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HBO History Makers Series [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.]

Presider: Richard R. Burt, Senior Advisor, Kissinger McLarty Associates; Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany (1985-89)
May 16, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

RICHARD R. BURT: I am delighted that on a rainy and somewhat humid May evening that we got a very good turnout tonight for our History Maker series.

I have a few sort of procedural things I have been asked to say before I introduce our principal tonight. But this is one of the council's History Makers events and, on behalf of the council, I want to thank Richard Pepler and Home Box Office for their generous support for this series.

I'd like to also remind people who haven't done so already to turn off your cell phones and pagers and assorted electronic devices, so we're not interrupted in our dialogue.

And, finally, I want to remind people that this session, which will last 60 minutes, is on the record, and in fact is being teleconferenced, so that Council members around the world can participate via a secure password-protected teleconference.

Having gotten those matters behind me, I'm delighted to be able to spend an hour with Joschka Fischer tonight here at the council. He literally is a man who needs no introduction. I have to say myself, who in one form or another for the last 25 years or longer has been associated with U.S.-German and U.S.-European relations, that I think we have the honor of spending some time with the most fascinating political figure in the last 25 years not only in Europe, but perhaps globally. He has a remarkable background that spans the 1960s period when he was a well known political activist, all though a period of actually creating a political revolution in Germany with the formation of the world's, if not the first, certainly the most prominent and influential Green Party and from there an elected politician at the state level in Germany, and then of course in the late '90s joining the so-called Red-Green coalition as the deputy chancellor and Germany's second longest serving foreign minister since the creation of the Federal Republic.

Now, the way that I've been told this should proceed is that we're going to segment the discussion tonight into two parts. Both parts though should try to focus as much as possible - since this is a history maker series, on a retrospective, which isn't to say I'm not going to rule out of bounds any questions or issues that have to do with contemporary policy, but please be clever enough to phrase those questions in a way that Joschka will get a chance to talk about his own intellectual development, the role of the Green Party and the changed orientation of German foreign policy, which he very much had a hand in and as foreign minister oversaw.

I'm going to take the first few minutes, the first segment, to raise some questions with Joschka myself, and then we will open the floor and let everyone participate.

I think I'd like to begin by reminding everybody that Richard Nixon wrote a famous book called "Six Crises," where he talked about some dramatic turning points in his own political life, and how it changed him, and also changed the United States, and in some cases the world.

In looking at Joschka Fischer's career, I can at least delineate three maybe not crises, but really important formative periods -- Joschka as a history maker. The first is that 1960s period where you were not only an activist, but to use the name of the Rolling Stones' song, you were a "streetfighting man." And you were probably one of the premier Sixty-Eighters, as they are known in Germany, someone who undertook participation in that very volatile period in German and European and American history, but then undertook what again the Germans call the long march through the institutions.

So as a first segment I'd like to focus on the late '60s, and get you to reflect on why that was such an important moment. There were student rebellions in other countries - France, of course, other parts of Europe - and of course the United States. But it seems like the "rebellion," if I can call it that, that took place, students and young people, had a particularly important impact on Germany and German politics. In fact, one of the really interesting distinctions between the United States and Germany is you don't find many American activists who participated in, say, the antiwar movement in the late '60s - maybe Bill Clinton attended a few antiwar demonstrations - but you don't find people that were at the core in the middle of that becoming senior people in the German leadership, whereas in Germany not only you but others have done that. So can you reflect on what that says about the period, what it meant for Germany and what it's meant more recently as your generation has come to influence?

JOSCHKA FISCHER: Thank you very much for inviting me here to talk about history. And that means I'm now really old when I should talk about history. That's the bad news

BURT: Don't remind us -- all of us.

FISCHER: On the other side, I think there you talk about '68, and in a few moments I will go more into the German '68 more, into the details there. I think the overall experience was a cultural change. Before I left last summer, late summer, the Rolling Stones gave a concert in Berlin. So I was invited, and I never was in a concert of the Rolling Stones, so as a grandfather I went to the Rolling Stones to see these crazy grandfathers on stage. And what really was striking was that you could see there three generations: grandparents, parents, and children and grandchildren. So this wasn't possible with my father and grandfather that we would have went together to a concert. I think it is really important to understand the change, because when I think back there was I think a very important break in everyday culture - and this was not only in Germany; this started in the U.S. and the United Kingdom -- it was pop culture. In Germany you had the very specific situation, and if you go more into the depth of the laughter and terrorism then we will find this immediately. It's the question of the Nazi period and the confrontation between the World War, Second World War generation and the grown-up children.

