Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration By Norbert Frei Translated by Joel Golb (Columbia University Press, 365 pp., $35)In this grim account of the formative years of West German democracy, the German historian Norbert Frei examines legislation affecting the amnesty and the integration of Germans suspected of, accused of, and in many cases indicted for crimes committed during the Nazi era.
Perceptions, perceptions. The great debate about the war in Iraq-- does anybody imagine that the United States has dispatched 180,000 troops to the Gulf not to send them into battle?--has dissolved into another debate about debates, another collision of perspectives, Washington, Paris, Berlin, New York, Brussels, Vilnius, Riyadh, the streets, the halls of power, as if there were no real threats that must be met, no conclusive answers that can be given to some of the urgent questions, and all that is needed now is a tolerance for other people's opinions.
If the world is not quite a village, it is nonetheless in the midst of a town meeting, and the heat is overtaking the light. What the world is arguing about so ferociously is the United States and its proper role in human history. The debate about Iraq is really a debate about the impact of America on the world. Our interlocutors, and even our enemies, are correct in this regard: There is no more significant fact about the present-day international order, no more sensational fact about it, than the prominence of the United States. We are staggeringly huge.
Not since that lofty spiritualist Dag Hammarskjold has there been a U. N. secretary-general whom the worthy have so taken to their bosoms. A great moral aura attaches to Kofi Annan, even though--as a lesser U.N. official in both bloody Bosnia and bloodier Rwanda--he kept armed multinational forces under his command from impeding the macabre work of mass murderers. But, at the Secretariat, the salient comparisons are to ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim. So it is not surprising that Annan considers himself the embodiment of all that is virtuous in world affairs.
"Last time, this nation entered a war to make the world safe for democracy and establish permanent peace; it was betrayed in the event because its aims were not embodied in the peace settlement. Do we now risk such a betrayal again?" Looking back to World War I, this journal asked that question on August 25, 1941, in an editorial called "For a Declaration of War." And that is the question again today. Today's war debate also occurs against the backdrop of a past betrayal.
"Ideas have consequences," the conservative intellectual Richard Weaver wrote half a century ago. The truism comes to mind as another group of conservative intellectuals, this one guiding foreign policy inside the Bush administration, prepares to launch a war in the Middle East--not for oil or geopolitical advantage but on behalf of an idea. The idea is liberalism. According to President Bush, "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause," and, as such, he routinely casts the impending war as an effort to bring democracy to a land that has known only dictatorship.
It was a lost decade. A journalist friend of mine traveled with Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Europe in 1993 for one of his fruitless Balkan negotiations. When the official delegation stopped at Shannon Airport for refueling on the way home, Christopher, not generally sociable, surprised my friend by pulling up beside him at the bar. "What can I get you?" the burly bartender asked the secretary. Christopher responded, "I'd like an Irish coffee, please ... but hold the whiskey and make it decaf." When I think of the '90s, I think of Christopher's Irish coffee.
A few days after the September 11 attacks, I received a note from a former student in Tehran. "[Y]ou won't believe it," she wrote, "but the whole country is in mourning. You should have been here for the demonstrations and candlelight vigils for America, it's all true: the tears, the long-stemmed roses, the candles, ... and then of course the hoodlums attacked and started beating us, especially the young kids, and arresting them. ... The funny thing about it is that those bastards felt betrayed by the love we showed `the imperialist Zionist enemy.' ...
Trent Lott must think he's living in a nightmare. More than one week has passed since his segregationist cheerleading at Strom Thurmond's century celebration, and the chorus of anti-Lottism has swelled ever louder. Conservatives in particular can't scream loud enough.
In the summer of 1999, Trent Lott cut what seemed like a fair good deal with his Democratic counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. For weeks, Democrats had been holding up the Senate's work on a number of appropriations bills--bills the GOP hoped would force Bill Clinton to make politically treacherous decisions about tax cuts and spending. So, in exchange for Daschle's promise to let the appropriations bills move forward, Lott allowed Democrats to bring up 20 amendments to a soon-to-be-debated HMO reform bill. Conservatives were apoplectic.