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Why Germany really balks

Reader comment on item: [Appeasement Explains] Why Europe Balks

Submitted by Felix Distel (Germany), Feb 8, 2003 at 12:07

Dear Professor Pipes,

as a German citizen I do not agree with your thesis, that World War I appeasement policy is a cause for Europe's current position in the Iraq conflict. From my point of view there are much simpler reasons for German pacifism, which all have their roots in World War II. Although this pacifism is basically an emotional issue, Germans are also aware of several rational arguments against this specific war.

1. Roots of Germany's pacifist tenor

World War II is still present in German culture to a massive extent. Perhaps one of the hardest moments in a young Germans childhood, is when we ask our parents: >>Is it true, that we were the evil guys in "the War" [World War II]?<<. >>I'm afraid, we were.<< is always the answer. What follows then, is that our parents tell us about all the incredible cruelties and all the terror our people and even our own grandparents imposed on innocent human beings. This causes a feeling of guilt and shame, which even increases, as we learn more about our past. From these feelings arises the conclusion, that war or homicide shall never again be started by Germans or from German ground. That is why most Germans decline any military action, except defensive warfare.

2. Nonideological argument against this specific war

At present Sadam Hussein is the World's best monitored dictator. This must be credited to your country's efforts and we are deeply grateful for this. But because he is so well monitored, he doesn't pose an urgent threat to other countries in Middle East. At least none that would justify a war of aggression.

Of course we see that Iraq is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. We also take notice that human rights are being violated in Iraq. The point is that we doubt that these problems can be solved by military means. If the U.S. decide to start military attacks on Iraq, they will basically have three options:

Option 1: Air Strikes. This would obviously be utterly inefficient, as no one knows where the weapons are being kept. What's the use of an air strike, if you don't have any targets?

Option 2: Ground troops. If the U.N. inspectors, who at least receive little cooperation from Iraqi officials, cannot find any of the hidden weapons, how much longer would it take for soldiers, who would have to anticipate fierce resistance? Figures proof, that during the 1990s more weapons have been found and destroyed by U.N. inspectors, than have been destroyed in the War at the Persian Gulf.

Option 3: Massive terror and/or use of ABC weapons. No one could seriously consider this option. Afterwards the United States would have to take Iraq's then vacant place on the axis of evil.

To me none of these options seems to be desirable. I agree that the inspectors' progress is not at all satisfying. What we should do is improve cooperation between inspectors and secret services and - as hard as it may sound - be patient.

I am sure that on the other hand there are good, reasonable arguments for an attack. As a democrat, which you certainly are, you wouldn't agree to a war, unless your leaders have made a good case for it. Unforunately all our media shows us are war propaganda and simplistic polemics propagating a division of the world into good and evil. If we are presented convincing, rational arguments for a war, we will surely change our minds.

I hope that I could make our position a little clearer now. Maybe you could answer my post, so I will understand your point of view as well.

Yours sincerely
Felix Distel

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