17 MAY 2003, Page 38

Parallel lines

From Dr Franz Metzger Sir: As historical parallels and comparisons seem much easier to find than Saddam's famous WMD, let me offer another one. Were one to look for slogans that explain the miseries of the 20th century, a favourite would be the old saying which was very popular in Kaiser Bill's Germany: 'Am deutschen Wesen soil die Welt genesen', freely translated as 'German ways shall heal the world'.

Now, this wasn't yet meant in the nasty Nazi sense — i.e., let's exterminate everybody who doesn't suit those ways — it was an expression of benevolent hubris. Those conservative and patriotic elites of the Second Reich sincerely believed that other nations couldn't do better than to follow the German example, that this would be to everybody's benefit, and that the world would then become one big and happy beer garden. If in 100 years' time our historian successors look for slogans to understand what went wrong with the 21st century, I wonder which saying of President Bush, his advisers or his columnists they would choose? Franz Metzger Nuremberg, Germany