German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder once again is trying to stave off political defeat by playing himself off against the United States. In 2002, plagued by a horrible economy, he dodged defeat by railing against the impending U.S. military action in Iraq. Now, with the economy still in bad shape and polls until recently showing him trailing Angela Merkel (something of a free market proponent), Schroeder is asking Germans to re-elect him in order to “take the military option off the table” with respect to Iran. This comes in response to President Bush’s statement that “all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president.”
Schroeder’s opponents are criticizing his ploy on the theory that his statement decreases the likelihood that the EU will persuade Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. In my view, that likelihood is all but non-existent. The real problem with Schroeder’s statement from the perspective of the German voter is that he has no ability to take the military option off the table. But German voters have not consistently displayed a high level of discernment.
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