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<nettime> FW: American War, German realpolitik & International Law
Heiko Recktenwald on Mon, 19 May 2003 23:22:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: American War, German realpolitik & International Law

Havent read it allready but it will be interesting anyway.


As one of those whose views has been disparaged as that of a "paper
shuffler," I found the following piece forwarded to me on another listserve
interesting and worthy of the attention of this listserve.  So, I pass it

M. O. C.

P.S.  Can't decide whether to go get Commandante fatigues or tilhook bomber
jackets.  Will take votes on preference.

-----Original Message-----

American war, German realpolitik and international law

A press round-up

By Wolfgang Weber
10 May 2003

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"Power only submits to a greater power. Power, however, is legitimised
by success!... Success is the verdict of history, the 'world court' of
supreme authority, from which there is no appeal for human things."[1]

Ludwig August von Rochau (1810-1873) published this and similar nostrums
as "The principles of realpolitik", drawing his demoralised conclusions
from the failure of the bourgeois revolution of 1848-49. The liberal
journalist recommended his readers among the German bourgeoisie and
middle classes to foreswear their high ideals of democracy and liberty
and come to terms with the Prussian police and military state, which was
entirely legitimised by its success in crushing the revolution in blood.
The book became a bestseller.

Today in Germany, Rochau and his writings are forgotten; not, however,
realpolitik. The attitude of the German media towards the war has
provided a particularly odious reminder of this fact in the last weeks.

Until the very day the US army marched into Baghdad, the German media
was full of criticism of America and Britain. US disregard for the
Geneva Convention and Security Council resolutions were denounced as a
breech of international law in numerous editorials and feature articles.
But the arrival of American troops at the gates of the Iraqi capital on
April 2-3 changed the situation in editorial offices in Germany.

Symptomatic of this was the April 4 edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The front pages still report extensively on the crimes against the Iraqi
population, the forthcoming danger of the destruction and plunder of the
country's cultural treasures. On the feature pages, however, bourgeois
globalization opponent Ulrich Beck suddenly poses the question of the
war's "legitimacy" anew. According to Beck, not only was opposition to
the war legitimate, but equally legitimate is a war conducted in the
name of "rescuing civilisation from the danger posed by weapons of mass
destruction" in the name of "liberty and democracy". It only depended
upon how one perceived the war and the dangers cited for conducting it,
and here, unfortunately, there was no objective truth:

"There is no 'objectivity' regarding the dangers independent of their
cultural perception and evaluation. Rather, the 'objectivity' of a
danger consists and arises from the belief in it.... Whoever believes in
a particular danger lives in another world to those who do not share
this belief, or considers it hysterical."

Ulrich Beck then describes the struggle that he and those like him are
presently undergoing-a struggle that rages in the soul of every one of
them between the "against" embodied in yesterday's opposition and the
"for" involved in today's adaptation: "However, this putrefying dynamic
affects everyone.... Does the for and against the war really only split
countries and continents? Doesn't the moral battle take place inside
every one of us?"

The military armament of Europe

In an editorial entitled "The new Europe" in the same edition of the
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stefan Kornelius recommends that, faced with the
new realities in Baghdad, Europe drop its complaints about the US so
that this inner "moral battle" does not have a paralysing effect on
European politics. According to Kornelius, the "system of world order",
its institutions like the UN or NATO and its "rules of procedure", are
severely damaged. The US has made clear that it is ready to tear it all
down completely in order to assert its interests. Then he concludes:

"Old Europe must act quickly and overcome several barriers if it wants
to shape world politics. Three lessons should be drawn: Europe-both old
and new-cannot be united by confronting the US, but will be fractured by
this conflict.... Lesson number two: Germany, Europe's geopolitical
hegemonic power, should never have to choose between Paris and London.
This would also tear apart the continent and unleash the ghosts of the
past from their tomb. The third lesson is: Europe must stop complaining
and, instead, act. A four-nation submarine fleet, an air force of the
core European powers including Britain, a joint foreign aid budget for
developing countries with concrete political demands."

In other words: Europe, with a common navy and air force, should act as
an equal power to the US, and, like Washington, should put the colonial
countries and regions under pressure "with concrete political demands".

Kornelius remains silent as to how this should all happen without
intensifying the conflict with the US and its pretensions as a global
super power, thus bringing about the break-up of Europe-according to
"lesson number one".

