Jewish World Review August 22, 2005/ 17 Av,
Steel from the Iron Lady
In an attempt to make their Iron Lady ("eiserne Dame") look more
casual, her campaign handlers scheduled a photo-op on her fishing holiday.
She posed in baggy trousers and sneakers, standing next to a big fish. A
distaff Ernest Hemingway she is not.
This wouldn't be important if she still had the comfortable lead
over Chancellor Gerhard Schroder she held through the spring, but the lead
has melted with the heat of summer. In the era of image over all, she has
not played to her strengths as a strategist. She isn't saying how she would
put unemployed Germans and there are lots of them back to work.
A weakened Angela Merkel is worrisome for the United States,
because Chancellor Schroder, who won an election three years ago by running
against George W. Bush, is making similar noises of desperation again.
"Prior to the last German election," reports der Spiegel, the
German newsmagazine, "Gerhard Schroder went on the offensive against U.S.
military intervention in Iraq, and now like the leopard who cannot change
his spots Schroder has pulled the same trick again, warning the U.S.
against an invasion of Iran."
This time he's attacking a straw man who hardly resembles
President Bush. Too bad for him, the president is not invading Iran. What
the chancellor seized on was the president's answer to an Israeli reporter's
question about whether force would ever be used to prevent the Iranian
nuclear enrichment program, a necessary prelude to building nuclear weapons.
"All options are on the table," Mr. Bush replied. "The use of force is the
last option for any president." What else could any American president say?
The next day, the German leopard leaped at a phantom. "Let's
leave the military option aside," he told a campaign rally. "We have seen it
doesn't amount to anything." It was a particularly obtuse reading of the
president's remarks to say nothing of history by a German chancellor.
Angela Merkel's campaign is in trouble not because she won't win
a plurality of the vote, which she probably will, but because she might not
win the absolute majority required in the German system before a challenging
party can take power. Without the majority, her conservative Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) might have to form a coalition with Chancellor
Schroder's Social Democratic Party (SPD), further paralyzing the government
and putting off the reforms needed to resuscitate the moribund German
Frau Merkel wants to be George W.'s friend, and she has scolded
the chancellor for damaging relations with Washington. The chancellor's
injection of Iran into the election campaign is not without severe risks.
Wolfgang Schauble, the foreign policy chief of Frau Merkel's party, calls
him callously irresponsible. "He's acting as though the problem were in
Washington, rather than in Tehran, even though he knows that isn't the
case," he said. "The chancellor is creating the fatal impression in Tehran
that the international community is not resolute."
A foreign-policy spokesman for another dissenting party agrees:
"The subject is too serious for it to be introduced into the German election
campaign, in any form." At the moment, the leader of Germany, along with
those of France and even Britain, is trying to wipe away the traces of
Iranian egg. Only two years ago the foreign ministers of the three countries
returned home, having persuaded Iran to suspend temporarily its uranium
conversion and enrichment program, sounding a lot like Neville Chamberlain
after Munich, declaring that their "soft diplomacy" worked. Now they're all
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meant to monitor
Iran's nuclear conversions, is a cocker spaniel of a watchdog. When the
mullahs resumed enriching uranium, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the
monitors, told the mullahs that he hoped "this is a hiccup in the process
and not a permanent rupture." Bow, wow.
Well, there's still a little left of summer, and I'm off to the
beach with my visiting Berliner twin granddaughters (and their parents) for
a belated celebration of their first birthdays, to take the sun and put my
feet in the sand. But the sand is no place for wise heads elsewhere, as
Angela Merkel is trying to warn her countrymen.
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