The Restive Allies
The florid and reckless war rhetoric of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is the stuff British tabloids are made of. Likening the latest recalcitrant foreign leader to Hitler is the sort of thing readers on the London tube expect to find in between sex scandals and cleavage photos. It does not go down so well on the continent, however, where frank enthusiasm for laser-bombing alien populations has yet to become an accepted form of mass entertainment. Cook's "overblown language" is almost more than one can stand to hear, Willy Wimmer, a Christian Democratic member of the German Bundestag said recently. In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, he expressed worry at NATO's apparent unwillingness to seek a negotiated settlement with Belgrade. The "very extreme positions of foreign secretary Cook" revealed a clear attempt to drag NATO into "a major war in the Balkans", he said. Wimmer interpreted the desperate efforts of several European NATO governments countries to promote negotiations as stemming from their gradual recognition that they could find themselves in serious trouble in the future if everything is decided by "the right of the strongest, that is the US".
The US and Britain appear determined to force an unconditional surrrender on Belgrade, Wimmer observed. Once the war is over, he suggested, all the questions concerning the legal basis for NATO's war, questions currently being shoved under the table, could come before the courts. This raised the sharp suspicion that one of the motives for pursuing war to the bitter end is to see to it that "international tribunals judge only one side" -- the losing side of course. Last week, the BBC invited people to debate the question as to whether or not "Serbia can reform itself". Several speakers, such as university lecturer Mark Wheeler, answered in the negative, declaring that Serbia's collective guilt required foreign occupation and a "denazification" process such as took place in Germany after World War II. This of course implies unconditional surrender. Wimmer expressed some alarm at comparisons of Yugoslavia with Eichmann and Hitler alarming, wondering where Europe was heading. According to the Berliner Zeitung, Wimmer did not rule out the prospect of Washington and London carrying on their Balkan war alone, without the rest of NATO, as they are doing in Iraq. As vice president of the parliamentary assembly of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Wimmer has followed events leading to the NATO bombing with a very critical eye. In particular, he was aware that European observers did not agree that Serbian repression of "Kosovo Liberation Army" rebels warranted a NATO attack in the first place. In his open criticism of the war, he is not typical of the conservative side of the German political spectrum. Most of the opposition to the war comes from the left and the trade union movement. Europe's largest union, IG Metall, has taken a strong stand against the NATO bombing.
The fact that the NATO war was initially advocated by a left of center government headed by Social Democratic chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Green foreign minister Joschka Fischer on "humanitarian" grounds succeeded, in Germany as in other NATO countries with center-left governments, in initially silencing potential opposition. Still, consternation has spread through the rank and file of both parties. The Greens in particular have been losing members as a result. Since Fischer has justified the bombing on grounds that Germany has a special responsibility to combat any repetition of "Auschwitz", the anti-war minority around the Young Green Alternative movement is organizing a campaign to point out that Kosovo is not "Auschwitz".
Meanwhile, Gregor Gysi, leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism, heir to the former East German communist party, voices opposition within the Bundestag, while outside the parliament left-wing intellectuals are busy building a new anti-war movement based on solid legal, historical and political arguments. Opposition to NATO's war is particularly widespread in Eastern Germany, but is growing in the West as well in view of the miserable results of "humanitarian" bombing. The German press, although traditionally anti-Serb in its editorials, is perhaps the most thorough of all in its factual reporting, and thereby often neutral and fair. There is also a relatively low circulation leftist press, including daily newspapers, all highly critical of NATO in general and Germany's participation in war against Yugoslavia in particular. Anti-war demonstrations and meetings are being held frequently throughout the country.
All this helps explain why Chancellor Schroeder this week quite categorically ruled out German participation in a ground war to conquer Kosovo. But there are certainly other reasons. The U.S.-led war is devastating the economies of southeastern Europe, an area largely within the German economic sphere of interest. It has blocked the Danube River, a main trade thoroughfare leading from Germany to the Black Sea. It is ruining relations with Russia and even raising the chances of an eventual military conflict with Russia -- an experience which the vast majority of Germans have no desire to repeat. It is leading NATO into an unforeseeable series of wars, ostensibly for easily trumped up "humanitarian" reasons, that can be expected to serve geostrategic interests defined in Washington.
Throughout Europe, but especially in Germany, Italy, and France, on both the left and the right, the conviction has been growing that the Kosovo war is essentially an Anglo-American "war against Europe". Britain, which refused to adopt the common European currency, is pursuing its traditional policy of keeping the continent divided as it urges the United States on in a war for which Europe risks paying a heavy price, not only economically but politically and morally as well.