Merkel, McCain – Different Messengers, Different Response
Interesting dynamic going on as Germany and the U.S. talk policy and the current situation with Iran.
Sabre-rattling Europe and emollient US will soon settle down to business as usual WHEN European and US policymakers, led by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, gathered in Munich over the weekend to consider the state of the transatlantic alliance, the themes that have divided them in recent years were prominent again.
On one side there was emollience, restraint and an emphasis on diplomatic approaches to international crises, especially in the present stand-off with Iran. On the other were apocalyptic warnings, belligerent talk and a confrontational approach with the WestÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s potential enemies.
The odd thing was that, for once, it was Europeans who took the most confrontational line and the most unlikely Americans who emphasised calm and diplomacy.
Frau Merkel, in a blunt and pugnacious speech, attacked the Iranian Government for pressing ahead with its nuclear programme in defiance of international opinion.
Using a rhetorical device often employed by Americans to justify pre-emptive action, she said that Adolf Hitler could have been stopped in the 1930s if the world had taken stronger action against him sooner. And she denounced the recent inflammatory remarks made about Israel by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Yes, having this sentiment expressed by Germany instead of the U.S. policymakers, strikes a chord that may be harder to ignore. Alas, rhetoric can be just that, rhetoric.
Mr Rumsfeld, by contrast, was a model of diplomatic behaviour. He praised the allianceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s historic achievements and said that the United States favoured a negotiated solution to the Iranian crisis. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe must continue to seek a diplomatic solution to stopping the development of its uranium enrichment programme,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? he said.
The strange reversal of roles was another example of the improved relationship between the US and Europe in the past year, driven in part by a more conciliatory US foreign policy and, in recent months, by the political changes in Germany.
There was almost no discussion of Iraq, the subject that has caused such anger here in the past few years. Instead there was an emphasis on shared values and goals.
And yet, beneath the undoubted improvement in the rhetoric, the hard reality of policy may still pose serious potential differences along more familiar lines in the near future.
Frau Merkel, despite her tough talk, insisted that the Iranian crisis could be resolved only by negotiations, not military action.
And while Mr Rumsfeld was conciliatory, John McCain, the Arizona senator, said that the US must keep open the military option against Tehran.
Mr McCain, in characteristically blunt form, once again demonstrated his willingness to outflank the Bush Administration as an advocate for a hawkish foreign policy.
Just as having Germany deliver the tough talk against Iran is viewed as more palatable than the U.S. expressing the same stance, it appears as if the same can be said for McCain delivering a more hawkish view of the situation than if those words were uttered by George W. or members of his administration.
Personally, I’ve always respected McCain and look forward to seeing what he can bring to the table in the 2008 election.
I’m curious though why McCain is not challenged to the degree as the current administration when it comes to promising military action … should the messenger make that much of a difference?