May 26, 2005
Don't Preach To Us Either
From an excellent profile of John McCain in the current New Yorker (not available online; but here is a related interview of the author of the New Yorker piece):
Wolfgang Ischinger, the German Ambassador to the United States, who attended the conference in Munich and listened with interest to McCain's speech, tried to explain the view from the other side. "As older societies, we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve, and we tend to be skeptical of Americans who seem to think that if you believe hard enough, and you muster enough resources, you can change the world...In the last year or so, as we've engaged in discussions about the transformation of the Middle East and democracy, I have told my American friends that the region in this world that has seen the most transformation and change is Central and Eastern Europe--without shedding a drop of blood. So don't preach to us. And don't think transformative change will work according to mechanistic rules. This is very complicated. Changing the way people think often has to do with religious and cultural issues--we tend to think of them as long-term, and Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!"
Mark Udall, a Democratic representative from Colorado, and the son of McCain's friend and mentor Mo Udall, the longtime congressman from Arizona, was a member of the congressional delegation in Munich. "John likes to challenge friend and foe," Udall said. But the breakfast was surprising even by McCain standards. "I hadn't seen him quite as fierce as he was at that breakfast," Udall, who has attended the conference for the last several years, said. The German official who was involved in the negotiations with the Iranians was describing the process, Udall recalled, "and John interrupted him on two or three occasions, saying, Why are you doing this, why are you doing that, and it was borderline rude. He even pushed the diplomatic protocol there. But I think he was trying to make a point that this was very serious, and that just talking to the Iranians was not going to get the job done."
One of the Germans who was present recalled, "John McCain spoke more than any other participant at the breakfast. He was the leader. He said, 'Why don't you guys help us out in Iraq?' And one of our guys said, 'But we have, we have trained police.' McCain said, 'That's laughable!' He crushed them. But it was a battle of people who were not equals--a U.S. senator and Presidential candidate, full of self-confidence, and a bureaucrat, extremely restricted, with instructions about what he can say. It was not a fair match.
"Was it helpful?" the German participant asked. "Surely not. I don't think he was interested in listening to why we believe this is the best way forward. John McCain is like a charging bull. He loves to fight," the official added. "That morning, it didn't win him new friends." [emphasis in the original]
Oh, what a pity. I'm sure McCain would be devastated to hear this. I have to say, reading this kind of risible crap gets me in the mood to say let's all get behind John Bolton, shall we, and send him to USUN soonest. Particularly the comments of the German Ambassador to Washington, Wolfgang Ischinger, so dripping with condescension, disingenuousness and hypocrisy: "we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve," "(t)his is very complicated, "(c)hanging the way people think often has to do with religious and cultural issues...Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!" I mean, how many silly, tired, protest-placard stereotypes can the good Ambassador mutter on about in one short interview with the New Yorker? Or does he seriously believe Washington policymakers aren't aware that democratization of Iraq isn't a long, multi-year (perhaps generational) task? Or that people in the Beltway are unawares that, er, religious and cultural factors play a role in the Iraq effort? Has he followed the roiling debates about a Sistani or a Sadr amidst U.S elites and commentariat (whether in think-tanks, in newspapers, in the blogosphere, even, on occasion, on television)? Does he appreciate the complex nature of the American effort currently underway to cobble together national governance structures in Iraq--with all the attendant balancing of ethnicities and assurances of minority rights? Or would the Germans (always so delicate when dealing with such things)--would they be so much more nuanced and refined? Are we such primitives toiling away in Manhattan and NW Washington? Are Zal Khalilzad, John Negroponte, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Bob Zoellick--are they all this effing dumb? C'mon, let's get serious, OK? Look, this might play well in the streets of Hamburg or Cologne, but it shouldn't be uttered by a German Ambassador to the United States. Not one that wishes to be taken seriously in his host country, that is.
But what really got me was the breezy evocation of the contemporary history of Central and Eastern Europe as a way to teach us boorish Americans how it is done. Without firing a shot, see! No bloodshed, no Iraq style carnage! Think of the ironies contained in the statement. Let's review the bidding a bit, just as a form of reality check, no? Speaking of Central and Eastern Europe, why not start with Hitler's invasion of Poland and the Sudetenland? Followed, heuresement, by the U.S. led victory over the scourge of National Socialism during WWII. Then America's long struggle against Soviet Communism that, finally in the early '90s, led to the dissolution of the Soviet hegemon. On the heels of this victory (yes, it took quite a bit of effort!), a skillful handling of German reunification in the early 90's by the Bush 41 administration to ensure a relatively smooth post-Cold War European transition. All this was part and parcel of bringing about a peaceful Central and Eastern Europe, no? Not to mention American economic assistance with the transition to free market economies in the 90s that continues until today, a lead American role in the troubled Balkans helping ensure stability in Central Europe, and much more. Sorry to be so undiplomatic here at B.D., but let's all call mega-bullshit on Wolfgang, shall we? And say in unison: don't preach to us! At least if the preaching is going to be of such mediocre quality, positively reeking of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty as it does. Oh, and yes my German friends, training a few Iraqi police units is laughable. If it weren't so sad an abdication of a responsible leadership role on the international stage. More on the growing European malaise and crisis of leadership later tonight, time permitting.
Posted by Gregory at May 26, 2005 01:45 AM
Medienkritik and Transatlantic Intelligencer both suggest that the SPD and Schroeder/Fischer made a strategic decision to embrace simplistic anti-Americanism as a means to paper over the divide of the need for domestic reform to enhance basic economic competitiveness (which boils down to increasing worker productivity) and the need for social cohesion by massive welfare payments in the face of huge economic stagnation (particularly in the East).
The further suggestion is that Chirac has embraced this as well, seeing it's success in Germany.