And Germany developed - I mean, it all started much earlier. We had a free press. Many of those young men who survived the Second World War and some of the young women at that time, they became real democrats. There was I think a very strong Cold War democratic reconstruction, thanks also to the United States and the United Kingdom -- both military governments made a terrific job to encourage these young generations in the immediate after-war period. Many of them were brought to the United States, were invited. There were famous later on politicians like head of the chancellery during the period of Willy Brandt, Horst Ehmke, who was representing that generation of the '50s. But this was the positive side. The negative side was that the millions of supporters of Hitler were still there, and you couldn't deny them. I mean, this was the reality, the tragic and sad reality of the country. And when my generation grew up this was a very bitter confrontation - more bitter than other, I think, European states. And I think this confrontation was a generational confrontation which made '68 in Germany so bitter - very bitter.

I will never forget when I met the first time, when I came into the parliament, I was elected as the whip in 1983, and we looked still very streetfighting. I mean, I had to go and deal with the conservatives, the practical issues. And later on I had a good relationship with one of the very conservative leaders of the Christian Democratic Party, also Second World War generation, and we spoke about that. And I told him, "When I saw you the first time I thought this is now old Germany, the reactionary forces not dressed any longer in uniform but in civil suits." And he said, "When I saw you I thought this is the crazy - (inaudible) - column of Moscow." So this was really I mean a very bitter confrontation and it needed a decade to get over it, or even more to get over it.

BURT: Let me go - I want to move to that period when you came into the Bundestag. But before we do, talk a little bit though about what the goals of you and your colleagues were in 1968 and looking back on those goals were the, A, realistic? And, B, to what extent did you and others succeed in securing those goals later in your career?

FISCHER: Well, I think one of the major goals, which was very constructive - a lot of goals were unrealistic or even I think pretty crazy. But the core, the real substance was a new form of freedom, of liberty, of self-determination, of democratization. And I don't know who has seen the movie "One, Two, Three" from Billy Wilder, but when - this was - when I look back on my childhood, this is exactly the type of generation I had to deal with. I see my teachers, I see the state authorities, judges - wherever you went these are these - well, heel-clicking Germans. And that's exactly, I mean, what's completely disappeared now. I think it's - the democratization impact was very strong. And, strangely enough, if you look to - or Westernization - the German right, the democratic right, the Christian Democrats, the German right did that, the Westernization of foreign policy, during the Christian Democratic periods - not only Adenauer - he founded that - but up to Kohl it was always oriented in foreign policy to strong Links.

The left, and especially the '68 left, the new left, was more focused on the domestic Westernization. So one of the major issues I fought for long before the Green Party started was to get rid of our citizenship law which was based on jus sanguinis. It means you are a German when you are born into a German family, and you are not a German when you are born in Germany but your family is not German. So this is a different citizenship law. And in the end during the Red-Green coalition we changed that against very strong opposition of the conservatives. This is one of the elements I think of the very rational goal to accept that our country is an immigration country that we should have a different citizenship law; that Germany should open up. It's a question that authority must be - it's not a given but if you are in a leading position you have to explain and you have to make your case and convince the people that they grant you the authority to lead. These were I think the rational issues, all the socialist stuff - not social justice, but the socialist ideas was more provocation because the German postwar mainstream was based on anti-Communism. And anti-Communism means we don't talk any longer about the Nazi period. So this was the common sense and the mainstream, and it was very easy when you want to get someone upset you only have to talk about - I mean you had a funny period because you were immediately attacked. And this was unrealistic goals, because at the end it turned out they were terrible ideas.

Now, in Frankfurt I was in a situation that we had a strong influence of Adorno, Horkheimer, the Frankfurt School, Habermas, then Daniel Cohn-Bendit came from France, and he brought with him a left-wing anti-Communism, because in France there was this strong Stalinist and post-Stalinist Community Party. So we had a different perspective, always Western oriented. Of course Vietnam played a very important role. I was growing up with a very positive picture about America , born in the Southwest, and America was always the positive power. But Vietnam destroyed a lot of that picture. So all this together explains '68.

