« Beyond the fringe | Main | Another reputation worth revising »

May 10, 2004


Anthony C

Don't forget, it was also Brandt's government who conspired with the Palestinians to mock up a fake airline hijacking in order to give the German government an excuse to release the suriving terrorists from the Munich Olympics. Without doubt one of the most brazenly, elaborately cowardly acts in recent political history.

Peter Cuthbertson

"Brandt in the 1980s sided with the majority view in his party that Europe should reject Nato's twin-track strategy of deploying new euromissiles while negotiating on arms control. As such he helped secure a prolonged period of opposition, impotence and futile sloganising for Germany's Social Democrats."

I wish I could recall who it was noted how thankful we should all be that it was George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl who were there at that point in time to see down the Berlin Wall, not Michael Dukakis, Neil Kinnock and Willy Brandt.


I can't comment on the content of this piece, as it is beyond my ken, except to take exception to the use of the term "anti-Americanism". This is a reactionary, meaningless buzz-term, if you will, and is used as perjorative shorthand for opposition to the policies of the current administration, which opposition is certainly not antiAmerican.

Michael B


I'd both agree and disagree. Some critics of policy are thoughtful, some are in fact merely anti-American, little and perhaps nothing more than that, again, depending on the specific example. Without the distinctive quality a specific example provides (i.e., couched only as a generalization) the statement is almost meaningless.


Willy Brandt's brand (heh!) of appeasement reminds me of American isolationists before World War II. In both cases, the understandable human longing for peace and safety led to abandonment of principles. Pre-war Republicans, like Cold War Social Democrats, were willing to let totalitarian regimes crush democracy and liberty elsewhere, as long as their own freedoms and comforts remained unmolested. Events taught American isolationists the wrongness of their position; European isolationists are yet to receive their lesson. No argument can be as persuasive as direct experience of the consequences of one's own mistakes. Let us hope that the tuition fee will not be excessive.


I think you're being unfair on Schroder. He was very quick to offer the US Germany's support after 9/11 and quickly committed German forces to the Afghan operations (and indeed still does). His opposition to the war in Iraq was arguably informed more by pleasing his own constituency (which is understandable) and concern over international law than "anti-Americanism". Schroder was also quick to patch things up with Bush and the United States after the fall of Saddam Hussein and announce that both the US and Germany had shared interests in a stable and free Iraq. To accuse him of both "anti-Americanism" and being a terrible Chancellor based on his response to one single American-led action does both him and your own, usually spot-on, observations a disservice.


During the last German election Schroder's Justice minister compared Bush to Hitler, Schroder kept her in place until after the general elction. I think this does count as anti americanism. It is true that Schroder has recently tried to reconcile Germany and the US but it seems as if he is trying to reap the domestic benefits of exploiting anti americanism without taking responsiblity for his behaviour on the world stage.

Michael B

"A drama is not history, an audience is not its arbiter, and a playwright is not on oath."

That's a nice line, succinct, timely and telling. There is very little genuine iconoclasm alive today, what passes for it is little more than an obdurately superficial quality, superficial because it tends more toward a politically correct conformism as gloss and veneer than anything very supple, focused or appreciable.

Rather than iconoclasm there's much overweening iconophilia; thus plays, films, magazine covers, etc. that provide reassurring images rather than the telling, incisive word that cuts to the quick, demanding reappraisal - or reaffirmation of waning convictions.

Jim Miller

Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall that one of Brandt's closest aides turned out to be an East German agent. Is that correct? And, if so, could he (she?) have had any influence on his policies?


Hindsight is a marvelous thing, particularly when it's so well written. But I do think your judgement on Brandt is overly harsh. You say that by coming to an accommodation with the East Germans he became an appeaser, but that only works if Brandt and the people around him regarded the cold war as a dynamic battle that could feasibly be won by one side in the foreseeable future.

I don't believe that's how people did see the cold war. No one expected the Berlin Wall to come down when it did, and the collapse of the Soviet Union came as a genuine surprise to most people. In the 1970s, there was no reason to assume that the cold war wouldn't stretch out for decades.

In that context, it doesn't seem quite so terrible that some people sought to reach an acommodation with the communists. If that accommodation stabilised the world and allowed people to live their lives without the constant of an atom bomb attack, then wasn't that worth it?

Brandt in particular faced a divided nation and a communist state on his doorstep. Adenauer had attempted to ignore the east, Brandt recognised it and attempted to normalise the two countries' relationship. If you were in a cold war for the long run, then I think that made a lot of sense. That's certainly how his countrymen and women saw it at the time.

The comments to this entry are closed.