Oddly, Rice has supposedly pushed a policy of forgive Russia, ignore Germany, and punish France while Bush when asked says he respects Chirac since Chirac let him know upfront he opposed any intervention in Iraq but said Schroeder reneged on a personal promise to support American diplomacy at the least.
One final thought, German diplomacy in August 2002 unilaterally sought to disapprove of any action, absent any effort to co-ordinate with the EU. This should give food for thought for any EU country concerned about how much weight common EU diplomatic policies would have (which is to say, none at all).
Given this, it would seem to me that more benefit would accrue smaller countries concerned about being hurt by German unilateral diplomacy (Netherlands, Belgium, the Scandanavian countries) by seeking ties to the US rather than Germany where security and terrorism deterrence is concerned. That McCain who's about as moderate as Republicans get would provoke this response suggests there is a wide gap between Germans and Americans.
Germans see no real security or terror threat at all, and don't believe military force is needed for much of anything, and conceptually Americans see the opposite (though many differ on the details).
Amnesty International labelling the US the worlds worst human rights violator (Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Russia, Nigeria all get passes I guess) is part of this problem.
"As older societies, we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve ..."
More personal knowledge of how societies devolve as well.
Devastatingly sharp commentary, BD. Just devastating. I'm forwarding it everywhere.
Re German Ambassador Ischinger's comment, “my American friends that the region in this world that has seen the most transformation and change is Central and Eastern Europe--without shedding a drop of blood….” Tell that to the decades of American service members who served on the ramparts of the free world. Tell that to the members that died in training, crashed, crushed, burned, drowned, were shot and fought and died to insure that our word to defend Europe meant exactly what we said. Tell it to the taxpayers who subsidized this defense. The fishermen that had to go to sea and drown, to pay those taxes. The miners who died to pay the taxes, the millions of American workers who were absent from their families so that Germans could have their little socialist paradise and wallow in delusional fantasies. Further let the German Ambassador tell the Catholic Priest that were drowned in Poland, the strikers shot in Hungary and the millions of Eastern dissidents that were tortured and imprisoned.
So the Ambassador , not satisfied to be insulting, is stupid too.
"...we tend to think of them as long-term, and Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!"
Yes, the Germans have historically preferred to think in Thousand Year increments. And the Soviets sure had us beat with their Five Year Plans.
Funny, I don't recall either of those strategies working out very well.
My initial thought is, wasn't Germany a collection of principalities when the U.S. Constitution was signed? Wasn't it almost century after that when Germany congealed as a nation?
Okay, I'm a Greg too, but I spent two years in the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in the late sixties. The German Ambassador is a fool. Without blood? Does he seriously believe that the Cold War was won without blood? (And I don't refer to accidents, either. Americans shed blood for Europe in general and Germany in particular almost as soon as the Second World War ended. Tell the Hungarians, the Poles, the Czechs and Slovaks that the Cold War was won without blood... tell the Muslims in Bosnia that Europe cared about them enough to stay the hands of the mass murderers loose in what had once been Yugoslovia. And then not just Bosnia, but Slovenia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Tell the Albanians that Europe came to their aid, to throw off the Communists. Italy did, the Americans came. Europe? Hah!
Europe has spent the last fifty years trying to forget their history. Granted, that history hasn't been that pretty and it's easy to understand why they'd want to forget. The worst part is, everytime they forget, of late, Americans pay the price in blood.
Good Lord, this from the country that evolved the Kaiser, the Nazi Party, the “Master Race,” and the Holocaust?
Well, we tend to think of America as more experienced in rescuing people from death and enslavement caused by the way your societies evolve.
"we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve,"
Adam beat me to the comment I was about to make about Germany's experience with devolution, but just to make the point more explicit: Someone from a country with serious population-replacement problems, economic malaise and glacial assimilation of an undigested Muslim population should be far more reluctant to boast of his nation's being "more experienced in the way societies evolve."
Chapeau! Wonderful summary of the German point of view. Is it possible such an enlightened people started two world wars?
Well done, as usual, Gregg.
Always interesting to have the same folks who gave us a pair of world wars, industrialized genocide, and the economic and environmental 'miracles' of communism lecture Americans on matters of global order maintenance. European 'sophistication' and 'nuance' has all too often led to stacks of corpses.
Compare this unbroken track record of failure to the unprecendented improvements in the human condition during the past 50 years -- lifespan, literacy, wealth creation, poverty and infant mortality reduction -- improvements exceeding those of the previous 500 years and directly attributable to the promotion and expansion of economic activity and trade. Notice also which powers exercised hegemony over the institutions of global management during each period.
Funny, but "solve(ing) the problem in the next four years!" seemed to work for European fascism in the middle of the last century.
Once you get down off the ceiling (don't worry, I'm there too--what a fool!), here's a speech Brent Scowcroft made back in the day that describes exactly what you're talking about. Then Robert Kagan came in with "Of Paradise And Power" to say it better.
What is it with these guys that they feel comfortable saying this in public, especially here? Why are they happy to say stuff like that?
In an utterly perverse way, the German ambasssador illustrates the seemingly inevitable fruits of our victory - ingratitude and hubris - for something they never could have achieved on their own.
Not that we should forgive him.
In equally perverse fashion, we should probably be hoping for the same from the middle east in thirty or more years - it will probably serve as confirmation for our victory.
Pity that we humans are so fallible.
"As older societies..."
I'm VERY TIRED of that. With the possible exception of England (not the UK as a whole), the US has been a going concern for longer than any Euro polity.
Take the two biggies. France is on what, the 5th Republic? Not counting two Napoleonic Empires.