BURT: Let's move to what I called before this German phrase the "long march though the institutions." You played a critical role in the '70s and into the '80s in the formation of the Green Party. And again there's a little bit of German exceptionalism here in that there are Green movements all over the world, but I think it's fair to say that the German Green Party itself became the first - and some people would argue maybe the only - Green Party that had a major impact on country policy. Can you talk a little bit about how that happened? Why did the other parties fail on the one hand to pick up on this issue? Why was there a political vacuum that allowed you to move in there? And then how did a group of people who were notoriously fractious and opinionated and split along the famous lines of the Realos and the Bundis. How were you able to pull that together and get electoral success first on the state level and then on the national level?

FISCHER: This has nothing to do with German factionalism. It has to do with just exactly the same political consequences of the Second World War, because based on the division of the - the partition of my country. Anti-Communism was also embedded in the big Cold War, a German civil war between West Germany and East Germany which shouldn't be forgotten. These were two states which were de facto in a civil war, a civil war formed in states, embedded in the big Cold War. So our political system -- for example, the Communist Party was forbidden I think in the mid '50s - very, very unusual in European democracy - and this has to do with the mainstream consensus between the left and the right in the postwar period was a very narrow one. So on the one hand very narrow limits, because they were the Soviet Union on German territory in East Germany, there was the GDR. On the other side there was also the Nazi past. So it was a very narrow political specter.

Funny enough, at the beginning I wasn't thinking building a party, because I believed in movements and from my more anarchist perspective building up a party meant building up certain political lead and it's just the opposite of a movement. But once when I was convinced that there was no other way that movement can address an issue successfully, but at the a party or a majority in the parliament and a government has to implement it, because the movement can't implement it by itself. And given the narrowness of our political system, the idea was we want to make our own party not to go into the Social Democratic Party. Maybe in France or in the U.K. I would have ended up in the Labour Party, or in the United States in the Democratic Party, but this was the period of Helmut Schmidt, and he had all the strength but also the shortcomings of the war generation, so it was very, very hard. And there was something I think which played a very important role, the so-called Berufsverbote -- I don't know how you can translate that. It means that with a radical left past you can't enter the public service. So the real radicals didn't have the intention to enter the public service until they entered the government. This was then based on election. But this was very discriminatory and created a very bad feeling and alienated a lot of pretty moderate people out of the student movement who wanted to become teachers or judges or whatever. So this was done during Brandt. Then the terrorist development, which forced the state to a very harsh reaction, brought together an alienation of I think an important part of the '68 and '70s generation. And there was the idea to say let's found our own party. Now, the driving force was to get out of this isolationist of the new left, of the situation of isolationism - was an environmental issue. And this was closely linked to the big oil crisis after the '73 war. And then we started a big nuclear program during the Helmut Schmidt period. And this was the first time that the new left and the very conservative vintners, farmers, whatever, who were protesting against new nuclear power plants, came together. And this was the beginning of the green movement in Germany. And it was a combination of new left and very conservative elements, and this I think, together with our party system, with the tradition of the party system, and our voting law made the difference for example to France. And then we had the very hard fight about it, because when I joined the party I said it makes no sense to have '68 again in the parliament. It won't work. It makes no sense. It would only help the conservatives. If you go in, if you are elected, then you have to try to get a majority to make things done. Without that your votes are de facto votes for the other side. So with the best intentions you end up in just the opposite: helping the conservatives. So this was a fight for 10 years and at the end we succeeded. I was strongly convinced that we had to do that and we had to go through and not to give in. It was a very tough fight about going into a government and changing the society by democratic means.

BURT: By the time the Green Party in the '90s had established itself as a viable nationwide party, a party that in the polls got over the 5 percent, which meant that in election you'd come into the Bundestag, you became a potential coalition partner for the SPD and potentially the other party. What was the profile at that point of the average supporter of the Green? What was your appeal at that point? Because I had a sense by then you transcended the environmental issue. You had actually a party platform that addressed like any other major German party all the issues.

