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Common goals

Foreign Minister Fischer is spending the week in the US (he'd rather be vacationing in Italy, I'm sure), his first visit there since the Iraq war. Steven den Beste took the opportunity to point out he has a snowball's chance in hell of patching up German-American relations. I disagree, however, with Steven's contention that the motivations of France and Germany in regards to Iraq can be thrown into the same pot. (And what's this about Rumsfeld wanting German troops in Iraq? Or was he just wishing for the unattainable?)

Yesterday morning I heard SPD foreign affairs expert and Schröder critic Hans-Ulrich Klose in an interview by NDR Info radio . He contends that both the Europeans and Americans made big mistakes on the Iraq issue, but that whatever Schadenfreude the Europeans might feel, they don't really want the US to fail in Iraq. The Google translation of the interview is not quite intelligible, so I've cleaned it up below.

Klose: American presence in Iraq important for stability in the Near East
Hans Ulrich Klose, SPD, vice-chairman of the foreign committee in the
Bundestag

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer meets today with representatives of the
US government in Washington. He will speak with his US colleague Colin
Powell and with Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. It is the first US
visit of the Foreign Minister since the Iraq war. At that time
German-American relations were heavily strained by the "no" of the German
Government to the war. Therefore Fischer's visit is also an attempt to
better relations. Questions for Hans Ulrich Klose of the SPD,
vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Bundestag.

NDR info.: Mr. Klose, how you judge the current relationship between the
USA and Germany?

Klose: It's beginning to improve. One must add however, the problems
between Europeans and Americans are not only attributable to the attitude
in the Iraq war. The relationship changed after the end of the cold war
and because America, not least due to the experiences in the Kosovo war,
has at least partly lost interest in NATO. The Iraq war brought the debate
to a head.

NDR info.: At that time you violently criticized the chancellor because of
his categorical No to the participation of the German Federal Armed Forces
at the Iraq war. Do you see that differently today?

Klose: No, there I must correct you: I did not criticize the chancellor
because of his No to the war, because I was also not for the war. I
criticized the chancellor because of his diplomatic mistakes, the fact
that he specified his position unilaterally, under the title of "the
German way", and he declared that, "whatever the UN decides, we will not
participate". This political behavior indeed questioned the very
principles of German foreign policy. And that was the core of my
criticism.

NDR info.: Now however the the arguments of US president, which at that
time justified the war, are being disproved. Did he also no make clear
mistakes?

Klose: The Americans made at least as many mistakes as the Europeans. One
can say, the political management around this conflict was deplarably bad
on both sides of the Atlantic. One of the largest American errors consists
of the fact that they did not plausibly state the reasons for their
intervention in Iraq. However, the error of the Europeans lay in the fact
that many of them deliberately minimized the danger posed by Iraq.

NDR info.: The question now is, how can German-American relations become
closer again. Unofficially the USA wish that German German Federal Armed
Forces soldiers would engage themselves in the postwar Iraq. Chancellor
Schroeder rejected this, Fischer also. Was this correct?

Klose: I believe indeed that German soldiers in the Iraq would not be
useful at present, in order to be honest, because one cannot go into such
an deployment without intensive preparation. Successes of the German
soldiers with "nation building" in other parts of the world lay in it that
they were excellently trained, with the right attitude to adjust to
certain situations. One does not create that from today to tomorrow.
Perhaps it would be possible to refer to the civilian component. In Iraq
an entire country is to be developed, from the municipalities to up to the
central level. And there the Germans could bring in specific strengths.
And if it concerns a symbolic military gesture to to be made, surely also
the chancellor and the foreign minister will be willing to discuss it.

NDR info.: They have already said, a symbolic gesture is not enough, in a
country, in which there is so much to be actually done.

Klose: Correct. Therefore it would be better, that each country would
bring in the strengths which they have. The principle must be however that
we, the Germans, we, the Europeans, have no interest that the Americans
faile in Iraq fail and withdraw themselves possibly prematurely. One can
formulate: the greater danger for stability in the Near East is not that
the Americans might remain too long - no, the danger is that that they do
not stay long enough.

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