Thursday, February 24, 2005

Der Spiegel Compares Bush and Reagan

The new Der Spiegel has an article that compares Bush's recent speech in Germany to President Reagan's Berlin speech where he called on Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down that wall." Link.
When George W. Bush requests that Chancellor Schroeder -- who, by the way, was also not entirely complimentary of Reagan's 1987 speech -- and Germany become more engaged in the Middle East, everybody on the German side will nod affably. But despite all of the sugar coating the trans-Atlantic relationship has received in recent days, Germany's foreign policy depends on differentiating itself from the United States. And when Bush leaves Europe, the differences will remain. Indeed, Bush's idea of a Middle Eastern democracy imported at the tip of a bayonet is, for Schroeder's Social Democratic Party and his coalition partner the Green Party, the hysterical offspring of the American neo-cons. Even German conservatives find the idea that Arabic countries could transform themselves into enlightened democracies somewhat absurd. (...)

It was difficult not to cringe during Reagan's speech in 1987. He didn't leave a single Berlin cliché out of his script. At the end of it, most experts agreed that his demand for the removal of the Wall was inopportune, utopian and crazy.

Yet three years later, East Germany had disappeared from the map. Gorbachev had a lot to do with it, but it was the East Germans who played the larger role. When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen. And maybe history can repeat itself. Maybe the people of Syria, Iran or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did. When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.

It looks like some Germans are starting to get it. The successful election in Iraq, the mini-municipal elections in Saudia Arabia, the anti-Syria demonstrations in Beirut, the anti-Mubarak demonstrations in Cairo, - the list is getting longer, and it is penetrating some very-thick old-European skulls. When the Berlin Wall and then the Soviet Union fell, the Europeans had Gorbachev to give the credit to, so they were able to heartily praise events, as long as they didn't have to praise Reagan. Now, if only they can come up with someone other than George W. Bush to credit, maybe they will fall over themselves praising events in the Middle East.


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