FISCHER: But our core business was the environmental and energy issues, and we were right. I am very proud about that. I live now here in the United States, and I love this country and I admire the strength and vibrancy of your democracy, and also the strength of your values. But what I don't understand is that what is so complicated to understand that this is a new industrial revolution - with China, with India. I mean, we will live within the next 20 years in a completely different world. It makes no sense to burn fuel if you don't need it. I have a middle-class household here, in my leased house in Princeton and one in Berlin. And, sorry to say so to an American audience, we are three steps ahead - with the same lifestyle -- believe me. It's nothing - I'm not preaching like we should live like in the founding period or so. Same lifestyle. There is no difference the fishes in Berlin and the fishes in Princeton. There is no difference. But I heat in wintertime my garden in Princeton less than Berlin. And in summer I cool the garden. But the garden won't be heated in winter, and it needs not refreshment from the cooling system in summer. It makes no sense. And we change that. And I'm very proud about that, because my party and the environmental movement, they started with a very sectarian approach. But then we understood this is another strange experience here in the United States - then we understood that this means a new business opportunity, and we have to go over the prices and not to go mostly over administrative measures.

Now, here in the United States I learned - and this is still the beacon of the market economy or capitalism, or however you will name it, that here mostly administrative measures are in the discussion, because everybody is afraid - I understand why - to put taxes on energy. And as long as - and this is market economy and capitalism - as long as you have the wrong prices, you have the wrong allocation of resources and malfunction of the system. And the big battle was, for the Greens, when we understood this mechanism, that we have to fight for a turnaround. And it was a hell of a fight to increase the energy prices. But look to our car industry. Look to the Japanese car industry. It's not only about the pension system. It's a very big issue on the American car industry. But it's also the pressure of higher prices to be more energy efficient, to have a more advanced technology. And look to Toyota. It's not a green company. It's a very excellently managed capitalist company. But they understand the importance because they were on their whole market under very strong pressure. That's the same with the European car producer. This is only an example. If you go to the housing, we created a market there by changing a law. We created a market for renewables.

So my impression is that, funny enough, I thought in America everybody is trained in the market rules, price and so on. And I realize here you are thinking more in administrative measures than for example the Europeans, and especially the Germans do. I understand the domestic wisdom, because it's a hell of a fight to change this mentality. But at the end I think it's the right way.

BURT: My last question, Joschka, is going to go to the third - won't call it a crisis, but the third challenge in your career was from really 1998 through 2005 as the German foreign minister. And this was of course a period following the Cold War, a time of fundamental change in East-West relations. And as part of that process, you as a leader within NATO, took important decisions to expand the alliance, move the alliance eastward. Germany no longer became a frontline state, as it was during the Cold War, but became actually again, as a reunited country, a Central European power. And, going beyond that, Germany for the first time began to play a role which, as someone who followed Germany for many years, was not - was not only fundamentally important, but very surprising: Germany began to think about projecting military force beyond its own border, having a defensively structured military force, Germany began gradually to expand its sphere of operations, and probably most famously where you played a critical role actually took part in the NATO military operation not approved by the United Nations Security Council against Serbian forces in Serbia and Kosovo. Can you talk about that sort of era for us and the kind of challenges, particularly as the leader of the Green Party, leading that really important transformation, which of course now has led to Germany having its forces deployed in a number of areas, most importantly now in Afghanistan. Can you talk about that transformation and how intellectually you saw this come about and how this did, if it did in your case, but in other's, represent an important transformation of Germany's view of itself and its obligations and responsibilities to the international community?

FISCHER: Well, I think it was a learning process, because especially the Europeans, all of them, those who were in favor of breaking up policy Yugoslavia and recognizing different republics or those who wanted to preserve Yugoslavia - I belonged more to the second group. Those who were in favor of military intervention, those who were against it: I think we all made a terrible mistake. We misread what was really happening at the beginning in '92.

There was no West anymore the old confrontation lines of 1914, London and Paris against Vienna and Bonn/Berlin - Croatia, Serbia. So suddenly 50 years of Western European development seemed to have disappeared. And I think this was a terrible mistake. It was also I think one of the rare moments where lessons were learned out of history, when Macedonia was on the verge of collapse and breaking out of another devastating civil war. The West understood that the lessons, and NATO, Lord Robertson as NATO's secretary-general and the EU with Javier Solana as foreign policy representative together with the parties on the ground renegotiated a constitutional agreement which is still preserving that key country in the Balkans.

It was a learning process. For me it was impossible. I realize not only on the left side also in the democratic right that we should bomb again Belgrade - what Hitler did. We should attack a country where the Wehrmacht and the SS has committed horrible crimes. This was for me impossible. I mean, this was against everything I've learned over 20 or 30 years in my political life, and was against my basic values and the basic lessons which I thought that I've learned out of German history.

