By Axel Brot
08/08/07 "Asia Times" -- - Not so many years ago, many hoped Europe might step up as a counterweight to US imperial policies. Such hopes were focused in particular on Germany - not only as the leading European power, but as a known moderating, non-military force in international politics.
US vituperation of the reputed European preference for diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution as well as official Britain, in the person of Richard Cooper, former prime minister Tony Blair's international-relations guru, deemed it necessary to lecture "post-industrial Europe" about the need for "double standards" and colonial ruthlessness to beat down benighted non-Westerners, seemed to give substance to these hopes.
Well, Germany and the European Union did step up - but rather differently than expected. And it was no electoral twitch that set the stage for "better be wrong with the United States than being right against it". Since Angela Merkel's visit to Washington (as the conservative opposition leader) on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, to denounce then-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision to oppose the war, the return to US good graces was not only the main conservative foreign-policy project; it turned rapidly into the supreme project of the German political class - including the Social Democrats.
Merkel became the chancellor-to-go-to, the most trusted European interlocutor for the US political class to work jointly and determinedly to harden US global hegemony against the consequences of America's Iraq-inflicted weakness - this not only in the wider Middle East but also, and especially, with regard to Russia and China, the Bush administration's original enemy of choice before the "birth pangs of a new Middle East" consumed so much of its political capital.
Overcoming the domestic constraints on its ability to use the German army more extensively for "humanitarian interventions", for the defense of "Western civilization" against Islamist terrorism, is an important, though not the most important, part of the Merkel government's "the West united behind the US" policy. Notwithstanding the absence of public debate on its strategic implications - eg, of the US (and Israeli) doctrine of preventive war, the abolition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's geographical restrictions, the mission of "securing access to raw materials" - the rejection on general principles of a more activist military role by a majority of Germans has not (yet) been overcome.
This has far-reaching consequences: it has, in a significant way, rebooted German elite attitudes and expectations toward the EU, and toward Germany's relationship with France. The public discourse about foreign policy as well as the underlying elite mindset is changing - from "responsibly conservative" to the channeling of the demons Hannah Arendt dealt with in her search for the origins of 20th-century disorder: (British) imperialism, Western militarism and racism. And since the majority of Germans is (again) far behind the curve of elite opinion, the efforts of "re-educating" them (as Der Spiegel recently demanded again) are as consistently strident as they are mythologizing.
But there are also quite a number of senior officials and politicians, still serving or retired, who are looking with dismay or worry at the evolution of German policies in response to the crisis of US-German relations. Their publicly voiced concerns are focused on the expansion of German military commitments - of the easy to get into, but next to impossible to get out of sort - and the rapid deterioration of relations with Russia.
In addition, among the small number of senior experts on international economics, a majority are looking with deep foreboding at the mounting instabilities of the international financial system. They see them driven by the huge trade imbalances of the US and the growing threat to leverage them against the creditor nations - in particular against China, Russia, and the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that are running large surpluses.
The US congressionally mandated financial sanctions against such countries as Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea are taken, moreover, as indicators that the United States is about to destroy the trust the international financial system is based upon. The consequences of its eventual - sooner rather than later - meltdown will be dramatic and uncontrollable.
These warning voices are, though, in the wings of the German debate. The stage is held by the narrative of the terrorist menace. But there are very few serious experts who sincerely believe that Islamist terrorism is motivated by their hate for "Western freedoms and values". Hate and the desire for revenge are certainly crucial elements; but this has not much to do with Western culture or with the alleged humiliating realization of Muslim inferiority.
If one should be looking for causes, the decades of violence the West visited upon these countries, either directly or through its dependent regimes, is a necessary part of the explanation. The other part, of course, would have to face the fact that it was the West that transformed weak and isolated fundamentalist cells into its terrorist Golem. It nurtured, trained, financed, organized and used it for decades in terror campaigns against secular nationalist and socialist regimes and movements until those were defeated or isolated, leaving their compromised remnants to do the Western bidding.
Though Germany was not in the forefront of Middle East meddling, it was fully engaged in creating and empowering a Wahhabi-Salafist coalition to fight the Soviets and the communist regime in Afghanistan - the central front in the global anti-communist offensive that appeared to have turned terrorism on three continents into the Western weapon of choice.
