By Holger Löwendorf, Ph.D. student

Wherever Joschka Fischer appears in public in his native country, he is immediately beseeched by the press and crowds clamoring for pictures and autographs. On May 2, the re-ception on Temple’s main campus was far more restrained, but his audience still came away with an idea of why he is one of Germany’s most popular politicians. That day, Dr. Regina Gramer, the Assistant Director of CENFAD, managed to lure the former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor (1998-2005) to Temple from Princeton University, where he is currently completing a one-year appointment as the Frederick H. Schultz Class of 1951 Professor of International Economic Policy in the Woodrow Wilson School.

CENFAD arranged for Fischer to address Temple undergraduate and graduate students as well as members of the faculty. During a luncheon and subsequent panel discussion, he presented himself as a paradigmatic European and Atlanticist. This in itself would hardly be surprising, were it not for the fact that Fischer’s biography also includes the roles of street fighter and Green Party iconoclast. In contrast to other European 68ers who, like him, op-posed the wars in Vietnam, Fischer never gave in to the temptation of anti-Americanism. As he recalled, German students looked to Berkeley and Bob Dylan for inspiration and embraced many aspects of American protest culture. Like many West Germans who grew up in an in-creasingly Americanized Europe, his positive perceptions of American culture clash with his opposing views on the United States role in international politics. Fischer was adamant in his criticism of the neoconservative emphasis on unilateral primacy over leadership based on multilateral cooperation. The current administration cannot afford to act as a global cop, he warned, much less run an empire against the rest of the world.

How, then, can the United States regain the prestige squandered in the wake of Sep-tember 11? For one, Fischer argued, it should be the driving force behind an overhaul of the international system to reflect the post-Cold War world. He cited the UN Security Council reform and NATO enlargement as the most pressing issues, but also insisted that these pro-jects will only succeed if the West voluntarily ceded some of its power to the emerging giants China, India and Brazil. As a corollary, the European Union will have to learn to speak with one voice, thus spelling the end of British, French, or German foreign policy as nationally determined affairs. Similarly, national economies have become an anachronism in a globalized world. While wealthy nations will have to do more to alleviate the inequities of global-ization, protectionism is not an acceptable option. On the other hand, Fischer emphasized that there can be no free market without a regulatory framework.

Lest these prognostications sounded too idealistic, Fischer’s recollections about his tenure as German Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005 reminded the audience that his exercise of foreign policy was guided by realistic principles. His support of military intervention to stop the ongoing genocide in Kosovo led to a historic turning point for the German military in 1999, the Bundeswehr’s first military combat mission since the end of World War II. In Iraq, on the other hand, he argued that the use of force was not justified because the international community had not exhausted all measures short of war. Saddam Hussein was obviously a horrible dictator, but the intelligence shared by German and American sources did not show a connection between him and Al Qaeda. While Germany committed troops to Afghanistan, it was compelled to say “no” to the United States when it recruited allies for the war on Iraq. For Fischer, who is aware of the deeply rooted historical obligations that tie Germany to the United States, this was one of his most difficult political decisions.

Fischer ended the highly instructive and entertaining afternoon with an encouraging remark for historians. When asked what students should read in order to make sense of the complex world they live in, he suggested – history. And starting in fall 2007, exactly thirty years after the “German Autumn” (the climax of Red Army Faction terrorism), students will be able to add one more title to their reading list: Fischer’s two-volume memoirs “Red-Green Years” (to be published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch). Despite what many Germans may wish for, Joschka Fischer does not want to run for office anymore. When he will be running again back in Germany, it will be somewhere in the parks of Berlin.


L-R: Dr. Regina Gramer, Mr. Joschka Fischer, Mr. Holger Löwendorf.

L-R: Dr. Petra Goedde, Dr. Regina Gramer, Mr. Joschka Fischer, Mr. Holger Löwendorf.