But then the other side, to do nothing, and stand by and watching mass rape, mass killings, terrible atrocities - I got in the domestic conflict. For me the turnaround was Srebrenica -- I mean, the biggest massacre after the end of the World War. Then I changed the hard fight, because I said, okay, I'm in favor that the U.N. should decide. But if the Russian bloc - we cannot say, because there is no decision we watch genocide, we watch mass rape or whatever. This makes no sense in real life. But we had to act, and we had to reach a consensus. By the way, Bush 41 had also reached a consensus before liberating Kuwait in '91 and in 2003 there was no regional consensus, and this is one of the reasons why the turnout is so different. So there was EU and NATO, all the Europeans, including the Russians. The Russians were in favor to do everything not to intervene militarily, but they would be very happy if with us after such an intervention would be in the way as it turned out to be, also they agreed to 1244. It was an exception.

But, once again, I think this was an important lesson. Now, this also much about Germany -- Germany did this, Germany did that. If we continue in that way, that there was France, there was Great Britain, there was Germany, there are the Netherlands, there are all the others - if there is not a Europe I think you will lose interest, because Europe trades for the time being and I hope we will continue not any longer problems for the U.S. But more and more your impression that this United Europeans, they are too small -- China, India are defining the new size. Okay, economically they are still important, but nobody knows what will happen. But in political terms Europe is not any longer a serious issue. And there exactly I think look to the Balkans.

One of the lessons which must be learned is that Milosevic created a challenge for the Europe of the new Europe, for the new Europe, a Europe of integration. And we are still in between. We have the enlargement. The European Union is a great success story if you look to enlargement. And if you look to perennial peace in Europe, which is a guarantee also by the president of the United States, but strongly by the European Union. If you look now that the Balkans are part of Europe and not - small loose canons between Russia and the West or Poland, all the others, it's very important if you look to the domestic situation in these countries in the transitional period. And we have this strong European perspective on the one hand, but haven't managed to make the political and the security, so this exactly is what I think we have to go to. This is the consequence of the Balkan wars, because Milosevic's policy was exactly the policy which was the mainstream policy beyond the Western democracies in the fascist period of Europe in the '30s and '40s. There these dictators a la Milosevic were not only Milosevic - you could find them everywhere, including my own country, with Hitler, with Mussolini and all these smaller Hitlers and Mussolinis in other European countries. This was the challenge, whether we will fall back into nationalism and in the devastating confrontations which almost destroyed Europe, or whether we are ready I mean to confront him and draw a red line and say, here we are. Maybe the mistake was - I blame myself that I was not sooner ready to push some others. My friend Daniel Cohn-Bendit was from the very beginning pushing for a military intervention, set aside all the ideological differences and said it's about our principles and it's about the life of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. This is for me the consequence, and Europe must now make a big jump forward. We have now a new generation, Merkel one and a half years in the office; Sarkozy today in the office - now he will sleep, but before he was in Berlin - let's see. And Brown within a few days in Downing Street No. 10. So you have a new trio at the top of the European Union, whether they can move forward with a strong European political and security integration for the European Union.

BURT: I'm now going to open up the floor. I hope somebody will be inclined to maybe ask our guest perhaps what the kind of advice that he and his colleague, Chancellor Schroeder, gave the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq, get into maybe that issue which we haven't touched. But let me call on someone. If you don't mind, if you could identify yourself and remember that we're on the record here.


QUESTIONER: I'm Bill Bennett (sp) with the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. I'd like to ask that question. (Laughter.)

BURT: Thank you.

FISCHER: Well, this needs a little bit longer answer, because first of all we spoke about that too, and I was strongly convinced. And, once again, in Germany the parliament makes the decision about war and peace. Based on our history, I think this is an understandable development. So you have to bring the majority over, and it's really tough, because, as I said before, from the left to the right the Germans after this terrible first half of the 20th century are very skeptical about the use of force. This is one I think positive development out of our history. Other nations have a more glorious history and therefore not the hesitations we have. I'm not complaining about it, it's just the factual explanation. You have really I mean to be convinced and to fight for it. I was convinced about Kosovo that I negotiated with Milosevic. We tried everything, the whole group -- everybody tried everything. At the end it was quite clear this guy will continue with his policy and we can't accept that.

