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WHY THEY SAY NEIN TO WAR



Published: Tue, September 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



WHY THEY SAY NEIN TO WAR

Los Angeles Times: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is causing heartburn at the White House with declarations that his country is "not available for adventures" in Iraq. But Schroeder, who is in the middle of a fiercely contested election campaign, receives roars of approval from crowds whenever he declares that Germany will not participate in or help pay for a war. Though there is an element of election-campaign opportunism in Schroeder's insistence that a war would be a huge blunder, his statements reflect widespread fears among Europeans.

Schroeder, though he comes from the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, is no anti-American firebrand. Over the decades, he has shed his doctrinaire leftism to become a pragmatist standing by the United States against terrorism and for democracy. Germany has stepped up its surveillance and penetration of Islamic groups inside the country, and some 10,000 German troops are stationed in the Balkans, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Indeed, Schroeder was unflinching on Afghanistan, facing down critics in his own party and its coalition partner, the Greens, to support deployment in that country.

Realistic apprehensions

Schroeder's arguments against a war are grounded not in dislike of the United States but in realistic apprehensions. He notes that the Bush administration has presented no compelling evidence that the threat posed by Iraq justifies a full-scale war; that an assault could create a surge of hatred in the Arab street that might allow Islamic militants to topple moderate governments friendly to the U.S; and that the economic consequences of war, particularly for oil supplies, could be catastrophic.

Schroeder argues that the goal of the United States and its allies shouldn't be war but rather permitting weapons inspectors to aggressively return to Iraq.

The Nazi years created a deep and permanent wariness in Germany about the consequences of going to war. Schroeder never met his father, who died serving in the army. During the Cold War, West Germany, like Japan, drew the lesson that it should avoid great-power politics and concentrate on economics. In Germany, the memory of World War II and the economic and moral destruction of the country also long tainted the idea of any military action apart from defense.

However, since unification in 1990, American administrations have encouraged Germany to shed its status as economic giant/political dwarf. Schroeder, by taking the lead in Europe against joining a U.S. war against Iraq, is doing just that.

WANNA BUY A USED VCR?

San Francisco Chronicle: Wandering through the video rental superstores of America is a lesson in marketing. These shops really aren't video outlets anymore. DVDs are taking over, assuming row after row of shelf space.

One of the great consumer ships -- the S.S. Home Entertainment -- has turned in the water. Video cassettes and players are heading to the nation's trash can, just like eight-tracks, laser discs, and Betamaxes.

A saucer-sized, silvery DVD comes with technical advantages: a clearer picture and better sound. There's no rewinding or unspooled tape tangling the innards of the machine. But what do you do with all the home videos, Super Bowl games and Star Trek shows sitting on bookshelves in little black boxes?

New cash cow

Consumers aren't acting very worried, and Hollywood and electronics manufacturers are delighted with their new cash cow. While music CDs are hurting because of high prices and Internet piracy, DVDs are coining money for film studios. Hot movies such as "The Fast and the Furious" or "Lord of the Rings" make more off DVD sales than movie tickets.

Still, a couch potato must feel jobbed. Technology giveth and taketh, dangling a new setup while yanking away the old. Some retailers are forcing the issue by refusing to carry videos and pushing customers to shift to DVDs. Video-cassette players may still outnumber their DVD rivals, but it won't be for long.

With DVDs popular and cheap, it's not likely there will be a backlash over the demise of VCRs. But consumers may think twice while standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart or Best Buy.

Given the steady march of innovation, why invest a dime more than necessary in DVDs when something new is up ahead?




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