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Germany Becomes "Normal" and More Selfish

On May 1, 2009, ten countries celebrate their fifth birthday as EU members, but eight of them don't get a birthday present from Germany. Berlin announced this week that it was keeping labor restrictions on workers from European countries. The Economist concludes: "As Germany becomes 'normal,' it looks a bit more national and a bit less European."

The true turning-point for Germany was 1998, he says, when Gerhard Schröder defeated the CDUs Helmut Kohl for the chancellorship. During his campaign, Mr Schröder accused Mr Kohl of putting European interests ahead of German ones. He had a point: Mr Kohl pushed through the single currency even though most German voters opposed it, and nasty EU rows about money usually ended with Mr Kohl pulling out Germanys chequebook. Mr Schröder was less community-minded, happy to shout, Germany is not paying for this one, at summits. It was under Mr Schröder that Germany began its quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, after years of seeking a single place for the EU. Today the picture is mixed. Ms Merkel is less impatient at EU summits than Mr Schröder. But, unlike Mr Kohl, she brings no retinue of smaller countries as allies to every meeting. And despite the recent display of Franco-German unity at the G20 gathering in London, she neither trusts nor likes Frances Nicolas Sarkozy.

German security and defense policy has become more "normal" as well, and every politician will note the huge changes at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall later in November this year. But: There are still so many shortcomings and so little strategic thinking, at least publicly.

BTW: Last night, the Atlantic Council of the United States has awarded George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl the Distinguished International Leader Award in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and their role in ensuring the Cold War ended peacefully. That was quite an achievement, which too many people seem to take for granted this days, although so much could have gone wrong. Kohl's strategic thinking as well as his "chequebook diplomacy" and "community-mindedness" -- to use two terms from the Economist article -- paid off.

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Joe Noory on :

Spot on. But reckoning with 'normal' also involved a soldier's death in Afghanistan to.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Yes and that's why the Afghanistan war is so unpopular over here. Many folks are right to question if "normal" has to mean all that... From [url=http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2009/04/30/Taliban-kill-21-year-old-German-soldier/UPI-46641241098079/]UPI[/url]: "Using guns and grenades, Taliban terrorists Wednesday attacked a German patrol near Kunduz, killing a [b]21-year-old [/b]German soldier and injuring four others. Earlier in the day a suicide bomber blew himself up when approaching a German Bundeswehr patrol with his car, injuring five troops, the German Defense Ministry said." So what did he day for? For the sake of solidarity with the US, who were attacked on 9/11? For the sake of NATO burden-sharing? Or because those Taliban are really a threat to Germany? Yes, Germany is threatened by Al Qaeda, but its operatives train and hide in Europe and the Middle East. They don't depend on a safe haven in Afghanistan.

Don S on :

"They don't depend on a safe haven in Afghanistan." Not since 2001 they don't, do they? What would hapen if everyone pulled out of Afghanistan? How long woult it be till Al-Q was back, with a safe-haven again? Not long, I think. And they could bring the war to where, then? Germany, among others? Perhaps. Hard to say. Perhaps Germany would pay no price if they pulled out, if we all pulled out. Perhaps not.

Joerg on :

Don, do you think the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the US or Germany increases, if we all pull out of Afghanistan? Did the 9/11 hijacker learn to fly in Afghanistan or did they learn this in the US? Wasn't Muhammed Atta living in Germany? What do terrorists learn and train in Afghanistan that they cannot learn in Pakistan, Indonesia, Germany or the US?

Don S on :

