[FOUNTAIN]Showdown among two friends

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[FOUNTAIN]Showdown among two friends

In 1795, the Pennsylvania Council of the United States turned down an application by German Americans to print laws in German and English by a vote of 42 to 41. This incident became known as the legend of Muhlenberg. When the first vote ended in a draw, the speaker, Frederick Muhlenberg, cast his vote in favor of using only English. Some people even believed that English was chosen in a vote in 1776. This signified that there were many German immigrants in America in its early days. But what if the Germans' petition had been accepted? The United States and Germany might not have waged bitter wars against each other if they had used the same language. I cannot imagine President George W. Bush demanding the ouster of the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, in a strong German accent.

No two nations in the 20th century harbored the mixed feelings of hatred and friendship toward each other like Germany and the United States did. They were enemies during two world wars. But after World War II, West Germany and the United States became sworn allies. The United States assisted the recovery of devastated Europe under the Marshall Plan, which paved the way for the resurrection of the West German economy. With the strong economy, the Germans could accomplish the unification of their divided nation.

When the Soviet Union set up a blockade of West Berlin, the United States provided airlifts of food and other necessities. President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin, where he said, "Ich bin ein Berliner," or "I am a Berliner," defying the regime in East Germany that had built the Berlin Wall.

During the Cold War, the United States and West Germany maintained close ties. But after Germany became unified, the situation changed. The German government said that it would no longer remain an economic giant and political dwarf. But there was not much diplomatic friction between the two countries.

But that has changed. The former Cold War allies are entangled in controversy over Washington's plans to attack Iraq. The German prime minister, Gerhard Schroeder, declared that he is against attacking Iraq.

Mr. Schroeder's gamble, which is aimed at his country's election, is working for now. His popularity is up in recent polls, reflecting the German public's opposition to the war. He is rising as the only national leader who can say no to the United States. How the confrontation between the two, which coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the German election, will unfold is still uncertain.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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