Germany? When the US was established, "Germany" was a collection of mini-states on the order of Luxembourg. Then a sort of federation. Then an empire. Then a quasi-democracy. Then empire (Reich) again. Then partly a democracy, partly an oligarchy. Became a single country (sort of) about two decades [or less] ago.
It is time for these upstarts to start respecting their elders.
For the sake of discussion, let's give the Germans full credit for engineering the transformation of central and eastern Europe without a shot.
Their previous effort to transform European societies led to something like 40 million dead.
That averages out to 20 million dead per German effort to transform Europe. Forgive me for being too stingy to offer a pat on the back.
Hmmm, fix it in four years... so, why not? Regardless of whether or not this German Fop Ambassador, and his ilk, can be properly edumacated to the proper Stratergery of Freedom, why not in four years? Bite off a piece, chew it up.
Considering the shape his own government is in, Herr Ambassador probably won't have a job this time next year, so let him vent while he can...
Mr. Ischinger must be the most hypocritical man on the planet. “Four years?” “Without shedding a drop of blood?” What the hell is he talking about? Was it not Germany that invaded Poland and launched the world into war, requiring the Americans to destroy the cancerous national socialist (Nazi for short) movement in Europe? Come to think of it, wasn’t it Germany that started both World Wars? If Germany hadn’t, in its great experience and wisdom, invaded every country in its vicinity those poor eastern and central European countries wouldn’t have had to exist in a Soviet slave state for the next 50 years, but because of Germany, they did, and more than a few drops of blood were shed. Million of human beings in these central and eastern European states were butchered (and not just Jews) as a direct result of the “experienced” Germans. And does he actually imagine that it was the Germans that caused the U.S.S.R. to splinter, allowing the eastern bloc states to regain their identities and become free nations again? Hilarious! Delusional! The Cold War may not have had many spectacular battles (though the Korean and Vietnam Wars do ring a bell), but it was expensive and the United States bore its financial burden almost exclusively. The Europeans as a whole couldn’t even handle that bloody little spat in their backyard, in Bosnia and Kosovo. They had to call on the Americans to fix things. Why should we Americans shed our blood in Bosnia and Kosovo, we asked? Because Europe is a tinderbox and the conflict in this tiny part of Europe could spread. At great cost, both financially and in blood, Americans spent their treasure and continue to do so to protect European interests. Now, not after four years but after 60 years, the US has plans to finally pull its military out of Germany itself and guess who is kicking and screaming about it… the Germans! Talk about changing people’s minds! We Americans have been changing the world for a very long time now, not that Mr. Ischinger the "ambASSador" would give a damn.
(I feel better now. Think I'll go post this on 4rwws.)
I can't wait till the first Ischinger vs. Bolton bout.
Sigh. It's becoming increasingly apparent that we're going to have to free Europe AGAIN in my lifetime. These guys have a seemingly infinite supply of self-delusion and wishfull thinking....
"As older societies..."
Did Ischinger just admit that Germany is a member of Old Europe?
France is on what, the 5th Republic? Not counting two Napoleonic Empires.
Darn. I've written this up, but not for my blog. Let me see if I can find it.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FRANCE SINCE THE REVOLUTION
1789-1792 Period of increasing strife, culminating in French Revolution (technically, the first of many French revolutions)
1792-1804 Chaos (also known as the First Republic)
1792-1795 The Convention
1795-1799 The Directory
1799-1804 The Consulate
1804-1815 Empire of Napoleon I
1815-1830 Restoration of Bourbon monarchs.
1830-1848 Louis-Philippe rules as King of the French. (Yeah, they had a revolution and ended up with another king.)
1848-1852 Chaos (also known as the Second Republic)
1851 Napoleon III kicks the bastards out
1852-1870 Empire of Napoleon III
1870-1940 Third Republic - which, for France, doesn't suck too badly
1871 Attempts at restoration of monarchy fail
1871 Paris Commune
1877 Attempts at restoration of monarchy fail
1940-1944 German occupation, Vichy government
1940 British sink French fleet, French actually fight back for first time in WWII
1945 France rescued by U.S. and Britain
1946 Attempts at restoration of monarchy fail
1946-1958 Fourth Republic
1958-present Long slow decline (also known as the Fifth Republic)
So, five republics (the first of which was bloody chaos for the most part), two empires, two monarchies, and an occupation government. And that's without being picky about the various changes during the First Republic, the attempts at restoration, various spots of anarchy, and so on.
The "older society" of France has yet to turn fifty.
It is striking how utterly self-absorbed, narcissistic, and unaware of their surroundings the current class of European leadership seems to be. Ambassador Ingrate, or Imbecile, or Ischinger, or whatever his name is, apparently has no idea how he is viewed by anyone outside the circle of fools he went to college with. Talk about not making any friends. What went wrong with their education system? I thought ours was in trouble, but the average American teenager is more aware of his surroundings than the diplomats of Old Europe.
Hmm, I see he makes no mention the evil IRBM's that those warmongers Reagan and Thatcher foisted on an unwilling Western Europe. What a fool--in addition to all the actual bloodshed others have cited here, we had in those missiles an enormous supply of bloodshed-on-demand. That we--fortunately--never needed to use them says, among other things, that the Soviet leaders were nowhere near as deluded as this German is.
Great outrage at his inexcusable intellectual arrogance. You said it so nicely:the breezy evocation of the contemporary history of Central and Eastern Europe as a way to teach us boorish Americans how it is done.
Now I wonder what his public position was on Reagan's deployment of missiles (really, I wonder)? In any case, too many seem to be of the opinion that the fall of the Evil Empire was sort of inevitable -- so paying any cost in blood is too high a price.