And for the Middle East this still seems to be the case. It is seen in the Western use of Sunni terror groups (and the anti-Iranian-government Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, as well as the Iranian sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers Party) against Iran, and against the ascendent Shi'ites in Lebanon.
But the mythologization of al-Qaeda and the "clash (in German, war) of civilizations" serves to legitimize the readiness for endless war. In the words of a retired German official: "We have been walking the world over the cliff, and are falling into a sea of blood."
All of this does not only involve ideological re-rigging. In the US wake, Germany is running up the pennant of permanent war. The following should serve to provide a view into some of its particulars.
The German-French tandem
Since 1966, after France left the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military integration, Germany has been France's primary partner, and the French-German tandem was the active core that drove the European Economic Community toward the European Union. Germany handled the tension between its close relationship with the US and the one with France by compartmentalizing: with France, Europe; with the US, NATO and security.
But notwithstanding the efforts to prevent conflicts developing between these two poles of German foreign policy, there was always a strong tendency within the German political class to regard the process of European integration as leading toward an increasing autonomy of European interests and policies from those of the US. The US did not see it differently - particularly after the end of the Cold War. The administrations of Bill Clinton and George H W Bush invested, therefore, a lot of political capital and cunning to prevent that from occurring. Both administrations considered the European relationship with Russia as the key for the viability of such a project and the EU's and NATO's new east European members as the lever to assure its abortion.
But with the alliance crisis of 2002-03 - also, depending on the perspective, the apogee or the nadir of the French-German duo - the US was able to mobilize not only the political elites of the new NATO - and EU - members of eastern Europe as well as those of Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain against the specter of an independent European course. It was the revolt of the French and German US-oriented elites - expressing itself publicly in an incessant and thorough media campaign - that sealed its fate. All of a sudden, the German-French special relationship had lost much of its salience. The horizon of the kind of European integration the United States considered a threat to its own international role revealed itself as much more of a mirage than it appeared before it was put to the test.
Chancellor Merkel is the German incarnation of this revolt. And the lionized champion of the collective European right, the Americans, and the Israelis, Nicolas Sarkozy, is the ideal French president for turning Merkel's great foreign-policy project into a joint venture: welding the EU to the US, making European integration serve the US-dominated, Western international order - whatever the cost.
It is not as if former French president Jacques Chirac and his foreign and military policy bureaucracies had still been able to put the brakes on Merkel. After confronting the US on the Iraq issue in 2002-03, together with then-chancellor Schroeder, and having maneuvered Russian President Vladimir Putin into taking the same stance, Chirac's political will was exhausted and prospects for a more independent European road in international politics was dead. Schroeder's capacity to act in tandem with Chirac was increasingly circumscribed by his domestic weakness; and the US reminded the French administration forcefully of what it means to play hardball with French interests. He was stymied, like Schroeder, by the neo-conservative/neo-liberal, US-oriented majority of the elites.
After 2003, French policies followed Germany somewhat listlessly in supporting the US ones, in particular in the wider Middle East - though still trying to play their own game in Lebanon, while egging on the Americans and Israelis against Syria and Iran. Nevertheless, while conceding the game in the Middle East, Chirac and Schroeder still tried to create a stable framework of relations with Russia and China, the basis of something like a Eurasian common economic region. This notion has already joined the might-have-beens of history.
Neither would have led the election of Sarkozy's competitor, Segolene Royal, to a greatly different conception of French foreign policy. Royal was groomed by Francois Mitterrand, the Socialist president who had brought to perfection the art of decorating with left-wing flourishes an exceedingly hard-nosed, rather vicious, covert-operations approach to foreign policy.
In fact, the different versions of the French Socialist Party after World War II were never known for particularly salubrious policies: from their alliance with the Corsican heroin mafia in Marseilles to their support of French colonial wars, from bombing Greenpeace ships to involvement in the Ruanda genocide. There is nothing surprising, therefore, that both Royal and Sarkozy are close to the particularly shrill French version of "humanitarian interventionists", drawing from the same stock of civilizational warriors that dominates French public discourse.
