It is good to see you in Germany. The war in Iraq is over. Sadly, terrorism persists. Still, the memory of our transatlantic disagreement will not linger forever. The core issue behind it, though, needs to be resolved: The international legitimacy of America’s new national security doctrine, including preemptive wars.
Currently, you are the only leading politician who has actually fought (and was wounded) as a combat-soldier. During your past tenure in government, you laid down a military doctrine: Never go to war unless your own nation stands behind its purpose and its strategic goals are undisputed. The same doctrine was invoked by our government last year. The Germans did not want to go to war against Iraq, period.
You may wonder how reliable Schröder’s and Fischer’s government really is. Yet you know that from the first days of their administration in 1998, both politicians adamantly supported American requests regarding military interventions in Kosovo, later in Afghanistan and Macedonia – placing their political future on the line.
Old Europe is aware that you harbor doubts about America’s possible role as an act-alone hegemon of the world. In the long run, American unilateralism in the war against terrorism could prove to be detrimental to the United States – and hence to its allies. On the other hand, Germany needs to understand that "rogue states" do exist and that something needs to be done about them. Still, wars are nothing but well organized violence. Western civilizations have excelled at this. We must, however, not set bad examples for the rest of the world, which may come back to haunt us.
Thousands of war-cemeteries all over Europe, many of them American, bear testimony to our sad history. By now we all recognize that wars are never the best solution. The use of military power is tempting to those who have it, yet it tends to weaken political rationality. The United States and Europe need to reaffirm their common experiences that wars are truly the last resort in any crisis.
We may disagree on the role of the United Nations. We may squabble about global ecological rules. We may not see eye to eye on how to fight famine, organized crime or the oppression of women in other countries. States whose citizens are suppressed by messianic ideologues or by a disregard of human rights are a threat to democratic aspirations and to civilized resolutions of international conflicts. Both Americans and Europeans acknowledge the existence of these concerns. We need to address them together. We must arrive at a common strategy towards peace, prosperity and security in a world without terrorism – a world which currently is threatened by an ever growing gap between rich and poor nations.
Your visit in Germany demonstrates your commitment to an alliance based on mutual values.