My own disagreement with your assertions that more troops in Iraq are needed is based on Vietnam -- with a lot more troops, and more occupation, and failure; especially failure of Vietnamization of the war (and our refusal to fund the S. when we ran away). I think fewer troops, and more chaos in Iraq, mean that Iraqis will own their security sooner (the Americans couldn't do it). But I'm also not certain what is optimal.
"How it is done" -- but what if it has never been done before?
My problem with most critics of Bush, like Amnesty, Kerry & Dems, and this German, is they all seem to assume the failure of evil even if good folk do nothing. I don't see it happening. I really like that you, usually, are offering constructive criticism -- you think Bush is fighting evil in a frequently sub-optimal way (more or less troops). Most critics think Bush is wrong to even fight, and want to be proven right rather than want to stop the evil. They're essentially on the other side.
Thanks Pixy. I am too lazy to do that much researxh. I am satisfied with knowing that in the Nineteenth both Britain and Russia had [proto-]German consort/rulers (Catherine and Albert: neither was just a figurehead, either).
And that (France) was at least geographically pretty stable during the period, Alsace-Lorraine notwithstanding. I'm certainly not going to dig into all the "German", Austrian, and "Austro-Hungarian" states.
As an attendee of the Munich Security Conference since the early 90s, I'm always left with the impression that European behavior in general and German behavior specifically is schizophrenic. Like the teenager who is afraid of being on his own while demanding independence from his parents, Europe/Germany continue to whine for assurances that the U.S. still thinks it important while attempting to prove it is grown up by refusing to cooperate on any issue of importance. Senator McCain is a breath of fresh air in an environment that drowns in nuance.
Damn, this post just owned up all over the place. I'll be returning for more...
Anyone who thinks things are going to change once Schroeder is kicked out of office (if he even is) needs to take off their rose-colored glasses right now. The arrogant attitude and ignorant historical knowledge displayed by this ambassador is common in Germany. During the build-up to this Gulf War, I can remember only ONE voice of sanity in the German media, and that was Hans Dietrich Genser. Merkel is a lot more pro US than the SPD, but probably 80% of Germans view the US the way this 'diplomat'* does.
*Scare quotes used deliberately.
Are we such primitives toiling away in Manhattan and NW Washington? Are Zal Khalilzad, John Negroponte, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Bob Zoellick--are they all this effing dumb?
with the possible exception of Zoellick, the record shows that they are even more "effing dumb" than you can imagine. These are, after all, the "geniuses" that brought us the Iraq war, the nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea, and the loss of international credibility and stature for the USA.
These are the "geniuses" who ignored, then lied about, warnings of terrorists attacks, who thought that we really didn't need to have a plan for post-invasion Iraq, etc. etc.....
But perhaps more crucially, Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Bolton, etc are even more "effing dumb" than the list of incompetents and liars you provided, and they are calling the shots.
Ambassador Ischinger, do you speak Russian?
This discussion is quite something for somebody living on the other side of the Atlantic. The statement by the German Ambassador in relation to the bloodless revolution in E. Europe are obviously B.S. when taking into consideration the what happened since WWII. But let's not forget, the US is not the only country to have made substantial sacrifices to save the "free world" and when you're giving, you eventually also get something in return (be it economic or political power). What I find most menacing however, are the reactions in some of the statements above. I sense this huge amount of hatred against an (important) German politician who tries to highlight differences in diplomatic styles. Forget all this talk about the past. These comments are specifically aimed at the current talks the Brits, French and Germans are having with Iran over the nuclear programs. This is all part of the game Europe and the US are trying to play to get these fundamentalist to stop going nuclear. Military action is not an option at the moment and therefore we all need to go the diplomatic way in this matter. Most importantly we should stop blaming each other what happened over the last 300 years and look what we can do today to secure our interest and let our societies prosper. Only together are we capable to avert today's, and especially tomorrow's threats which will come from somewhere else in the world. We have our differences, but reacting with such animosity to political comments is not the answer. The world cannot be divided into good or bad. What's in-between is important.
I guess they think appeasment and getting rich from trading with tyrants represents the more experienced and long-term approach to ending genocide, transforming the Middle East, and changing the way people think. Of course, they do have some experience in genocide. You would think that they would understand better than anyone that appeasement can be fatal. The most ridiculous comment is on Eastern and Central Europe. Who do they think paid the price for that result? Talk to the families of those lost during WWII and the Cold War. Talk to the American taxpayer that continues to fund their defense today.
To the contrary, there is insufficient animosity to the stupid comments of the german ambassador. Perhaps if the animosity were to rise to the appropriate level, such fools would be forced to resign in shame or to think about what they say, for a change.
Like university professors and journalists, diplomats are allowed to crap all over the public without being called to account. Fortunately the new media has arrived on the scene just in time to illuminate this problem.
Yes appeasement. Didn’t work before WW II, but this does not mean that it definately does not work. Anyway, do you think that the US (be it with the Brits, Italians, etc…) can just march into a country that inhabits roughly 70 million people who are used to very huge sacrifices when in a state of war (Iran/Iraq war). Sorry to tell you, but currently the US army is overstrechted. Secondly I would not use the word genocide too often. There used to be quite a lot of Native Americans from where you come from. Thirdly, as I mentioned before the US made a lot of sacrifices, but what about the Russians in WW II. They lost 27 million people and without their push the Western Allies could not have opened the Western Front in Normandy. And please don’t give me the stuff about trading with tyrants. What about some of those nice Central American countries you sold weapons to in the 1980’s. Or should I mention that you also did business with Saddam himself. I don’t want to start pointing the finger. But what I find inappropriate is the some Americans think that they are the only true democracy, which always acts in an altruistic way. Forget it my friend. The US also has their agenda, a fact that is perfectly fine, but stop trying to hide it behind something else. (wma in Iraq for example).
