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Evasive action

February 8, 2010

What's in an excuse? The parties at the Munich Security Conference, which ended on Sunday, seemed determined to display a full range of justifications, rationalizations, evasions and apologies, DW's Andreas Noll says.

Opinion graphic commentary image

For more than 40 years, the Munich Security Conference has been an event dedicated to a particular kind of clarity; It specialized in being that place where politicians could make direct statements. This year, however, conference organizers wanted something more: results. The slogan at this year's meeting was: 'no more excuses.'

But slogans are one thing, and reality is quite another. As early as the opening day, the world was treated to a heap of excuses put forth by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Excuses as to why Iran cannot halt its uranium enrichment, although the United Nations Security Council has been demanding they do so for ages. Excuses instead of answers to questions about human rights in the country, or to accusations of election rigging. And they were all delivered in a bizarre, provocative and self-satisfied tone.

Afghanistan: Who is left holding the bag?

But Iran wasn't the sole master of irresponsible rhetoric in Munich. Western democracies had their own list of excuses: Why has the economically powerful European Union not yet assumed the international responsibility that its partners have been demanding for years? Why is a world without atomic weapons, while desired, still an impossibility? Excuses, excuses, excuses.

The German government is also at fault here. It clearly knows that Afghanistan needs more foreign soldiers if it is even to have a fighting chance at becoming stable. And it knows that the promise of 500 additional soldiers is too weak an offering, and that it leaves the Americans and their troops forced to step into the German area of responsibility to help maintain order there. Berlin's reasoning for this reluctance, which in the end simply serves to reduce German influence in the world? Nothing but an excuse.

Still, in Munich there were excuses - and then there were excuses. Europeans would like to have more influence in the world, but they don't have the political will. In this case, the excuses were simply a camouflage for powerlessness.

At the moment, the German government is turning to excuses because it is afraid of committing political suicide. Merkel & Co. don't dare send more soldiers to Afghanistan because they don't think critical German voters would accept it - a case of an excuse masquerading as a white lie, so to speak.

In the end, a result

And Iran? In Munich, it took first place in the shameless-lies category, and in doing so, made the world look foolish once again. The fact that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinedjad called for the production of higher-grade uranium even as the diplomats were meeting in Munich, should make this clear even to the Russians and Chinese - who have been rather friendly to Iran to date.

It is possible that people will look back at the Munich Security Conference as the place where the last glimmer of hope for Iran disappeared like a soap bubble bursting in air. That would, at least, be a result. But a very sad one.

Author: Andreas Noll (jen)
Editor: Chuck Penfold