Column’s take on German elections was misguided

To the Editor:

While I share some of Eric Purington’s concerns about anti-Americanism in Germany (“In Germany, anti-U.S. spells bad politics,” 9/19), I strongly disagree with his analysis of the German elections. Foreign policy played a minute role in a campaign dominated by economics.

The reason why an election came about in the first place is that Schröder seemed to have spent all his political capital on pushing through difficult economic reforms that led to successive losses at the state level and strong opposition in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat. Schröder correctly concluded that reforms could not continue with such a political constellation, and that a renewed mandate was required.

Sunday’s results are by no means a victory for Angela Merkel and the CDU. Just a few weeks ago, opinion polls put the CDU ahead of the SPD by about twenty points. On Sunday, the CDU was ahead by a mere 0.9 percent, not enough for the CDU to form a government coalition with the liberal FDP, as had been the declared goal. Now, the CDU’s options to form a government are limited.

The reasons for the CDU’s disappointing result will be a continued subject of debate in the weeks to come. Maybe it was the lackluster campaign, maybe Merkel’s lack of charisma. Maybe it was also the realization that the Schröder government is not alone to blame for Germany’s economic malaise. Sixteen years of CDU/FDP government before 1998 had done little in terms of economic reforms.

All of this has nothing to do with anti-Americanism. Germany’s former Justice Minister, Hertha Däubler-Gmelin, was ousted from Germany’s cabinet back in 2002 for her stupid remarks comparing Bush to Hitler. Schröder’s legitimate opposition to the Iraq war, on the other hand, is not only shared by many Germans, but also by many Americans. Germany’s election, however, was decided on other grounds.

Benjamin Wood ’03

Warsaw, Poland

Sept. 19, 2005



To the Editor:

I was appalled by Eric Purington’s piece on the (ongoing) German election, in which he commends the platform of the CDU. Germany’s choice is between a courageous Schroeder, a man who has moved Germany back to its rightful place on the international stage while undertaking difficult social and economic reform; and a woman who has been likened (as if it were a good thing) to Ronald Reagan, and whose policy suggestions include cutting into social programs, eradicating a fossil fuels tax and other conservative-type tax cuts.

That the Germans are embracing Americanism is completely faulty logic on Purington’s part — he first points out that many Germans take anti-American stances, but then later goes on to say that Schroeder was voted out because he subscribed to “blatant anti-Americanism.” Regardless of whether Merkel wins, Purington has not proven by any means that anti-Americanism is waning in Europe (by the way, it is not).

Moreover, the suggestion that Rumsfeld was correct in coining the term “old Europe” is simply ludicrous. The European Union — which, incidentally, is the largest economic area in the world — has a huge sphere of influence that grows every day as Europe uses the carrot of economic engagement to encourage political and social reform. Most countries seem to prefer this to the rotting stick of American “hard power.”

And finally, the stance that Germany and France, among many others, took against the United States is neither “meaningless” nor “distracting.” It was a very clear stance against an illegal war that has increased lawlessness in the already explosive Middle East. It’s time we all accept — especially those of us lucky enough to experience living in foreign countries — that the reach of the “world’s only superpower” is quickly waning.

Jessamyn Blau ’05

Paris, France

Sept. 19, 2005

The writer is a former News columnist.

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