Yes appeasement. Didn’t work before WW II, but this does not mean that it definately does not work. Anyway, do you think that the US (be it with the Brits, Italians, etc…) can just march into a country that inhabits roughly 70 million people who are used to very huge sacrifices when in a state of war (Iran/Iraq war). Sorry to tell you, but currently the US army is overstrechted. Secondly I would not use the word genocide too often. There used to be quite a lot of Native Americans from where you come from. Thirdly, as I mentioned before the US made a lot of sacrifices, but what about the Russians in WW II. They lost 27 million people and without their push the Western Allies could not have opened the Western Front in Normandy. And please don’t give me the stuff about trading with tyrants. What about some of those nice Central American countries you sold weapons to in the 1980’s. Or should I mention that you also did business with Saddam himself. I don’t want to start pointing the finger. But what I find inappropriate is that some Americans think that they are the only true democracy, which always acts in an altruistic way. Forget it my friend. The US also has their agenda, a fact that is perfectly fine, but stop trying to hide it behind something else. (wmd in Iraq for example).
while I agree with most of what Gregg and the commentators here say, it IS true that the good Senator from Arizona, whom I admire muchly, CAN be rather on the abrasive side, no? I suspect there quite a few members of the current administration who would say so - quite a few who would say even harsher things about McCain, even.
Really, theres what you say, and theres how you say it. There are times when you need to say things gruffly to get through - we may need to be rather more overt with Mr Karimov in Uzbekistan, forex, and with Mubarak. But I dont think such gruffness is needed, at this moment, with Germany. Or at least not across the board. The Iran situation is urgent, and may require a slap in the face to wake our allies - but calling the German training of police laughable is not called for. What do we expect - German troops on the ground in Iraq? From all I can see of German sentiment, theres a snowballs chance in hell of that happening (which BTW, is one of the problems i had with hawkish Dems who said that we could have gotten German troops if only wed been more multilateral)
"Most importantly we should stop blaming each other what happened over the last 300 years and look what we can do today to secure our interest and let our societies prosper."
Mike, I think everyone would be happy enough to concentrate on the issues at hand. The reason people in this thread are commenting on the past is because the Mr. Ischinger made the past a major part of his argument; he tried to build credibility for the German point of view by pointing out that they are old and therefore have wisdom (two things that don't always go together, as I'm sure you're aware), and also that a bloodless revolution was effected in Europe (a misconception that has been cleared up by the comments above). The commenters are picking apart his view of the past because that view informs his present strategy on how this should be handled, and also informs his present condescension toward American policy. Therefore, in this specific discussion, the German Ambassador himself has made the past inextricable from the present.
To address your concerns about the America-centric tone of the discussion, Mr. Ischinger was specifically targeting America in his comments... he did not say they were skeptical of idealistic Russians, but of Americans. Thus, the commenters focus on American contributions to European freedoms, because these facts are most relevant to countering Mr. Ischinger's argument.
First, as noted in previous comments, central and eastern Europe were not liberated without bloodshed. Second, the only reason the blood was measurable in drops was the credible promise by the US to shed it in buckets, both ours and our enemies'.
In view of all the other material in the German ambassador's statement it may be tempting to overlook the observation that Americans tend to think in terms of solving major problems in a time frame no greater than four years, the length of a Presidential term.
In fact, most new American administrations do tend to think this way, and nearly all of them have key supporters who believe that naturally all foreign problems were the fault of the prior administration and can be fixed fairly quickly. Eisenhower Republicans spoke of rolling back Communism is Europe; Kennedy Democrats were sure they could get America moving again at home and in the world; Jimmy Carter was going to make the world more moral. So this is not a new thing, though President Bush has if anything been more eager than past Presidents to act as if everything done before January 20, 2001 was wrong.
Most administration eventually learn the value of continuity in foreign policy, value that derives precisely from the fact that so many problems don't get resolved in the course of one Presidential term. The problem I note with the German ambassador's statement is that I along with many Americans suspect that his government is less concerned with continuity than with avoidng criticism at home -- and that it expects less criticism if it maintains a public distance from the United States on the Iranian nuclear question.
I suspect Germany as well of taking a Canadian attitude toward Iranian nuclear weapons. Germans would rather Iran not go nuclear because Germans are virtuous and unusually peaceloving people, but if Iran really wants to go nuclear it is not a major problem for Germany, and nothing to get too excited about. That this attitude represents German abdication of its responsibilities as a world power is a thought that comes naturally to Americans, and perhaps to some people in the British government as well. But Germany has little history of taking a responsible role in world affairs. When it has not been a problem for its neighbors it has usually been content to take its foreign policy direction from Washington or Paris. In its current situation Germany seems to me tempted to address pressing security issues with good intentions and gestures that cost it nothing.
John McCain can see as well as anyone else that the only chance Iran can be dissuaded from building a nuclear arsenal lies in the Western democracies maintaining a tough and united front. He can't be blamed for wondering if the soft part of the line is the one the Germans hold.
John Anderson - France had a pretty stable environment in the nineteenth century. I guess you forgot about the Franco/Prussian War when the French invaded Germany and the Prussians laid seige to Paris in 1871. The French government fled Paris and had to sue for peace.
Mike said: "What I find most menacing however, are the reactions in some of the statements above. I sense this huge amount of hatred against an (important) German politician who tries to highlight differences in diplomatic styles."
If the other commenters will permit me to presumtuously speak on their behalf, we are angry because of the arrogance and hostility that Europeans such as that German ambassador have shown to us for decades. I'm old enough to remember the nasty rhetoric coming out of Europe even 25 years ago, and a growing disgust with such vile nastiness goes a long way to explaining why I now have utterly no remaining patience for such asswipes. If you want Americans to stop telling you to, er, fuck off, then stop calling Americans ignorant and stupid and racist and fascist. You have no moral right whatsoever to object to somebody becoming angry in response to long-term abuse and demonization.