Sarkozy's choice for foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, is therefore less of a peace offering to the Socialists than an indicator of ideological commitments. Kouchner is not only one of the ideological godfathers of "anti-totalitarian, humanitarian interventionism", he is also the one under whose benevolent eyes - in his function as its United Nations administrator - Kosovo acquired the makings of the first, ethnically almost pure, European mafia-state. During the 1980s, some of his Medecins du Monde (which he founded after splitting from the Medecins sans Frontičres) assisted the Afghan mujahideen with somewhat more than medical-only rear services.
Though he might not be tainted with aiding the Americans (as some suspected), as other non-governmental organizations are, in turning the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand into bases for the reconstitution of the Khmer Rouge as US proxies, his record, nevertheless, justifies Colin Powell's famous dictum about NGOs as US "force multipliers" avant la lettre: human rights and medical services for US friends and clients, none for the opposition.
Sarkozy's ideological baggage also contains the French-Israeli business lawyer Arno Klarsfeld,a rather hysterical campaigner for the rights of Israel and the defense of Western civilization as well as the son of noted Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. He volunteered in 2002 to serve in the Israeli Defense Force and accompanied the Israeli border guards as a member on their rampage through the Palestinian territories. Klarsfeld was Sarkozy's leading candidate for heading the controversial new Ministry for Immigration and National Identity - a move comparable to Bush proposing right-wing Israeli political leader Avigdor Liebermann as the head of a new department for Hispanics, Muslims and African-Americans. For the time being, though, Sarkozy seems to have reconsidered this exceedingly provocative appointment.
Widely quoted as mentor and inspirer of Sarkozy's "anti-totalitarian" outlook is philosopher André Glucksmann: one of the many minor embodiments of Hannah Arendt's insight about the French haute bourgeoisie's romantic infatuation with the rhetorical bombast of ideological rogues and the titillations of violence. During the 1980s he marketed nuclear war as an antidote against the European addiction to peace and to save humanity - and Western civilization - from communism. After the Soviet collapse, he agitated for Europe to join any American or Israeli war in reach against the "new Hitlers" (Milosevicz, Saddam Hussein, Arafat, Assad, etc) and "Islamofascists", as well as for his kind of moral policies against "totalitarian" China and "newly-totalitarian" Russia.
These attractions, however, did not remain limited to the Parisian salons and media: As the preferred French interlocutor for castigating the German lack of martial fiber, while in Germany Glucksmann briefly replaced on "high-brow" TV the well-respected, though liberal and measured, specialist on German-French relations, Professor Alfred Grosser. In 2002, Grosser had committed the rather deadly mistake of criticizing instead of defending Israel's right to do as it likes in the Palestinian territories. He disappeared from German screens as did many of the German correspondents of the public media who had failed to appreciate the Palestinians as the new Nazis.
In view of the fact that most European mainstream conservative parties (and even some Social Democratic currents) propagandize the immigrant issue increasingly in terms of the "clash of civilizations" and the "new antisemitism", they have spurred an interesting change of orientation in the extreme right with all the potential for open (like in Denmark or Italy) or tacit alliances (like in Spain).
The extreme right (Front National, Vlaams Belang, Lega Nord, Allianza Nazionale, Parti van de Vrijheit etc) and its nebula of goon squads have also been busy building bridges to Israel and to the violence-inclined, but tightly leashed, Zionist right (Likud Europe, Betar, Jewish Defense League, etc) in the struggle against "Eurabia". One might, therefore, wonder whether Sarkozy has not already taken his commitment to fight against the "new antisemitism" and to defend French "national identity" a tad too far. Given the thousands of maimed or dead Arab, Asian, and African immigrant victims of racial violence in Western Europe during the last 15 years - underinvestigated, underreported, and underprosecuted in Germany as well as France - one might even wonder whether the call to arms against the rise of antisemitism is not misdirected and whether Sarkozy and his circle do not do double duty as arsonists in the fire-brigade.
Bur Sarkozy is not only a civilizational warrior. He and his advisers - the CEOs of the largest media conglomerates and the insurance business - are committed to a radical restructuring of the distribution of power between the patronat and the unions, between state and society, between the workers and the haute bourgeoisie.
