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Germany's foreign policy zombie

The Local · 2 Sep 2011, 16:18

Published: 02 Sep 2011 16:18 GMT+02:00

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It might be a bit premature to write a political obituary while someone is still in office, but Guido Westerwelle this week became a dead minister walking.

By most accounts, Germany’s extremely unpopular and hapless foreign minister narrowly hung onto his job only after grudgingly praising Berlin’s allies for their military efforts to oust Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Westerwelle had previously caused widespread outrage by claiming Germany’s support of UN sanctions had brought the North African strongman to his knees rather than the NATO’s air campaign on behalf of the Libyan rebels.

But the comments were merely yet another misstep in Westerwelle’s faux pas-filled tenure as Germany’s top diplomat.

A combative opposition politician, he led his pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) to a smashing election victory in 2009. The FDP won more than 14 percent of the vote and Westerwelle was named foreign minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s

centre-right coalition.

That, however, would mark the pinnacle of the 49-year-old’s career.

Few observers thought he was cut-out to be foreign minister, and unfortunately he has done little to dispel such scepticism over the past two years, bumbling from one mishap to the next.

Fresh in office, Westerwelle was immediately criticized for appearing to take along friends and family on official trips for their own private gain. Never particularly well-liked, the brusque Westerwelle steadfastly refused to admit he’d made a mistake, which made people less willing to cut him any slack in the following months.

Some of his minor sins included embarrassing Germans by refusing to take a question from a BBC reporter in English and being roasted for implying his country’s beloved welfare state was a prelude to “late Roman decadence.”

However, his handling of the Libya crisis – which saw him abandon Germany’s closest allies during a vote in the UN Security Council in March – is likely to be remembered as the fatal blow to his political career.

Across the political spectrum, from former Chancellor Helmut Kohl to former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, concerns were expressed that Germany had become isolated and irrelevant.

Even many German opponents of NATO’s military intervention in Libya said Westerwelle botched Berlin’s decision to sit out the fighting with his grating and undiplomatic demeanour.

When Philipp Rösler, Westerwelle’s successor as FDP chairman, effectively reprimanded the foreign minister last Friday by publicly praising Germany’s NATO allies, most observers thought Guido’s time had come. The country’s biggest newspapers this week even started writing his political obituary – Westerwelle had become a “failed” foreign minister “on probation.”

But with two state elections over the next fortnight, Rösler might need Westerwelle as a scapegoat for the expected dismal showings by the FDP in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. And Chancellor Merkel, of course, is also aware that Westerwelle is taking the brunt of the blame for decisions she also helped take.

Story continues below…

So Westerwelle might not be politically dead yet, but he’s not alive either. Lurching along the halls of the Foreign Ministry, Guido has officially become a foreign policy zombie.

Marc Young



The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:21 September 2, 2011 by TheCrownPrince
Guido just wanted to be a "popular" politician all his live, and that's why he wanted to become the foreign minister: the german foreign minister is by tradition of the most popular and respected politicians in Germany, and Guido thought he could jump on this train. Unfortunately he didn't realize that his personality doesn't fit to this job at all. Everbody else does.
17:44 September 2, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Ah, I see. Wetserwelle is unpopular because German's are angry they did not go to war.

Funny, after all these years hearing German's claim ' after WWII we no longer want to go to war', all they were really saying was , 'I would love to go occupy a sovereign land for Oil and depose its leader, but not with a Republican in the White House, Ick bin ein Berliner'
18:20 September 2, 2011 by TheCrownPrince
Haha, der ExDeutsche, you're really a funny guy. Your comment is as off-topic as it is wrong, which is - with regards to the quality of its content - quite an achievement.
18:54 September 2, 2011 by Major B
Truer words haven't been spoken. Guido has hamstrung Germany and is really and embarassment.

Tell it like it is Marc. Friends and family on trips? It was inappropriate, as Foreign Minister, to take his boyfriend on an official trip to South America. This isn't a dig at his sexual orientation. Could care less about that. He is not some low level diplomat in the German foreign service. His office is the public face of Germany.

Wikileaks revealed he was the obstinate one in the government who blocked more appropriate Bundeswehr troop levels in Northern Afghanistan. Then the Libyan crisis, well treated above by Marc Young.

Germany needs and deserves a Foreign Minister whose stature, mind and diplomatic skills are commensurate with Germany's position in the world. He/she needs to be "world class", a Mercedes, or my favorite a BMW. An Audi. A Volkswagen.

Right now you have one of those small old East German cars, I forget what is was called, "trabi" ?
02:10 September 3, 2011 by hanskarl
Marc and Major B......Spot on!!! Hopefully this lame duck will waddle off the scene soon!!
12:08 September 3, 2011 by Sastry.M
Probably Germany's Western allies are expecting an F.M who dares to solve all issues "mit Eisen und Blut"!
13:37 September 4, 2011 by Englishted
Yes he is "Germany's foreign policy zombie"


No not all issues ,but some, not all can be sorted with a Euro note and a white flag either .
14:31 September 5, 2011 by freechoice
now he realized he had missed the boat and glory of sending the deutsche bundeswehr fighters into Libya to drop bombs and missiles at the Gaddafi forces with the rebel screaming Allah Akbars at the background celebrating with our Muslim half brothers. bummer!
00:54 September 25, 2011 by shahislam
Like many of the new generation public, I am very optimistic about watching honest personalities like Great Mr. Obama lead the world power and get reborn for continuing the efforts of changing the old-style global politics in unprecedented ways, only to make the world more peaceful than ever historically experienced by mankind.

There should be no more 'old political but secret personal money dealings allowed to take place' and we the good heads of Western powers can change the trend to the dismay of foolish heads of the newly emerging powers which are just imitating copies of our old Western foreign policies!

The secrets are gradually opening, so, it's about time for us to start a different kind of politics.

How many of the US public representatives actually care for fixing ties with ego-blind leaders: such as, of Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, Israel, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Burma, Taiwan etc. that are as heads of political powers, with eheir dumb intelligences still fail to realize that dishonest manipulation of facts behind the scenes ultimately does no good but cause global unrests that effect everyone including self!

And instead of finding out the secret perpetrators of brutal politicking heads or IAHs (with own individual smart capacity whether doubtlessly there are still collectible and provable evidences of a group of oil and weapon-business-men's secret involvement) tries to spread short visioned propaganda that eventually becomes self-destructive {(through unseen application of the Cosmic rules) and e.g. when good common sense tells: there were no additional bomb-blasts in WTC in addition to the explosive impacts of two air-planes and the intelligence of some religiously blind rulers that yet deliberately lies against lies to create further confusions; or when the fact finding or poor judgmental ability of some forever blaming UN delegations including the walk-outers (it is immature or wicked childish and unwise to refuse to hear oppositions' points of views at an UN meeting and walk out!) is below collective intelligence of average global public, it plays a dangerous role to indirectly become one of the main causes of humanity's or in other words: mankind's unnecessary hardship on this Earth-which is the only place for human existence with reality based imaginations that are mundanely experienced!

These guys are the unwise ones who for limited knowledge, contradict collective aim towards peaceful solutions and thus ruin own possible role of acting right in implementing peaceful ideas of sharing a happy Earth by all of the human races.

I wish majority of the world leaders were with wisdom of at least like Mr. Obama, who expresses his personal deep thoughts only when it is necessary.
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