Thursday, February 20, 2003

The Woman Who Should Be German Chancellor

Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany's Christian Democrats, provides us with her view of German-American relations in today's Washington Post. Merkel takes the traditional view of German (at least West German) leaders since World War II: Germany cannot go it alone, it must work with the US. She understands both the historical and philosophic reasons why Germany needs to maintain its close ties to America. This isn't to say she rejects efforts to improve relations with France. A month or so ago she ran an editorial in le Figaro lauding the Franco-German rapprochement. But unlike Schroeder, she knows whatever good has come from improved relations between France and Germany, this cannot replace the important role the US plays in preserving German stability.

This points us to an additional problem however. Germany has an alternative to Gerhard Schroeder, but what do we see when we look to France? Unfortunately, Jacques Chirac and his centre-right government are about as pro-American as it gets on the French political spectrum today. When the right replace Lionel Jospin's socialists in 2002, I had hoped that Chirac would not follow the path he has. Now, I'm not arguing that Chirac is essentially anti-American. I don't believe he is. The problem is that Chirac is using the perception that the US is a dangerous hyper-power, a myth often nurtured by the EU bureaucracy, as a foil against which to assert French independence. This is my main objection to Chirac's recent behavior. Behind this approach lies a great deal of historical and philosophic baggage that I will deal with in upcoming posts. But the results of such a policy will, I believe, be dangerous, but not for the US. The road Chirac is now taking is one that will harm France more than anyone else. He's confused an independent foreign policy with an obstructionist policy. It is one his nation will come to regret.

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