Sarkozy has marketed himself as the energetic executor of a consensus in search of an executor for the last 20 or so years. Delegitimizing the whole system of social protections with their institutional underpinnings has been at the center of what amounted to a psychological warfare campaign against the idea that there is a legitimate claim on social justice. After several false starts, this program seems to have found with him the echoes of the pre-World War II deep right's "patrie, famille, travail", instead of "liberté, fraternité, égalité".
Even the Socialist leadership, not at all discomfited by Royal's defeat - as testified by its well publicized collective sigh of relief - is into the spirit of things. French Socialist Party politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn's "the red flag is in the mud for good" phrase renders unsurprising that not a few voters might have pondered the advantages of getting the unavoidable up front instead of in fits, starts, and misdirection.
Neither the French elites, nor the German chancellor, nor the US, are in the mood for dealing with qualms and hesitations a la Royal. Sarkozy, in contrast, has the intention, the will, the energy, the support of the political class, as well as the conception of himself as the right man for the job, to pull France to the American good side. A "noble competition" between Merkel and Sarkozy might even be shaping up, regarding who is going to work more closely with the US - especially since Merkel is at a disadvantage. She is burdened with a Social Democratic coalition partner trying to save the remnants of Schroeder's Russian policies and under pressure from the pacifist left, and more importantly, from a new, non-sectarian left-wing party that is eating into its electorate and party membership.
Given the fact that the majority of the German political class and the media are running again a high Russophobe fever, there is not much chance that these remnants will be salvageable. It is, instead, possible that Germany will join in when a sufficiently strong catalyzing event tips relations with Russia into a no holds barred effort to get to the end of the "Russian problem". In the meantime, the Russians will carry on as if they had a "strategic partner" in Merkel, and Merkel will continue to signal her dissatisfaction with Russia's delivering on Western demands - and leave it to the Social Democratic leadership to deal with its nostalgia.
Refitting Turkey for its proper role
One of the most interesting policy initiatives of the new German-French tandem may appear to be a sideshow but is, in fact, emblematic of the shape of things to come: replacing the EU horizon for Turkey with one more fitting for an oriental strategic asset.
Merkel and Sarkozy are now jointly leading an EU-wide coalition dead set against making good on the decades-old promise for the integration of Turkey into the EU as soon as it is able to implement the acquis communautaire (total body of EU law). With the election of Sarkozy the "open-ended" accession negotiations have no chance of remaining open-ended and with his help Merkel will be able to outmaneuver her Social Democratic baggage while still insisting on negotiating with Turkey in good faith.
For Merkel, Sarkozy and their civilizational warriors, Turkey has no European "vocation", for cultural, Christian, and occidental reasons. Merkel promises, instead, a "special relationship" and Sarkozy proposes to sponsor a "Mediterranean community", anchored on Turkey, Israel and Morocco, as a geopolitical barrier against African immigrants, Islamic fundamentalists, and as an additional venue for Israeli ambitions.
The question, though, is how to make Turkey give up its EU aspirations and fall into line with whatever plans are made for it. And the main problem is, in fact, that Turkey's most committed Europeanists are to be found in the moderately conservative and moderately religious center-right Justice and Development (AKP) party, the first governing party after World War II which is fairly clean, rather competent economically, and tenaciously digging at the immensely corrupt and criminal "deep state": the conglomerate of politicians, military intelligence, special police squads, and their legions of cut-outs, cut-throats, and patsies, the Turkish mafia, Grey Wolves (ie, rightwing terrorists), feudal landowners, and associated business ventures. This government is trying to drain a swamp in which German intelligence was up to its knees since the days of its being tasked with chaperoning the "Trident" intelligence coordination between the Turkish, Iranian, and Israeli intelligence services.
Turkey's "deep state" has been (and, to some degree, still is) the enabling environment - and with Israel, the Eastern Mediterranean hub - for the interbreeding of intelligence, the security business, terrorist groups for hire, and mafia operations. It has produced the strangest, rather frightening, but most lucrative, hybrids between black operations, subversion, targeted killings and kidnappings, and the whole panoply of the drug, protection, organ harvesting, black medical research and pharmacology, the emigration, slave labor, weapons and technology, counterfeiting, money laundering rackets. Joined to Israel's netherworld, its reach extends from the Arab countries to Africa, from Russia and the CIS to western and Central Asia, and, of course, to Europe.
