Former presidential foreign policy advisor Richard Perle told DW-WORLD that no matter who wins the upcoming US election, Germany must change its policy of non-participation in Iraq.
"I would hope to see German participation in Iraq"
In Berlin for a discussion at the American Academy earlier this week, Perle came out strong in support of the incumbent George W. Bush. The current president is the best suited to protecting the United States and ensuring that terrorists do not threaten the democratic world, he said.
In an interview with DW-WORLD, the neo-conservative foreign policy expert and staunch advocate of the US war on Iraq said German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder must change his position on Iraq, no matter who sits in the White House after the November election.
"The case for German participation -- I am not talking troops -- but the case for Germany making a serious contribution to the 25 million people of Iraq in this moment of a great test between the forces of democracy and the forces of terror, that case is overwhelming and I can imagine why the chancellor might want to wait until after the election," Perle said in reference to John Kerry's statements that he would call on allies in Europe to play an increased role in rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq.
"No matter who wins, I think it is so much in Germany's interest to participate that I would hope that we will see German participation," he said.
Schröder's Kerry conundrum
But in order for that to happen, Schröder would have to completely reverse his position. Since the US invasion in Iraq last year, the chancellor has made it very clear that he will not send German troops to Iraq, even if there is a United Nations mandate to do so.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
Only last week, Schröder was emphatic: "There will be no change" in our policy, he said at a press conference in response to a question whether Germany would contribute soldiers to a NATO training mission in Iraq.
But if John Kerry wins the US presidential election and follows through with his pledge to involve the United Nations and Europe in the reconstruction of Iraq, Schröder could find himself under increased pressure to provide support of some sort. Does that mean the chancellor secretly hopes for Bush's reelection?
Richard Perle says that's not likely. "I assume the chancellor is for John Kerry. But the issue isn't whether Germany reverses its position and sends military forces to Iraq. The larger question is whether Germany sits on the sidelines and chooses not to make any significant contribution to the outcome in Iraq."
Success in Iraq is crucial
Perle was adamant: what happens in Iraq does not only effect the United States. "Iraq is so important for the world --- and in particular what is vital for the world is a success in Iraq. An American defeat -- which isn't unimaginable -- would be such an encouragement to the terrorists around the world that I can't imagine why a country able to help prevent that would not join in doing so. And there is a great deal that Germany can do that does not involve sending troops."
At the moment, Germany is involved in training Iraqi police and soldiers outside of the country. It also plans to train hundreds of Iraqi truck drivers, explosives experts and others in the United Arab Emirates and Germany in the next two months. Berlin has also promised to write off 50 percent of Iraqi debt and has pledged €100 million ($125 million) to Iraqi reconstruction efforts as part of a larger European Union financial package.
But providing more than that goes beyond what Berlin is willing to commit at this point. "Any US administration must know that a request for the deployment of German soldiers in Iraq would be senseless and would only drive a further wedge in the transatlantic relationship," Rainer Arnold, the defense affairs spokesman for Schröder's Social Democrats, told reporters last week.
Michael Knigge and Martin Schrader conducted the interview with Richard Perle at the American Academy in Berlin