No, we Americans have no illusions that we are simon-pure, but you might want to consider the unjustifiably high self-regard implicit in the sanctimonious preaching and hectoring emanating from Europe. To steal a standard slogan from the left, "Americans faults are many, lefties only two: Everything they say, and everything they do."
Can someone figure out how to email these comments to the German Embassy in Washington so the idiot knows what we think of him?
I've lived in Euroland (not by choice) off and on since the mid 80s. What the ambassador stated is the principal attitude held here. And I dare say it's gotten much worse since the fall of the Sovs. They have this way of simply reinventing history in their own minds that is astounding. They speak one way when they know I'm about and a different way to my face. It's hilarious. These people are not out friends or allies. There's a good reason why our Euro ancestors fled to the U.S. in the 1800s. Never forget it.
pst314. First of all. Yes there is and there always has been an anti-American sentiment in Europe. This is normal as not one population thinks the same way. I strongly object to what you are saying concerning the fact that since decades we have treated you with arrogance and hostility. I grew up in Europe and most of the people always held the US in high regards and treated you with respect. Many still do in fact. We have differences in our political views (and much of this is due to the current administration). Why the hell are you writing in a way that makes me think you are just about to shoot somebody. I think it’s mostly a product of your imagination that you think that Europeans look at Americans as ignorant and stupid. On the other hand judging by what you are writing I think you are as unilateral and unwilling to look at the world from a different angle.
I'm only an ignorant American, unschooled in history, so please help me understand an instance where appeasement has worked in the past by providing an example?
America does not believe that it is the only true democracy, but the American agenda of neutralizing or eliminating threats to itself and the rest of western society is clearly a threat to those states whose interest extends only to themselves. The American agenda understands that we need Europe and Asia.
The response to Herr Ischinger's comments are wholly justified, as he displayed a very typical "modern German" revision of the facts in attempting to position Germany as a leader in dealing with the middle east. Ischinger's comments indicate pretty clearly that Germany thinks it can go it alone.
Of course Herr Ischinger is appalled by the brash, foolish naiveté of the Liberal Americans stomping about, causing troubles. He is, after all, a good Reactionary Conservative just like the rest of the good old buys inhabiting the Chancelleries of Europe. He could quite easily pull up a chair and reminisce over the pre-Westphallian ‘good old days’ with von Metternich without batting an eye.
What is not shocking is how little things have really changed in Europe since Liberalism hit the sage on world politics, but rather how people are still surprised by it.
Mike, you just don't get it. No nation has been as generous towards the continent of Europe than the US. And yet again and again the response from Europe is anti-American bigotry. The views of the German Ambassador are not his alone and have been expressed by others: Europe is old and wise, America is young and should defer to the grand wisdom of its European betters. There are millions of Americans who have grown weary of this condescension and ungratefulness and we are asking ourselves why we should be as generous in the future as we have been in the past. It's hard any longer to find a reason. Let me turn your accusation back on you, it seems that you are unwilling to understand our perspective, to put yourself in our shoes, to look at the world from our perspective.
You write: "I think it’s mostly a product of your imagination that you think that Europeans look at Americans as ignorant and stupid." Mr. Ischinger said, "we tend to be skeptical of Americans who seem to think that if you believe hard enough, and you muster enough resources, you can change the world." These two statements aren't easily reconciled; it's obvious that Mr. Ischinger believes, at least, that Americans are naive. It's gratifying that you yourself apparently don't subscribe to his point of view, but given the fact that he's Germany's ambassador to the US and you're a commenter on a blog, his point of view presumably carries more weight with the German government than yours.
Americans speak forcefully at times because we have a long history (the longest) of being able to do so without fear of imprisonment or other repercussions besides sometimes having to eat our words. In the Great and Glorious Tradition of Multiculturalism, why is it that American culture is the only one not given a union card?
(Before you argue that there is no "American culture," yes, sir, there is. The fact that it comprises parts of many other cultures does not in any way either disqualify it as a culture or distinguish it from virtually any other culture in the world.)
Yes, let's not go arguing about who killed who...
Funny, Mike, but I didn't notice any references to guns in pst134's comments. But no doubt you find them "menacing" for your own reasons--and not because you're relying on any anti-American stereotypes.
But...you have to admit that you did not address any of the substantive points in either ali's or pst134's posts. You chose instead to pretend that the enormous strain of irrational, absurd, pointless, asinine anti-Americanism evinced by everyone from the man-on-the-street to high-level politicians--and often rising to the level of spitting hatred--is some sort low-level cultural misunderstanding. Please. If you can't be honest, don't bother commenting.
Yes, the fatuous arrogance now coming out of Europe is truly infuriating.
But all of the world’s worst crap has come from Europe for the last 150 years.
Think of the two World Wars, and the two massive Hitler and Stalin genocides. Think of colonialism, fascism, communism, socialism, Nazism. Think of the continual and continuing appeasement of bloodthirsty dictators. Think of do-nothing indifference to genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur. Think of the corrupt business deals with oil dictators in Iraq, Iran, & Sudan.
America has spent most of the last century trying to bail Europe out of these “sophisticated” stupidities.
Given their history, I question whether Europe is even civilized, much less sophisticated.
America will be proudly unilateral as long as Europe is so dangerously useless.
“Only the Americans can save us from annihilation. If they do not come, there will soon be no Muslims left in the former Yugoslavia. The Europeans will debate until we are all dead.” --Alija Izetbegovich, President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1993.
Sort of like the Third Reich, Wolfgang?
"As older societies, we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve ...we tend to think of them as long-term, and Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!"