This is what the Turkish government - with a strong popular mandate - is trying to reform in order to conform to the requirements of EU membership. The AKP is, for good reasons, strongly committed to the EU: by itself it would be quite unable to make its sanitation mandate work, whatever the strength of its electoral base. It is only via the EU that it can even approach the holy of holies, the constitutional Praetorian prerogative of the Turkish military. Its defenders - the parties of the secular "White Turks" (ie, the urban elites) who regard the reforms the EU accession process imposes as endangering their ownership of the state - are precisely those Sarkozy and Merkel are relying on to derail Turkey's EU prospects.
The White Turks' "deep state" is already swinging into action: from a spate of high-profile murders with an ostensible "fundamentalist" background, to the threat of a military coup d'état, from the demonstrations with the malicious slogan "neither Sharia, nor putsch" (trying to taint the AKP with the fundamentalist brush), to the the collusion between acting President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the Constitutional Court (sworn to uphold the military prerogatives) in provoking a constitutional crisis to block the election of the popular Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the presidency.
Since Turkey's main Western allies are decidedly unhappy with the successes of reform and the growing self-confidence of the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Merkel and her cohorts are engaged in a rather vicious game of delegitimizing Turkish aspirations through veiled threats and humiliations. It is not only the moving goal posts game that Turkey has to negotiate.
It is the kind of cued European discussion that says in effect, "We will make sure to prevent the EU membership of Turkey" (whatever the domestic repercussions in the several million strong Turkish community in Germany), that is designed to coerce the AKP into giving up. There is also the tidy side-payment to consider, namely, the domestic delegitimization of the AKP and the reempowerment of the deep state, now represented by the Nationalist Movement (MHP) party and Turkey's oldest political party, the Turkish Republican Party (CHP) that has served Western geopolitics oh-so-well.
Tying the Turkish government into knots, the US government and many of the European media are lauding the constitutional vocation of the Turkish military to protect the secular state (implying again that the AKP is intent on turning Turkey into a sharia state) while, at the same time, European politicians raise the specter of the threat of military intervention in Turkish politics as proof that Turkey is not EU material. In the same fashion, "high European officials" do background briefings on how a military campaign against the PKK in Iraq would strain NATO and end Turkey's accession negotiations because it would be proof that the Turkish government - which is against intervention - cannot control its military. It is a perfidious set-up because the US and Israel (with German support) are doing everything to strengthen and use the Iranian PKK network for its proxy campaign against Tehran.
But why are these forces fighting so hard to terminate Turkey's EU prospects?
The answer lies not in the new conservative/right-wing obsession with occidental identity politics or with the enlargement blues. The US was denied the use of Turkish territory for attacking Iraq from the north; Turkey insisted, instead, on its Montreux Treaty prerogative of refusing a permanent American naval squadron in the Black Sea. It has rather relaxed political, and high-growth economic relations with its neighbors, Syria and Iran. It has been accused of dragging its feet on the Nabucco gas pipeline, designed to bring Central Asian gas to Europe and to circumvent the Russian pipeline system.
It has, in fact, excellent political and economic relations with Russia while having gone out of the 1990s business of subverting the Central Asian republics. Furthermore, it angered Israel with its discreet contacts with Hamas and by cooling down the political scope of the military and intelligence relationship (as well as its attendant business opportunties). And it hurt powerful interests with a more serious engagement with Interpol.
In other words, the AKP government is striving to scale down the use of Turkey as a strategic platform for all sorts of mayhem, focusing instead quite successfully on regional trade and investment opportunities to maintain Turkey's economic growth - thus stabilizing a growing middle class of "black Turks". This approach, though, crimps US efforts to expand the strategic threat against Iran. Even more importantly, it limits American access to the Caucasus and Central Asia and hampers its plans for pulling the Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan into a permanent and much more extensive military relationship.
In sum: though prudent enough to have accomodated the Turkish military's usual level of cooperation with Western (US, Israeli, and German) operations against its neighbors, it still disregarded the demands of the Western grand strategy. Its policies did nothing to help in the "great game" of turning the Caucasus and Central Asia into a lever to be used against Russia and China. Neither did the Turkish government do enough for the shorter-term payoff, ie, gaining control over Central Asian oil and gas. All of this did not win the Turkish government friends in the right places. It set itself up, instead, for some variant of a regime-change operation in which the campaign against Turkey's EU aspirations will play a pivotal role.