His call for Europe to rearm is neither an isolated one nor has it gone
unheard. In lockstep with the American soldiers on the streets of
Baghdad, the government in Berlin is already marching in a new
direction. At the start of the US assault, Chancellor Schröder and
Foreign Minister Fischer still rejected the war against Iraq, at least
verbally, as "flatly unjustified". But as soon as the fall of Baghdad
approached they wished American troops "rapid success" and an end to the
"criminal regime of Saddam Hussein". This transparent attempt to
ingratiate themselves retrospectively with the US is aimed at assuring
that they do not end up completely empty-handed when the booty is shared
out. At the same time, Berlin has taken energetic steps for the rearming
of Europe with the transformation of the Bundeswehr (armed forces) into
an army of intervention and the construction of a European armed force.

In reality, the "ghosts of the past" have already emerged from their
tombs: the spectres of militarism and war also haunt Europe.

And what of the publishers, leader-writers, editors-in-chief and
features writers of the German press? In predictable fashion, they are
marching in the same lockstep-and now provide the arguments to justify
this shameless rightward turn by the Social Democratic Party-Green Party
coalition in Berlin.

The function of international law

On April 12/13, Stefan Kornelius produced another comment. Up to this
point, the Süddeutsche Zeitung had expressly advocated the observance of
international law and the Geneva Conventions on human rights. Now
Kornelius argues the opposite: instead of enforcing the adherence to
international law, new laws would now have to be devised and
established. By whom? By the US. Under the headline "America's victory,
America's duty" he writes:

"More important, however, than the future regime in Iraq is the system
by which the states of the world intend to act towards each another.
Here also, this system cannot be established without the US. Washington
has made clear that it will no longer obey the old rules, because it
regards them as an obstacle and outdated. The new rules-preventative
action, coalitions according to the mood of the day-only serve America
in the first instance. What serves the rest of the world? And how can at
least a part of this remaining world serve [sic] American interests and
by doing so again win influence in Washington?"

Rules are essential in order to legitimise politics (vis-à-vis the
general population), says Kornelius, who adds, "America must develop
these rules with its allies ... because-to use Churchill's words about
this government-history is written by the victors."

In other words: the US no longer wants to adhere to any superior
international law and, as befitting the victor, it may now dictate its
own rules to the rest of the world.

The weekly Die Zeit carries out the same salto mortale (mortal leap)
from the defence of international law to bowing before the victorious
aggressor. In its editorial in the March 27 edition under the headline
"War in the ruins of law", Michael Naumann opines as follows: "The
absolute values of European natural justice, which developed over
centuries-respect and freedom of the individual, equality, public
interest-are none of them bound to divergent forms of reason of state.
Therefore they are also not freely available variants of democratic
foreign policy, but should be their yardstick."

In the same paper on April 3, however, under the headline "The reality
shock", Josef Joffe states the exact opposite: "The new force of the
twenty-first century ... can no longer be contained by classical
international law. It would be outrageous to reject this tradition, but
when new facts emerge the law must also change. Anyhow, this is what we
hold to in our own country."

According to Joffe, in the future it will not be the superior values of
natural justice that guide politics, but the violent politics of the
victor that provide the yardstick for a made-to-measure system of law.

One week later in Die Zeit, Bernd Ulrich blows the same trumpet in a
lead article entitled "Helpless Europe": "Of course, this war violates
international law. The Americans are to be criticised for this-and so is
international law." Die Zeit's philosophy of law could be described as
follows: if a violent thief breaks the law and establishes "new facts",
then the law must be criticised, changed or abolished.

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Reinhard Mueller shares the same
opinion, but dresses it up, however, in a form that German jurists can
live with more easily: "International law is not at an end," he writes
on April 16, even if the US had clearly damaged it. "International law
is not a rigid, but a dynamic system. It is made by states unilaterally
and reciprocally.... A breach of valid laws can damage them, but it can
also strengthen them, according to the reaction of the international
community." The latter, however, must recognise the fact that the US,
even if it breaks the law, is the only "democratic state" that "has the
means and the will to take over responsibility for the entire world".

Memories of 1933 and 1938

This "flexible attitude" towards international law and democratic rights
does indeed have, as Josef Joffe writes, a tradition in the "inner
world" of Germany-it is, however, a dire one.