So...Americans go for the quick fix, whereas Germans go for the Final Solution?
Sounds about right.
It has never been clear to me why Germany thinks it has a right to claim that it is an "older society". As a nation Germany isn't as old as the United States of America. As a government, it is barely as old as my parents -- and, of course, the only reason that government exists at all is because other nations, primarily the United States, set it in place.
Sure, the people living in Germany have a culture that stretches back for many centuries. But so do the people living in the USA -- who, after all, are almost all descendants of Europeans. The difference between American culture and German culture is not one of age, but one of diversity and complexity -- the culture of my French and German ancestors has, since they came to America, evolved and integrated into the cultures of the other immigrants to this nation.
The problem is recent events have proven the western Europeans in general (excepting Britain and Italy) and the French and Germans specifically have decisively demonstrated they are faithless allies, incapable and unwilling to take aggressive action to secure themselves and western civilization from this threat and, adding insult to injury, lecturing us while campaigning against us in domestic elections and making common cause with our enemies and potential enemies.
Or do you have a better explanation for the UN's Oil for Palaces and Bribes program and the French and German intense desire to sell weapons to the Chinese, against all of our interests? Blaming Bush is a cop out of the weakest kind, so don’t even go there.
the region in this world that has seen the most transformation and change is Central and Eastern Europe--without shedding a drop of blood.
I think the German amabassador doesn't feel the need to be very precise when it comes to the lifes of other people. In my part of Eastern Europe, Romania, the transformation and change were preluded by lots of blooshed.
The German amabassador should talk about the bloodless changes to the families of the ones who died violently, while demonstrating for freedom. I could take him to visit the cemetery where most of those who died are burried. I am a peaceful person, but I would love to violently rub the ambassador's face in the blood of my own relatives who died in December 1989.
It is this kind of EU-arrogance towards anyone who holds a different opinon that will eventually bring the downfall of the the EU utopia(at least in its present form). Ignoring recent historical facts and minimizing the suffering of others are not a good basis for trustworthy relationships.
For a comparative analysis of Amnesty International's 'Human Rights' 'Report' about which the previously respected organisation blasted America for running a 'Gulag' at Guantanamo, check here:
Big shock: America gets over *three times* as much space in the 'report' as those beacons of human rights, Cuba and Belarus.
Over twice as much space is spent trashing the USA as is spent on North Korea.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe are all substantially behind the Great Satan of the United States.
All you self-righteous right-wing nihilist should get used to this statement:
"YANKEE, GO HOME!!!"
The British were sweeter and nicer and kinder to the American colonialists...and the Americans still wanted them out.
Why would an Iraqi be any different?
It's interesting that the comments thus far refer to Amb. Ischinger's remarks as indicative of European or at least German feelings about the United States.
I'm not sure they are, and in any event this misses their point. Ischinger was explicating a rationale for passivity and reaction in German foreign policy, especially toward dangerous issues like Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and political change in the Middle East. Germany wishes to initiate no action on such issues, and will go along with actions by her allies only if she has no choice. Talk of a "different perspective on history" and so forth is only a way of justifying this preference.
Whether one thinks the above a defense of Ischinger depends on whether one thinks that German sentiments toward us or German government policy is more important.
And by the way...Hitler and Napolean only dreamed of doing to their fellow Europeans what the United States did to the Indians...
The American holocaust against Indians shows why Amercia is the beacon of "Democratic" Imperialism. Tyrants can only dream of such carnage and mass murder.
And by the way...Hitler and Napoleon only dreamed of doing to their fellow Europeans what the United States did to the Indians...
The American holocaust against Indians shows why America is the beacon of "Democratic" Imperialism. Tyrants can only dream of such carnage and mass murder.
MIKE Said - "Thirdly, as I mentioned before the US made a lot of sacrifices, but what about the Russians in WW II. They lost 27 million people and without their push the Western Allies could not have opened the Western Front in Normandy."
Along with all the other posters who have pointed out where you have gone wrong, just where did you learn your history from?
The Russians were begging for England and the U.S. to start a "Second Front" and could not have broken out without the help of the U.S. (in the form of cash and hardware). Don't try to rewrite history as you see fit, it makes you as pompous as Herr Ischinger!
Oh you mean kinda like the socialist utopias that purged 65 million in USSR & 30 million People's Republic of China? Looks like the benevolent tyrants you pine after did more then dream.
Here's a phrase you should get used to hearing.
Marxism is dead..D E A D !
As Captain Renault put it to another puffed-up German in Casablanca, "Never underestimate American blundering. I was with them when they blundered into Berlin."
"And by the way...Hitler and Napoleon only dreamed of doing to their fellow Europeans what the United States did to the Indians...
The American holocaust against Indians shows why America is the beacon of "Democratic" Imperialism. Tyrants can only dream of such carnage and mass murder."
Oh yes, lets do go back and paint a picture... As has been pointed out Europe has been the model of neighborly love these last two centuries.
Yes. You are right, Gregory. Even if it's "my" ambassador. I have the same problems as everyone as here has. I have them every day. I even left my job - at the MSM - because I couldn't stand that shit any more.
But, yes, there are people, even in Germany, who beg to differ. There is a milieu of dissidents that is growing. Some are bloggers, some are at MSM, some are in politics. And there is Angie. Angela Merkel. She will be the next chancellor. Schröder was Old Europe, Angie is - New Europe. She knows the difference between totalitarism and freedom, because she has lived it, as a former east-european citizen. Her future secretary of state will be Wolfgang Gerhardt, he is also not on the wrong side.
Ischinger is part of the left-liberal - socialdemocratic - establishment. These people have always been against westernization, also in the early days of Adenauer. They had their great days from '68 onwards, when they saw the Americans as the new nazis (anti-Vietnam, anti-capitalist). This is a special kind of national socialism. But their time is running out. Angie is really different. There is hope.