When this terrible attack on this wonderful city took place and on Arlington and on the people of the United States and the government, it was quite clear that it was a moment of solidarity and we had to join and put our government at risk, which Schroeder did with the vote of confidence. And we joined the alliance and went to Afghanistan. Once again we had to fight for that and I was convinced.

But from the very beginning, and I sensed it very early - very early - I thought Iraq was a bad idea, because this was not the issue. The issue was al Qaeda, the issue was weapons of mass destruction, and the issue was transforming the Middle East, because in my assessment the real source of this terrorism is a block modernization in that region, a modernization process in the crisis. The traditional nationalist modernization Ba'ath Party, but also Fatah, Arafat, (Ben Ali ?), Tunisia, Mubarak - all these ended up in military regimes - the FNL in Algeria - which couldn't really the match the need of their nations for modernization. They tried it but at a certain moment in history they run out of historical forces and they kept the power based on military regimes and secret police. The pact Saudi Arabia made with very fundamentalist Islam turned out to be a very dangerous thing. And to explore this contradiction is one - and still is one of, I think, the major challenges which should be addressed.

So my assessment was - and I agreed that the status quo in the Middle East is not exactable any longer after 9/11, and I agreed that we must transform that region. But I never believed -- and maybe there I had the achievements of my radical past - that this could be done at the point of a barrel of a gun. If you put someone, the barrel of a gun on his head and ask him whether he's a democrat, he would say yes. But he will not be a democrat, he will be your enemy. And I think that Iraq was exactly the confrontation to go into a confrontation with a revolutionary nationalism in the Arab world, which was enriched by religion more and more, so not any longer like this nationalism, but a religious-based, faith-based nationalism. I mean, this is still what you can see now in that region.

I read in the run-up period Brent Scowcroft's autobiography because I was interested why didn't the U.S. in '91 go into Baghdad? The road was open. The Iraqi army was destroyed in Kuwait and in the battles at the border. It would have been very easy to move in seemingly without many shots and losses. And I think the questions which were raised were very viable, and I didn't invent these questions by myself. I got it from the Republican administration. And definitely - I mean, when I read Brent Scowcroft's piece, I think in the Wall Street Journal in August, it was exactly the concerns we had, and we never - and I say that here in public - got serious answers. And my impression - and once again here on the record was there was an ideological few that all these concerns are old stuff. These are the concerns of old people, which do not understand the new world, the new challenges. Even after the war when it was proposed, let's do it now in the Afghan type. Let's put the U.N. in the forefront. A special representative, which is - I mean, should come from a Muslim or Arab country - let's do it in the Afghan type, run the show more from the background, don't break up the military on all these issues. The ideological perspective was we want to do it in a different way. The U.N., this is the old world. We want to do it in a different way. The coalition of the willing - this is the new world. We don't obey the rules of the real world. We break the rules of the real world. And this was exactly I mean the confrontation, and I said it from the very beginning in my confrontation with Donald Rumsfeld, and senators were sitting in front of me.

Let me start again. I mean, at that time Dominique de Villepin was the bad guy here in the United States. But I remember the discussions behind closed doors with him. We had the same assessment that America will end in the quicksand; this will create a disaster, and this will weaken the United States. And the United States is the only global power which can avoid chaos and new threats. A weaker United States cannot be in our interests, but this strategy will weaken the United States. So even these - even Dominique de Villepin was driven -- and Chirac - were driven by this concern that this will end in a disaster. And if Schroeder and Chirac would have joined, I don't believe that the disaster would have been minimized. I think it would have been even worse, because then it would have seemed as a Western attack on the Muslim, or especially the Arab world.

But from point of view I was from the very beginning convinced this reminds me not - this was not conservative. I had immediately the sense this reminds me - my own radical period. This is just the opposite of conservative. This was the belief you can create a better world with the use of force. You can't create a better world by the use of force. Sometimes you must use force to stop evil or to stop a wrong development. But creating a better world - and that's exactly what the U.S., the great generation, and the great generation of the United Kingdom did in Germany, and you also in Japan. This was a very constructive work. This was not based on force; this was based on education, this was based on values, this was based on a transforming period. And that's exactly why the Europeans today are better than the U.S., because with our enlargement policy we copied what you did with the Marshall Plan. At that time you didn't have a partner in Europe, so you created your partner. And Germany was one of your partners. So I just want to - I think a very, very great strategy, and one of the brightest chapters I think in the success story of American diplomacy. And my assessment was that Iraq will go into just the opposite direction, and then there was this ideological blindness, which I never understood. What I learned from the United States, if the most powerful man in the world -- there is the difference between my father and grandfather and myself - they, when the most powerful man said, "One plus one makes three," they would have said, "Yes, sir." I've learned from the United States one plus one makes two, and if the most powerful man in the world tells you one plus one makes three, you have to stand up and to say, "With all due respect, you are wrong, sir. It is two."

