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Germany's Drift

Before the US was left as the sole superpower, it was usually only in Mexico and Canada that politicians regularly campaigned against some perceived bullying tactic by Washington. Now even in distant democracies, an anti-US speech is a popular vote-getter.

Take Brazil's expected winner in the Oct. 6 presidential race, Luiz Inacio da Silva. The leftist candidate promises he won't let the US treat Brazil as a "banana republic."

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That's mild stuff, however, to the anti-US campaign rhetoric used by Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his Social Democrats to win a reelection on Sunday. (See story, page 6.)

Mr. Schröder, when faced with possible defeat due to an ailing economy, decided to break a taboo and openly challenge a US president by vowing to withhold German support for any US military action against Iraq. In doing so, he also eroded Germany's historic role as a consensus-builder for the European Union's foreign policy.

The German leader tapped into a growing anti-American feeling in Europe, probably thinking he could find a statesmanlike way to mend the normally close US-German ties after the election. But President Bush is having enough trouble winning support from Russia, and perhaps China, in passing a tough UN resolution allowing force against Iraq.

Will Schröder now just sit on his hands as the US and Britain nudge the UN to back up its past resolutions on Iraq with the threat of force?

Germany, of course, has made military contributions in other areas, such as Bosnia and Afghanistan. But Washington will want to know soon if this election means the Germans are drifting away from the US.