deranged system doesn’t spread (still less that it should be spread at missionary gun-point). This represents the first great and terrible charge of the Telegraph against the Germans: they’re isolated. Imagine, a country being isolated (though how that’s squared with all the self-pitying, yet self-aggrandising rhetoric about the unfortunate Anglosphere having to go it ‘all alone’, I don’t know), one hopes in their respective [sic] foreign policies, that this never happens to either Britain or America.

Incredibly enough, there’s worse to come. Worse, at any rate, for the dearly confused leader-writing team at the Telegraph to explain, for, and it’s difficult to believe, by the time of the next editorial, Herr Schröder’s back in the lead. How can this be? It turns out that he has been....

...gambling on an anti-American campaign of such brazen vulgarity that it has left his opponent, Edmund Stoiber, floundering. Though Mr Schroder may have won his own battle, he has lost all influence over the conduct of the war. Germany will pay for its leader’s demagogy with isolation.

And there’s that ‘isolation’ bugaboo again – I mean, can you imagine, a country going its own way, and not paying heed to its allies, has ever such a horror happened before? Can we find words to describe it? Yes, as it happens, we can. But before we come onto it, there, yet again, you have the Telegraph reading from Chris Patten’s lecture paper, but swapping the proper names, i.e. ‘to have influence we have to agree’. This, strictly speaking, is the kind of influence a well trained and obedient dog has on the fellow holding the leash.

Now what was that word, that thing a country must never do, unless it wants to have all the intellectual and moral firepower of The Daily Telegraph rained down upon its head? What is that thing a country just must avoid at all costs – ah yes, the headline of the latest leader reminds me: ‘Germany goes unilateralist’. A terrible thing you understand, good countries don’t do that. Except one maybe, but that’s different. This neurotic spasm of a leader is a real piece of goods, being silly, disingenuous, poorly argued and ill-considered in equal measure. To be honest, there’s not much more I can say about it without feeling queasy, so let’s get to it:

Whoever wins the general election in Germany this Sunday, the losers will be the German people. This campaign has been disastrous for the country’s reputation abroad, a reputation which had been carefully cultivated since the inception of the Federal Republic by statesmen [...] for whom the Atlantic alliance was the cornerstone of German foreign policy.

So add to the isolation and the unilateralism, a ‘bad rep’ abroad – my God, are there no depths to which this regime will not sink? It turns out that the German Chancellor is at fault for turning a losing general election campaign round by abandoning sacerdotal Atlanticism, ‘in favour of a "German path" of absolute opposition to war against Iraq’. Have you ever heard anything so downright filthy and rotten in your entire life? The cheek of them.

As a conclusive threat, the Telegraph, ever the loyal lackey of a foreign power, warned the sausage munching swine that there will be a cost to for all this: ‘the price – isolation – will be paid for years to come.’ Got that, if you don’t agree with US foreign policy, prepare to pay the price. And in a way, that’s the maddest thing of all about this lickspittle lunacy – the Germans aren’t even opposing US foreign policy, they’re simply contemplating not supporting every last detail of it. A reasonable enough position for a sovereign state, especially one that’s decent enough to put up with many thousands of your military personnel? No, seemingly not. No criticism of US policy is tolerable from an ‘ally’. Indeed, so impermissable that the US will overtly interfere in the internal affairs of a fellow democracy. Which, when you think on it is pretty daft as Edmund Stoiber’s position on the attack on Iraq is hardly anymore on side, believing as he does that the US should only act under UN mandate. That, as Chancellor, he would ban the US of bases on German soil to America if she acts unilaterally.

I had meant to write about that loopy, ‘we’ll rule the world forever’ document discovered in a madman’s cave in Tora Bora, er, presented to the US Congress by the Department of Defense last week, but as all I would have said was, ‘good luck, but you won’t be able to do it, so it’s pointless (and expensive to try)’ you’ve heard it before. Much like the mutterings about Saudi Arabia, the nuttier neo-con fringe of the Republican party wonders about ‘punishing’ the Hun by withdrawing US forces stationed there. A sweet dream, but unlikely, for even now neo-cons are no more than the knitting women beside the guillotine – they’re still not the serious, practical types actually running the empire. Thus it is that it’s ever more weird that this utterly foreign ideology is what The Daily Telegraph serves up to us as the national interest. There’s a lesson there to be learnt, and we will, eventually.

– Christopher Montgomery

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Christopher Montgomery is an historian who is currently writing a book on the historiography of the Suez crisis, and is publisher of ERO. He recently took some time out to run the Iain Duncan Smith campaign office, and for a while was working in the private office of the Leader of the Opposition. A young representative of the diehard tradition, he believes that Enoch Powell was right on everything apart from immigration.

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