BURT: Right here.

QUESTIONER: I was a correspondent in Germany and in France in those years, and Germany was always relatively pro-American. As you say, during Vietnam there was some damage to that. But since we went into Iraq, and Germany and France and others in Europe disagreed, and it worked out so well, I just wondered how serious is the problem of anti-Americanism today in Germany, and how long will it take to overcome the consequences of --

FISCHER: It's everywhere, everywhere in Europe.

BURT: Let me ask you again, because this is an interesting question. Answer it though in kind of relative terms: now versus say during the missile debate in the '80s and Reagan, or Vietnam in the '60s. Is it different? Is there a different quality to it now?

FISCHER: Today - I mean, you have always the usual suspects on the far left and the far right, which I mean I don't want to talk about them. We'll find, and you'll find anti-Europeans. Yesterday I saw my most favorite TV show, the Cultural Warrior who hates France: "I hate France. I don't like the French." I mean, okay. Put that aside. We have them too. This is I think not a serious issue.

But, of course, I mean the majority of the European population, and it's the same in Poland and wherever, was convinced that this was the wrong war. And we shouldn't forget the biggest manifestation we had in Berlin after the end of the Cold War was I think September 14th in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Even the left-wing radicals from Kreuzberg I saw some of them - I couldn't believe it. There was a strong emotional feeling of solidarity, just the opposite of anti-Americanism, and a Frenchman said, "Today we are all Americans." And this was exactly the feeling -- believe it. This was exactly the feeling.

And the majority of course - I mean, nobody was happy to go into war and send our troops into risk in Afghanistan. But this was an attack of the United States organized from south of Afghanistan and we had to get rid of these al Qaeda. This was also accepted. And even those who opposed in the parliament in my party understood that it must be done. So there was nothing like anti-American feeling. And even when - nobody believed in the reasons. We had the same intelligence more or less. And what we said was let the inspectors do their job. And they did a terrific job. I mean, you kind of -- if there would have been poison gas or whatever at a certain site, if they would have tried to hide it, these inspectors with their technical expertise, you can't fool them. Maybe you can fool them once, but you can't fool them twice or three times. So every time when they had gotten information, "There is a site, go there" - they went there and came back and explained it, why the information was wrong. So we would have reconsidered our position if there would have been the famous smoking gun. But there was no smoking gun. And, by the way, the council on Foreign Relations should really reconsider the most important political interview was done in Vanity Fair and not in Foreign Affairs, and it was Wolfowitz's explanation that it was not about weapons of mass destruction, it was only bureaucratic reasons. So if I compare that with the '60s or with Reagan, today there is a lot of anti-Bushism, but I don't see anti-Americanism. There is an underlying streak, yes, but I think this will change immediately if you would have a - or you will have an administration, Republican or Democrat, which will go back to a more centrist foreign policy and more partnership oriented. I don't see there permanent damage. In the old days, I mean, ask young Americans - a lot of young Americans live today in Germany, especially Berlin, it's - no, I don't see that. There are underlying problems, misunderstandings. I could tell you a lot about my experiences here with Europeans. I mean, how Americans perceive Europeans, we are getting old, don't believe in God and have too long holidays. (Laughter.) So it is in the American perspective.

BURT: Right here. No, no, that's you. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: I'm Donald Shriver (sp), Union Theological Seminary. In light of that analysis, what do you think that Germany or the EU might contribute to the recovery of Iraq from this war?

FISCHER: At the end of these flawed policies I think we are altogether now in a lose-lose situation, and this has nothing -- I mean, to face reality has nothing to do with despotism. But I think the sectarian confrontation is very, very serious. Iran was pushed into a position which Iran never would have achieved based on its own strength. Don't forget that. They are now in a dominant position, but not because they are so skillful. I mean, this is not a superpower. This is not the Soviet Union to look to the basic figures. But they are in a dominant position.