The memoirs of the journalist and writer Sebastian Haffner are very
informative in this regard. He evocatively describes a scene in the
Berlin High Court after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933. Young
"newcomers" among the judges, who are completely ignorant but staunch
National Socialists (Nazis), advise their older colleagues that the old
legal paragraphs must now take second place, that it depends not on the
letter of the law, but on its spirit, and in particular on the will of
the "Führer":

"While this was going on, it was pitiful to study the faces of the old
judges. They looked into their files with an expression of indescribable
sadness while their fingers fiddled agonisingly with a paper clip or a
piece of blotting paper. In the past, they would have failed a law
student for the sort of talk they now had to listen to, presented as the
highest wisdom. But now the power of the state stood behind this talk,
and behind that the threat of being sacked for showing a lack of
national-political reliability, penury, the concentration camps.... One
of them coughed slightly; 'Naturally we entirely share your opinion,
Herr colleague', he said, 'However you will understand...' And pleaded
for a little understanding for the Civil Code and tried to save what
could be saved."[2]

This scene was symptomatic of how in 1933 the judicial authorities were
brought into line-and the same applies to the universities and newspaper
editorial boards-less by brute force than through becoming fellow
travellers, through the grovelling adaptation of most judges, state
attorneys, lawyers and professors to "the new facts" of the Nazi state.

Another historical parallel comes to the fore in view of the almost
boundless attempts of the German politicians and media to curry favour
with the gangster clique in Washington.

In the editorial "Helpless Europe" of April 10, while the bombing of
Iraqi cities was taking place before the eyes of the world, Bernd Ulrich
announced in Die Zeit that Bush's proclaimed war aim of "democratising
the Middle East" should be taken as good coin, and his love of peace and
human rights even understood as a stroke of luck for mankind:

"Herein lies a big opportunity, if the US really wants to accomplish
more than lending their old power politics a new garb-and if the
Europeans take the US at its word.... If in a globalised world only
democratisation brings security, then the West must risk everything to
export liberty. Firstly, into the dangerous, endangered Middle East. The
Americans have understood this better [!] than the old Europeans. But
why have they seized upon the worst means [!] first?... As far as the
future goes, however, one thing is certain: The Europeans can only act
as a brake on American militarism if they take their idealistic impulses
[!] seriously."

Who can fail to recall how London and Paris justified their
accommodating policy of appeasement to the Nazi regime and particularly
the "Munich Accord" of 1938? British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier had agreed at that time to
the secession of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and its
incorporation into the Third Reich as demanded by Hitler. Beforehand,
Hitler had protested his love of peace and had promised them that the
"liberation of the Sudeten Germans" would be his last territorial

"Only by accepting the word of a violent aggressor, as soon as they
declare that human rights, peace and liberty are their goals, can one
'influence them' and prevent something worse from happening," is the
argument advanced by the advocates of "realpolitik" then and now. Three
weeks after the Munich conference, Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to
prepare for the military occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia. Five
months later, the Nazis marched into Prague, and half a year after that
into Poland.

Bush and Rumsfeld are a long way from being able to rest on a fascist
mass movement in the US, as Hitler could in Germany. But on the
international stage, the glossing over of their crimes in Iraq and the
cowardly function of international law have implications similar to the
policy of appeasement at that time: the law of the jungle has once again
been made the rule in world politics. And the European powers now seek
to lay claim to the very same law.

1. Ludwig August von Rochau, Grundsätze der Realpolitik (Principles of
realpolitik), Part 2, Heidelberg 1869, quoted by Hans Ulrich Wehler in
Krisenherde des Kaiserreiches (Flashpoints of the Kaiser's Empire),
Goettingen, 1979, p. 272.

In his youth, Rochau had revolted against the restoration of rule in
Europe under the Metternich system and participated in the famous
"storming of the police headquarters" with a crowd of student activists
in Frankfurt am Main. For this he was condemned to lifelong penal
servitude, but was able to flee and spent the next one and a half
decades in exile. In 1848, he wrote as a journalist of the liberal
middle class against the "lefts" in the Frankfurt Paulskirche just as
sharply as he did against the conservative followers of the German
princely houses. In 1852, he wrote the first part of his Principles of
realpolitik, writing the second in 1869. After the military success of
Prussia over Denmark and Austria in 1866 he submitted "to the judgement
of the world court" and abandoned all remaining criticism of Bismarck
and the Prussian military state.

2. Sebastian Haffner, Geschichte eines Deutschen (History of a German),
Stuttgart and Munich 2000, pp. 177-78

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