“I am not convinced!“

Entschuldigen Sie, ich bin nicht überzeugt! – “Excuse me, I am not convinced!“ In 2003, at the International Security Conference in Munich, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer ended the debate against his American colleague Donald Rumsfeld with this reproachful outcry.

But what had happened? Of what was Fischer not convinced? The debate was on the topic of aiding the intervention of U.S. military forces in Iraq. Rumsfeld wanted support from Germany, but the German government under the direction of Chancellor Schröder and Fischer strictly declined his request.

At the conference, Rumsfeld was making one last attempt at getting the still-doubtful Germans on board with his agenda. Nevertheless, his reasoning that Iraq was working on weapons of mass destruction, supporting terrorist groups, and ignoring the UN, was not enough to convince the German side.

The evidence was too scant, the intervention plans too poorly prepared, and the timing of the operation seemed badly selected. It would be better just to give diplomacy another chance, rather than send German soldiers into an adventure with an uncertain end and questionable justification.

Presumably, Fischer (a former participant in the student protest movement of 1968) was drawing on more recent German history to strengthen his resolve in declining. And in this case, he now has history on his side; the Iraq war indeed evolved into just the disaster which he had always warned it would be.

2003. The Munich Security Conference. Then German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer challenges then U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “to make the case” for war in Iraq. Watch mins. 1:00 to 1:25, where Fischer speaks directly to Rumsfeld.