The February edition of Cicero has a number of excellent essays concerning US - German relations, and what chances there might be for improvement in a Second Bush administration. One of the best pieces is by the Berlin writer Peter Schneider, who has been spending the year as "writer-in-residence" at Georgetown University in Washington DC. So he has had a close-up view of the political divide in America - a divide that has grown even deeper since the election of November 2. I find the observations and analysis in his essay Verdammt zur Partnerschaft (literally: "Damned to parthership") accurate and balanced. I have translated the concluding passages:
From a moral standpoint, Bush’s America has can no longer lay claim for the leadership of the democratic west. The preemptive war in Iraq, the system of abuse and disenfranchisement of prisoners in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the masterminding of the voting irregularities in the 2000 and 2004 elections which disadvantaged the African-American voters, the blurring of the boundaries between church and state – none of this can be reconciled to the self-image and mission of the US as the beacon of liberty and human rights everywhere in the world.
Europeans now have to adjust to a partner on the other side of the Atlantic that has been transformed; they must react to the glaring contradictions between America’s self-image and its politics and at the same time find their own solutions. It would be dangerous for Europe, in pursuing its own path, to minimize the threat of Islamic totalitarianism, or, like Michael Moore and his legion of fans in Europe, to declare it a figment of the imagination. Many critics of the war in Iraq act as if everything would be fine in Iraq and the Middle East if only Saddam Hussein were still in power. The fact that one out every seven Germans believe that US agents were somehow behind or involved in the attacks on 9/11 – a similar number of French and Italians believe in such a conspiracy – shows how much Europe has become stuck in a stupid, even infantile, anti-Americanism. But the other danger is that European political leaders – in an effort to distance themselves from ant-Americanism and “feel-good” pacifism – will ignore America’s reckless use of military power and pledge blind loyalty to the alliance. An example of this kind of behavior was displayed by Angela Merkel during her visit to Washington DC in spring of 2003 when she called for closing ranks with the US – without uttering one critical word about the invasion of Iraq – as if it were the duty of Germany to follow America into any war, even into a war that was rejected by the majority of Americans themselves. A similar logic was displayed by the Atlantik-Bruecke e.V when it took out a full-page ad in the New York Times shortly for the launch of the Iraq invasion and listed everything the Germans were grateful to the US for: liberation from fascism, security shield during the Cold War, for the reunification of Germany. Many American readers were touched by this tribute, but were equally confused when they observed that 80 to 90% of all Germans were passionately opposed to the war in Iraq.
The US-German alliance cannot be stitched back together through displays of obedience. It is about time for German political leaders to think beyond a partnership with those who currently hold power in the White House, and build a bridge to the cosmopolitan and liberal America which may be out of power for some time to come. For “blue America” demands that Europe defend the ‘moral values’ of democratic civilization with confidence and resoluteness – values that George W. Bush and his people have abandoned in the name of “War on Terror”.
I like the idea of political leaders reaching out to democrats in the US. We know that a sizable percentage of Americans share the same values of mainstream Europeans. By working together now, "blue" Americans and Europeans can work towards an alliance of equals, rather than one dominated by US interests.