Though the Turkish military is always good for a coup d'etat, it may be difficult to do it this time without an inopportune level of violence ("Chileanization") since the AKP won the elections resoundingly. There are other options available that might teach the forces of Turkish reform lessons about red lines and overreaching. A short walk down memory lane might illustrate what is possible.
One of the most successful - and "blackest" - of US-British "black operation" against a Western, albeit neutral, country was carried out in first half of the 1980s. In 2000, none other than Reagan's secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, declassified it in an interview with Swedish TV in the context of an investigation into the affair of the "Soviet submarines".
Then Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme was a real thorn in Western flesh. Apart from his backing for the Afrincan National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization, he was very vocal in his criticism of the increasingly dangerous American confrontation policies towards the Soviet Union. His stance enjoyed widespread support within the Swedish population. This changed rather dramatically with the worldwide frenzy about "the Soviet aggression of neutral Sweden", when Swedish territorial waters were repeatedly "violated by Soviet submarines" and by landings of "Soviet special forces" on the Swedish coast. These "incursions" stopped with the still unresolved murder of Palme in 1986, despite two unsuccessful attempts to convict a man named Christer Pettersson for the crime.
With a pleased smirk, Weinberger confirmed that there was nothing Soviet in the violation of Swedish territorial waters (the Soviets "didn't have the capabilities"). There were, instead, routine exercises, "between the Swedish navy and the American and British navies and since they were routine, the Swedish admiral responsible saw obviously no need to inform his superiors or his subordinates about the nature of the "enemy".
It was, in fact, not quite a "regime change", but a joint US-UK operation together with the top brass of the Swedish navy and Swedish intelligence, conducted against the foreign policy of the Swedish government. Since then Sweden has been rather careful not to challenge American policies - with the exception perhaps of the very popular Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, in line to become the next prime minister. She was stabbed to death in 2003 by a mentally disturbed young immigrant.
At the time, such operations brought the world close to the brink of nuclear war. The Soviets understandably saw this as a crucial indicator that the US was preparing its allies, and battling with a powerful peace movement, for nuclear preemption against the "increasingly aggressive" and "brazen" Soviet Union.
A variant of such an operation today, though sure to have its own blowbacks, would certainly not involve that kind of risk. It would also take into account that the Turkish military and intelligence are not as monolithic as they once were: there is kind of nationalist reaction to the easy contempt with which they are taken for granted. But it would change Turkey's political horizon for good: a policy subjected to a permanent "strategy of tension", countering democratic aspirations with the power of the deep state. And from a certain perspective, this is an eminently desirable outcome. It would make Turkey the grateful recipient of Sarkozy's idea of a Mediterranean community and Merkel's notion of a special relationship.
Gloomy old hands
There might have been room, of course, for a debate in good faith about Turkey's implementation of the EU's acquis communautaire. This is what the "open-ended" negotiating process was all about. It is being poisoned, however, by the bad faith characterizing Merkel's and Sarkozy's approach towards Turkey.
The decay of responsible diplomacy towards an ally and the rise of culturalist demagoguery is the symptom of something one might call a "proto-totalitarian transition" taking place under the guise of the "war on terror". It is led by the decay of responsibility and predictability in the conduct of American foreign policy. Thus, for not a few senior German diplomats - those whose career took off under former chancellor Helmut Schmidt or under foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and those military planners who still remember the war scare of the first half of the 1980s - there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
The American inability to secure a more stable international environment, the combination of militancy and overreaching, provide the terms of reference for the gloominess of these senior perennials. They are certainly not peace-at-any-price bleeding hearts nor closet dissidents. They have an ingrained propensity to look at the world as the stage of "them versus us". They come from families of civil servants, academics, and military officers who can well sort out the difference between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" - worlds of international politics. In other words, they are as solidly "Western" or "Atlanticist" as one could wish. And they are also the first generation of senior German bureaucrats who have been deeply comfortable with the absence of great power ambitions and with the German role as a civilian power.