I write more on this on my website. Just click on my name.
Hoo-Ahhh - DJ is BACK!
Very well done.
Oh,and Bill Snowden?
Brilliant, just Brilliant - I'm using that one.
And by the way...Hitler and Napolean only dreamed of doing to their fellow Europeans what the United States did to the Indians...
The American holocaust against Indians shows why Amercia is the beacon of "Democratic" Imperialism. Tyrants can only dream of such carnage and mass murder.
Posted by: NeoDude at May 26, 2005 07:29 PM
Don't know much about History do you? MY ancestors were driven from their homeland to Oklahoma on what is called the Trail of Tears but "I" know what you "think" you "know is" Bull Shit
Your phoney Swiss email address is as realistic as your view of history. Gruetzi wohl! anyway
Your Konsul in San Francisco has made remarks similar to those of the German Amb-ass-ador in speeches in my presence.
So as you sleep with SIG under the bed and peddle your swiss Army 27 kilo bike up the St Gotthard, you should know that most Germans seem to have gotten all their understanding from Karl May novels.
Of course, appeasement has worked. Your diplomacy kept Switzerland out of WWII. Mstly by giving Hitler a free pass through Switzerland, while selling arms to his allies. All the while filling your banks with the money of fleeing jews...and then holding it for over 50 years.
What a modern country you live in. Just when did you allow women to vote?
Dear Kalifornia Mike
Nice little story with the bike and army knife. But why don’t we try to stick to the subject and stop the useless ridicule.
The e-mail address is not phoney. Concerning WWII our diplomacy did keep us out of the war and we did let goods pass from Italy to Germany and back. Mistakes were also made in relation to dormant bank accounts. However, you say that we sold arms to Germany’s allies. What are you talking about? I don’t think that a country of 6 mln people had a huge arms industry that makes a difference and secondly we did not sell arms to anybody in WWII. Also, why don’t you mention that we accepted 65,000 civilian refugees? Yes, towards the end the Swiss did turn down thousands as some argued that the “boat was full”.
You might have forgotten that also Washington closed US borders to Jews fleeing Nazi oppression.
By staying neutral we were able to take refugees, while being surrounded by Axis controlled territory. And let’s not forget we are virtually the only country that objectively looked at its role in WWII and we did compensate accordingly. Other countries are still hiding the true facts. Why don’t you start looking at Sweden’s role? Vichy government? Dutch collaborators? We made mistakes and we paid. On the other hand we did help a lot of people.
The ambassador also ignored the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. Old Europe couldn't even shut down a war in its own back yard. Seems "soft power" is like some men's foreplay - two hours of begging.
SIG refers to firearms and not Victronix or Wenger! Perhaps you should talk with some of your older Swiss brothers, who saw trainloads of German troops cross through Switzerland with shuttered windowed trains. In other words, the Swiss chose safety over courage.
I was just pointing out that when you preach about US history, you should realize that others are capable of pointing out your shortcomings also.
Hitler feared having to invade Switzerland. He may have been able to do it, but at a cost so high that he sought to get the best he could through diplomatic means.
Are you telling me the Swiss didn't sell military goods to the Germans and the Italians? Heavy machinery to aid the German war effort?
As for those "dormant" bank accounts. Why were they hidden? Why were they raided?
As for others, including the Vichy French and the Swedes, when I hear their preaching I will address them.
So when you visit the Bundesbriefe Museum and the Ruetli, remember that Swiss hands are not exactly clean. At least you now limit your mercenaries to the Vatican.
Ich wohne in Neu-Steiermark! As a point of information. We have our own real Alps with real Edelweiss that is not imported but native to the Trinity Alps!
We also make a pretty good Swiss cheese.
Not to mention all the indian tribal casinos.
The German speaking folks of Europe still get their view of the United States from Karl May novels.
I've got nothing against Switzerland but the United States did take in half of the surviving Jewish refugees, not to forget thousands of other European refugees following WW2. We're also the major international impetus behind the creation of the State of Israel for the other half of Jewish refugees.
Some historians theorize by the Swiss acting as Nazi bankers, the war was kept going 18 months-2 years longer than it should have.
And "mistakes were made" on the bank accounts?
Why the passive voice?
A 50-year mistake.
o.k. one comment from a German.
Let us take Belarussia as an example. This is a country that doens`t had any revolution yet since Gorbatchev times. It´s ruled by one president.
Germany: Do they care? Diplomads? Maybe they are scared about another request of joining EU after a democratic regime change. Where is the pressure against this one man regime. Change and risk: The Germans don´t like it.
Poland: Would like to see a change in Belarussia.
Russia: It´s good that Germany is quiet about Belarussia. Already Russian media are blaming the US, Soros and others for beeing involved in giving subsidies for Lukashenko critics and helping establishing non governmental structures. Like in Ukraine.
USA: I hope you do know better, I am not informed.
Germany is indeed the weak link re. Iran, not least because of Germany's desperate need to increase exports. Look at it from Schroeder's POV: economic growth, weak to begin with, has just been revised downward yet again and is approaching zero. You can't do much in the short term to stimulate domestic demand, and the ECB shows no sign of reconsidering its foolish monetarist stance. So the only source of any real economic relief is to sign deals for Siemens, VW etc with the likes of China and Iran.
The Germans are under massive economic pressure now, with no easy way out. Count on them to cave in to the mullahs.
Yes appeasement. Didn’t work before WW II, but this does not mean that it definately does not work.
Yes it does. Rudyard Kipling pointed out the thousand-year-failure of appeasement. Actually its failure is older than that, but anyway:
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:
"We invaded you last night - we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!
It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:
"We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"