German elections hinge on war

After a very close election that kept the nation glued to the television until late into the night, Gerhard Schröder will remain Chancellor of Germany for the next four years. His party, the Social Democrats (SPD), got 38.5 percent of the votes and will remain in power through a coalition with the Green Party (8.6 percent). Through an interesting quirk of the German voting system, the Christian Democrats reached 38.5 percent, as well, but did not get the three direct votes the Social Democrats got and, therefore, the SPD remains in power.
What raised criticism by the Bush administration were events that happened before the election rather than the outcome. One of the major topics in the election was involvement in a possible war with Iraq. While Schröder officially declared that he was against such a war, Edmund Stoiber, the CDU chancellor candidate, said a war would be very likely should he win the election. This polarized the nation and naturally also got attention in the United States.
Of course, Germany would have to send troops if a U.N. mandate were issued, but Bush has already made it clear that he will send troops with or without such a mandate. It is only understandable that European politicians might object to such cowboy diplomacy that seems to come more often out of a ranch in Texas than Washington D.C. It is these decisions that affect the world community and for which the U.N. was created, but President Bush wants to circumvent it if necessary to get a swift action.
Another incident, only a few days before the election, involved an SPD minister, Däubler-Gmelin, who supposedly compared President Bush and his politics in Iraq to Hitler. This comparison is far-fetched and outright ridiculous. Chancellor Schröder officially apologized for the still unproven remark of his minister and Däubler-Gmelin will not have a post as minister in the new government.
As a reaction to this, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went so far as calling now re-elected minister of exterior Joschka Fischer “this other guy” and refused to meet with him at a NATO meeting in Warsaw. This sort of name-calling and pouting does not have a place in international politics. It does neither good to help push an issue nor does it help relations. It only stirs more disagreement. As Chancellor Schröder said in a statement, “Between friends, there can be factual differences, but they should not be personalized, particularly between close allies.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was one of the first leaders to congratulate Schröder on his re-election even though they disagree on many things, including military actions in Iraq. He understands that disagreement on some issues does not mean a categorical disagreement on everything. On the other hand, the U.S. government still does not like to be questioned by anyone, be it allies or enemies. Such criticism should exist because that is how a democracy works.
The biggest irony remains that the United States, along with other allies, implemented the governmental system now in place in Germany to prevent the outbreak of another world war. Now, this new democratic government resists sending troops and being caught up in a war, and President Bush is mad about it.
A letter of congratulations from President Bush still hasn’t made its way to Berlin.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science.