Whether once historians will say this Iraq war was the beginning of the Balkanization of the Middle East, I don't know. But at least there is a risk. Of course nobody is talking about them, but this is the ticking bomb. The (Kurds ?) is still one of the hardest issues in Iraq. And the only way out is if America tries. And there I think Europe could be very supportive to engage the relevant players, because what will be the consequence? The consequence will be you will elect the next president, and whoever he or she or which party it would be , reelection - you can forget reelection if the United States will continue to fight a war in Iraq, when the next midterm election will come. Though we are talking now definitely - and everybody knows that - a very narrow time limit. And the next president, Democrat or Republican, must be very careful that at the end this will not be his war and destroy his legacy. Everybody knows that, and I think your enemies are calculating with that. Now, to say it's not allowed to explain that - these guys are not stupid - definitely not -- so it's not a question of whether you explain that verbally or not - it won't change. But you have to engage, because I think your - it must be done by the United States, and then Europe can be very helpful.

If you leave without - and you will leave - this is my assessment - and once you started to leave, I mean, the danger and the threats for the troops left there will increase tremendously, so that domestic pressure will speed up this process, understandably. And it's really tragic to live here and to read every day and to see these young men and women - I mean, it's really tragic in lots of personal ways.

I think the only way out is to create a minimal regional consensus. And I think there the United States has leverage, still a strong leverage. Because what will be the consequence? Once you leave the whole region will be sucked in into the Iraq Civil war. And none of them is strong enough for this issue on the battlefield, though the risk that at the end they will be destabilized by this war is very high. But you have to tell them, the Iranians, that they will pay the price for that. You - I mean, Colin Powell once said, "You broke it, you own it." This is not true in that case. You broke it, but the Iranians, the Turks, the Saudis will own it - and the Syrians. And I think this is the leverage for national consensus. This could be used, but you must engage them without - and therefore I think Tehran was very concerned when Nancy Pelosi arrived in Damascus. They weren't relieved. They were very concerned. You have to engage them. You must try to separate them. You must try to create a new regional environment that the United States can disengage in Iraq. Without that I think the consequences of disengagement will be unpredictable. But you can't engage them without talking to them. It seems to me quite obvious. And there once again is the dividing line between the present administration, which I think and some others think should be done - urgently should be done.

BURT: This will have to be the last question.

QUESTIONER: You've had an incredible career in public life, and the question I have is when you look back on your long career across all of the different things that you've done, what are the three or four things that seem most significant to you? What would you like your legacy to be? What are you most proud of?

BURT: What do you want on your tombstone? (Laughter.)

FISCHER: On my tombstone? (Laughter.) Very personal. On my tombstone, I think, rightly so, it should be written, "It was fun." It's not a political legacy. I'm not my own historian. This I think no.

I mean, what I think in my life '68 was a turning point, and what we achieved with the Red-Green coalition, my impression is we achieved a lot. We started with continuity. This was my principle. But the very decision, the very first decision we had to make before we even formed a government about Kosovo we - Schroeder and myself traveled to Washington and we agreed that Germany won't be part of the NATO threat. And three days later when we went back home everything was changed and we were in the position during the late Kohl days to agree to the NATO threat, to the actor. It was discontinuity, because we started from the very beginning. We always thought look backward to see how we can draw the line into the future, the lone line of our national interests, of our history of five decades of democratic Germany, and we will follow that. But the very decision was just the opposite. It was a complete break, I mean, to commit German troops to war. And this was exactly - it was 9/11, so we always had to challenge, including the domestic economic reform. I'm proud that we did it. Now Germany is booming again. Also the environmental issues that we pushed forward against all odds, where everybody said this is crazy stuff from a subculture, but this is not a serious issue. This is a second important element. But I'm not my own historian.

BURT: I've got to unfortunately call this fascinating dialogue to an end. Joschka told me earlier this evening that in addition to serving here at the council as a distinguished visiting diplomat, his time and tenure at Princeton is coming to an end - I think in another month - and he will be returning to Berlin. So I think our meeting tonight has been very timely. I asked him what he plans to be doing in Berlin, and he said, "Absolutely nothing." Somehow based on the remarks we've heard tonight and his remarkable career, I doubt that. But please join me in - (applause).

FISCHER: Thank you.

BURT: And we wish you the best of luck back in Berlin.








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