a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The Minister and the Terrorist

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 28th, 2001

…is the title of a good article, by Andrei Markovits, about Joschka Fischer (the German foreign minister) and the German 60’s; it’s in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. (Unfortunately, the online version is is just a 500 word preview.) The terrorist? Joschka Fischer’s friend, Hans-Joachim Klein, involved in Carlos the Jackal’s attack on the 1975 OPEC meeting. Fischer himself was photographed during a riot in 1973, fist cocked, motorcycle helmet on, confronting a policeman. How did Fischer get from there to the top rungs of power, while his friend wound up on trial for terrorism?

Summing up, Markovits writes that Fischer — a “Sponti”, +/- a Battle of Seattle type, during the 60s — was quicker than most of his comrades to realize that German society was really opening up and becoming more egalitarian during the 70s. This meant he and others like him could jettison the conceit that Germany was a “fascist” state, and take up the “Verfassungspatriotismus” (constitutional patriotism) preached by key thinkers like Juergen Habermas. Fischer and others like him, Markovits argues, saw Germany’s turn to the West, and specifically to America and American culture, as a good thing inoculating it against a relapse into fascism. Others on the left were less enthusiastic, of course.

An interesting claim Markovits makes about Fischer is that he took the Holocaust to heart in a way many of his Palestinian-shawl wearing friends would not; this in turn was directly related to his decision to back the Kosovo campaign. Both with Kosovo and now with Afghanistan, Fischer and Schroeder have accomplished a German version of the “Nixon to China” trick; only they, Markovits argues, could have brought Germany into an active military campaign on the side of the United States. Christian Democratic-led coalitions would have not even tried, in the face of certain mass protests.

It is those student radicals of decades ago, therefore, who will ultimately have bequeathed to their offspring Germany’s two dominant features in the twenty-first century: the Westernization of its culture and the normalization of its politics.

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