The Rebirth Of A Radical

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The Independent Online
HE WEARS a tie on important occasions now and no longer compares fellow members of the Bundestag to the nether regions of the human body. Joschka Fischer, 50, the former school drop-out, friend of urban guerrillas and occasional revolutionary, has even picked up a very good command of English during his many metamorphoses.

Yesterday, as he stood on the floor of the house, encouraging his colleagues to sign up to bomb the Serbs, it was difficult to recognise in this lean, earnest politician the foul-mouthed, overweight and under-dressed lout of 10 years ago who seemed to threaten the fundaments of German democracy with every curl of that eleastic lip.

The jokes are mostly gone now, the twinkle in the eye has all but faded.

Mr Fischer, Germany's designated Foreign Minister, is now statesmanlike.

He ran away from his lower middle-class home in his teens, took up with long-haired troublemakers in Frankfurt in the Sixties and drifted during those heady days from one anti-Nato sit-in to the next. In the job that awaits him, Mr Fischer will be devoting a great deal of time to Nato again, but in a slightly different capacity.

When he is installed in office in less than two weeks, he will be speaking for the Alliance's second biggest member and the Serbs should expect no mercy. The rape of Srebrenica in 1995 marked Mr Fischer's conversion from pacifism to a passionate advocate of military force against genocidal regimes.

Nowadays he represents that view as steadfastly as he had once denounced American nuclear weapons on European soil or, for that matter, the violence perpetrated by his ultra-left comrades 10 years before that.

Many of his members disapprove, but Mr Fischer is the embodiment of the Greens' quest for power, and provided he delivers that, he will be forgiven his sins.

Imre Karacs