Dueling Decisions: George W. Bush versus Gerhard Schröder

Posted by John Rosenthal

Here is an excerpt from my dual review of the memoirs of George W. Bush and Gerhard Schröder in the World Affairs Journal. Oddly enough, the two books have nearly identical titles: “Decision Points” and “Decisions” [Entscheidungen].

…Bush’s closeness to his father, George H. W. Bush, is legendary. In Decision Points, he describes the elder Bush as his “role model.” At the outset of the book, he notes with pride that his “father wore the uniform in World War II.” Bush senior served as a Navy pilot, and the son’s book features a photo of a young H. W. sporting his navy wings on his wedding day.

Schröder’s Decisions also features a photo of his father, Fritz, also in uniform. The angle of the young soldier’s gaze reveals the swastika on his helmet. The photo was taken in German-occupied Belgium in 1941. Three years later, in October 1944, Fritz Schröder would be killed on the Eastern front in Romania. His son Gerhard was not yet six months old.

During his time as chancellor, Schröder is known to have kept the photo directly facing him on his desk in the chancellery. Recounting a 2004 visit to his father’s grave in Romania, Schröder writes, “I knew little about him. My mother had only talked about him in a couple of conversations. And yet in that moment, as I was visiting his last resting place, I felt that he was inexplicably close to me.”

Schröder’s chancellorship was marked by two wars: the Kosovo War and the Iraq War. Americans will undoubtedly remember him most for his categorical “no” to the latter. But his unreserved “yes” to the former was arguably of greater historical significance, since it paved the way for the first foreign combat deployment of German forces since the end of the Second World War…

The review was originally published in March, but it has only been made available online now. To read the whole thing, click here.

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