The elite media seem mesmerized by Franco-German opposition to war on Iraq. Even though 18 other European countries have pledged support and assistance to the U.S. in the event of war. Despite repeated corrections, Fox News Sunday’s Mara Liasson continues to worry about the U.S. “going it alone” against Iraq. But the media have ignored the domestic political considerations driving Franco-German diplomacy at the United Nations or in NATO.
Following just these media outlets, for example, the public would know almost nothing about French or German assistance to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs. They would not know about the mountain of public and private debt incurred by Saddam Hussein and the fears in France and Germany that this debt might be erased by Saddam’s successors. The media treat Franco-German opposition as if it were monolithic and rarely highlight the differences between France and Germany if war does come. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of hints that France will support U.S. military action in the end. European analysts are watching the movement of France’s aircraft carrier The Charles de Gaulle, which has been deployed to Crete and could go on to the Gulf.
Germany Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder, on the other hand, is unwavering in his opposition to the use of force to disarm Iraq. He has told his parliament that Iraq can be disarmed without war. Schroeder has ruled out German participation or support to military operations even if a second UN resolution authorizes the use of force. But his hard-line opposition to war is beginning to have domestic political consequences.
To be sure, polling data show that German public opinion overwhelmingly opposes war. But now members of his ruling coalition, especially his Green Party foreign minister, think he has gone too far. That official reportedly believes that war is inevitable and, like the French, wants to keep Germany’s options open. And the German business community is becoming very uneasy about damage to commercial ties done by Schroeder’s anti-American campaign. The U.S. is Germany’s second largest trading partner and German businesses are sponsoring full page newspaper advertisements expressing appreciation for America’s historic friendship and support.
In Germany, Schroeder’s behavior is now being compared to Kaiser Wilhelm’s ham-fisted diplomacy prior to World War I. Schroeder is said to have been “extremely irresponsible” in his conduct of foreign affairs, just like the Kaiser. He stands accused of having “destroyed the work of decades in months.” A highly respected retired German army commander writes that, “Berlin could be the gravedigger of NATO with the European Union and the UN following as further victims.”
It is ironic that media outlets that boast about their foreign coverage have ignored the domestic roots and motivations of German policy. News analysts, like the Times’ Patrick Tyler, prefer to blame America for “not trying harder” to preserve US-European relations. But the elite media like to blame America first.