Consider, moreover, who defeated Schröder, Chirac, and Co. Angela Merkel will now be able to form a stable “center-right” coalition government. Angela Merkel, who warned Schröder in front of the Bundestag that his “anti-war” offensive would make war “more likely, not less.” Angela Merkel, who on account on her statements of solidarity with the United States would be crudely caricatured in a famous carnival float showing her climbing into George Bush’s behind.
Nowadays, Nicolas Sarkozy insists that the Iraq war was a “mistake” and defies anyone to find statements of his supporting the war. But his leftist critics do not take such protestations seriously. In 2002-2003, Sarkozy was the French interior minister and in no position openly to criticize Chirac and de Villepin’s anti-Iraq war campaign. But French leftists recall his highly publicized visit to President Bush in Washington in September 2006 and they remember the words that he uttered while on that trip. Alluding to French “arrogance,” Sarkozy observed that “it is inappropriate to try to embarrass one’s allies or to give the impression that one takes pleasure in their troubles. I have always preferred modest efficiency to sterile grandiloquence” — a clear shot across the bows of Chirac and especially de Villepin. (The full speech is available here in French.)
Moreover, if Sarkozy himself never came out in support of the Iraq war, as president he has not hesitated to assign key foreign policy posts to some of the rare French politicians who did, including Bernard Kouchner, the current French foreign minister. Perhaps even more revealing is the recent appointment of Pierre Lellouche to the post of undersecretary for European affairs. In winter 2002-2003, Lellouche’s pleas for France to abandon its obstructionism vis-à-vis the Bush administration were so insistent that he would be described by the French daily Le Figaro as a “Bushiste” (February 25, 2003); and while doing an interview with Le Monde (February 28, 2003), a colleague in the French national assembly would jokingly address him as “George.”
When one considers, furthermore, that Silvio Berlusconi is back in power in Italy following his landslide electoral victory in April 2008, then one comes to a startling realization. Some six and a half years after the start of the Iraq war, continental Europe’s three largest and most powerful countries are all led by politicians who more or less openly supported the war and/or severely criticized the Franco-German efforts to prevent it.
By a bizarre historical irony, however, the politics of the “axis of peace” continue to lead a sort of shadow existence in Washington — in the person of Barack Obama. As is well known, Obama came to prominence almost exclusively on the strength of his opposition to the Iraq war and while employing a rhetoric that was virtually indistinguishable from that of Schröder, Chirac, and de Villepin. It is much the same rhetoric that he continues to employ today, while preaching the seemingly unlimited powers of “dialogue” in the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program.
Now, Obama has even won a Nobel Peace Prize. The astonishing honor can be regarded as a belated form of recognition for the “axis of peace.” For even if Obama himself has no particular accomplishments to show, the greatest accomplishment of the “axis of peace” was, in effect, the election of Obama. (On, in particular, Steinmeier’s support for Obama’s candidacy, see here.)
But notwithstanding the Nobel committee’s condescending pat on the back for their disciple, Obama’s European role models are all gone. He is on his own now and should his pursuit of “peaceful dialogue” give rise to a nuclear Iran and threats of greater and more terrible wars, this will be his responsibility.