Their outlook and their reflection of Germany's collective experience makes them value stability; at least insofar as any blowback resulting from the use of force should be less than the threat countered. This, of course, can be liberally interpreted and does not offer much for dealing with unpredictability. But prudence, skepticism, and an ironclad sense of self-limitation provided the habits for navigating in the wake of US and Israeli policies.
These old hands don't write papers, they do not share their concerns in staff meetings, they may not even communicate them in more formal settings. Nevertheless, the unease is palpable and it is the retirees who are voicing it, with different emphases and different degrees of bluntness. These are men such as Schmidt, with his reputation as a no-nonsense Atlanticist; the conservative former minister of defense, Volker Ruhe; the retired head of the planning staff under Ruhe, Vice-Admiral Ulrich Weisser; the former foreign policy speaker of the conservatives' parliamentary caucus, Karl Lamers.
They are well acquainted with the new crop of their American counterparts who prepare, control or execute American policies with brittle arrogance and with the crisis- and confrontation-prone default setting of American foreign policy formation.
For quite a few of them, however, the most worrying indication that the United States is irrevocably set on dragging the world into a nightmare of continuous and chaotic violence, is twofold: the flight or dismissal of senior, conservative professionals from the executive branch of the government and the unrestrained, strangely exhibitionist glorying of many American politicians at the ability to inflict unrestrained violence.
One might add a third one, relevant especially to diplomats who had been posted in the Middle East, or to the classicists: the wholesale looting and the destruction of 5,000 years of Mesopotamian antiquities, judged on par with the Spanish eradication of the complete written record of the Mesoamerican civilizations as well as the cultural heritage of all Indian cultures that they could lay their hands on; and one that also ranks with the British burning of 3,000 years' worth of Chinese books, historical records, and documents during the Second Opium War. This barbaric lack of respect for one of the most important heritages of mankind speaks volumes about the mindset this war has exposed.
There is the realization that institutional blocks have been disabled and with it their career premium on a healthy sense of the need to employ US power carefully - to acknowledge its executive, legal, and political limitations. But since the 1970s, patient, alliance-building ideologue-adventurers, think-tankers and journalists, have crept up through the institutions, using and being used, joining the fantasies of redemption, revenge, plunder, and control over the world, into an action program for employing American power.
The style betrays the character. Since the ambitions of these ideologues are much larger than their education, they flatter themselves into believing they are the New Romans, that they write history on a even greater scale than Titus Livius; and their vanity expects awe, not reason. But they are acting out the grand guignol version of empire whose points of reference might be Sallust, Petronius or Procopius, those who castigated or ridiculed or despaired at the corruption and the pretentions of its personnel.
It is the remarkable lack of decorum, the intentional staging of bullying language, rich in threats and insults, the resentful hypocrisy, the slightly unhinged display of bad faith when diplomacy and suasion are the order of the day, that has convinced even some of the "just-a-bad-patch" hopefuls that the bad times are here to stay.
The fear beneath much of the uneasiness has to do, of course, with memories of what happens when the resentments and dreams of omnipotence of a political class are hijacked by those who promise to give them satisfaction on a historic scale.
During the Cold War, there was always a mad, though well-connected, fringe that gravitated towards American strategic policies: eg, Edward Teller with his notion of rescuing the very small, "valuable" part of humanity in the depths of mines in order to reseed the earth after nuclear war; Sidney Hook with his conviction that Western belief in the transcendent gave it the crucial nuclear-war edge over the communists who only believed in the here and now; the psychopaths within the CIA, like Sidney Gottlieb who headed the agency's MKULTRA mind control program, or counter-intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton; and the many secular and religious milleniarists in the White House, the military, in Congress, and in think-tanks, who were intent on an apocalyptic resolution to the seemingly endless uncertainties of the Cold War. But to the end, wiser heads prevailed - if only just.
It did not last. The American political class seems to have drawn all the wrong conclusions from the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Its leisurely stroll towards permanent global hegemony just did not happen. Thus, frustration and the craving for revenge have become main drivers of US policies. The events of September 11 focused their common dysfunctionality, but they are not its root cause.
Part 2: Broken machinery: Forces that oppose or even appear to question American interests face a simple choice: "Us or chaos."
Axel Brot is the pen name for a German defense analyst and former intelligence officer.