Restablish those nice safe bases in Afghanistan where the great minds can plan ops and hold graduate seminars in applied chemistry, logistics, recruiting, etc? Great idea, let's try it, see how it works. If we lose an office building, or a train, or a train station, or a chunk of an S-Bahn, small loss if we regain our moral purity thereby. Correct?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joerg, "do you think the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the US or Germany increases, if we all pull out of Afghanistan?" Yes. Even if the specific terrorist cell(s) that implemented 9/11 were not located in Afghanistan, Afghanistan was essential to the network of cells that supported them. Afghanistan was (at that time) critical to the whole movement. It was the "graveyard of empires". Under the Taleban it was (allegely) 100% free of Western corruption and influcences. Therefore, it was a symbol of both victory and purity. It was also a rite of passage. This rite of passage involved both symbol and substance. Sending recruits to Afghanistan (which is as hard to leave as it is hard to get to) provided the isolation required for brainwashing or if you prefer, indoctrination. Once there, they surrendered their funds, passports, etc. to the cell leader, increasing the isolation and dependence and making it very hard to leave. To answer your question more directly: if we (the West) have any interest in the fate of Pakistan's nukes, staying involved in the region is vitally necessary. If we withdraw from Afghanistan, it sends a signal that we don't stand by our allies in the region, and we don't care if Pakistan falls. No amount of financial aid or official reassurances to the govt of Pakistan will be able to distract people from the meaning of that signal. "Did the 9/11 hijacker learn to fly in Afghanistan or did they learn this in the US? Wasn't Muhammed Atta living in Germany? "What do terrorists learn and train in Afghanistan that they cannot learn in Pakistan, Indonesia, Germany or the US?" In those other places, there were local governments that could work with us to disrupt cells. Some, like Germany, were much more helpful than others, but only Afghanistan was a) highly involved in supporting these types of cells and b) completely unwilling to cooperate. Do you think the assassination of the Northern Alliance commander about 1 month before 9/11 was a coincidence? Al-Quaeda means "the base". This is not just a metaphor. In Afghanistan, we are attacking "the base", both literally and figuratively.

Joerg on :

I agree with you regarding the signal a withdrawal would send to Pakistan. On the other points: You write: "Afghanistan was (at that time) critical to the whole movement." I think the emphasis is on what you put in brackets.

Joe Noory on :

Your choices are: 1) we vanquish their zones of influence and set them back and off balance, no matter where they are, deny them as many opportunities to become a larger social or territorial element, or we 2) imagine that there is no point dealing with terror, that a few thousand deaths here and there, so long as they don't include you, is an acceptable price. Which one do you want to bet other people's lives (as well as yours') on? Stop assuming that it's only western societies that can ultimately be defeated, or think that the chance of being "left in peace" is the same as peace.

Don S on :

Perhaps Germany could pull out alone, and leave the rest there. Might be in your self-interest, why not try it?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

From the [url=http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/__PR/P__Wash/2009/04/28__Freedom__Students__rel,archiveCtx=1992698.html]German embassy[/url]: [quote]In the fall of 2009, students at more than 25 US universities will celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by organizing Campus Weeks with financial and organizational support from the German Embassy in Washington DC[/quote]

Joe Noory on :

I'm inclined to organize a celebration of my own at a bar somewhere. Who needs the funding when you're just plain thankful.

Pat Patterson on :

I'm not to sure just what is meant by "normal" other than some idealized version of what some think German foreign policy should be. When, and I'm not trying to cast aspersions, over a longer range of history has Germay or its predecessor states ever played nice and normal with its neighbors?

Marie Claude on :

"And despite the recent display of Franco-German unity at the G20 gathering in London, she neither trusts nor likes Frances Nicolas Sarkozy" Did she ever trust anyone ? what she likes, it is making businesses (be them with rogues states, so does Austria and Switzerland) and avances Germany as an economical leader for the rest of the EU like in the good ol times, and we still remember how it ended The error that the western world did, was to let the 2 Germany become one entity, an eastern Germany could have made her way into EU like her other former soviet neighbours did. we are no longer europhiles 36 % europeans since 2004 think that enlarging EU was "bad", 59 % French think so while 53 % of the rest of EU do http://www.lefigaro.fr/elections-europeennes-2009/2009/04/28/01024-20090428ARTFIG00359-france-et-europe-les-raisons-d-une-defiance-.php

Pat Patterson on :

Doesn't that mean that over half of the Europeans surveyed still think enlargement was a good thing? Or is it the latter figure? I can only guess as the link only goes to the front page of Le Figaro and then that particular article is not there. Plus a Tinyurl would probably have been more appropriate.

Marie Claude on :

La France a longtemps été dans le peloton de tête de l'europhilie. Interrogés dans les années 1970 par l'instrument de sondage européen qu'est l'Eurobaromètre, les Français répondent massivement que «l'appartenance de la France à l'Union européenne est une bonne chose» : ils sont entre 52 % et 68 % à partager cette opinion tout au long des années 1970. Au cours de la décennie 80, le niveau d'europhilie monte jusqu'à atteindre le sommet de 74 % à l'automne 1987. Aux yeux des Français, la présidence Delors (1985) et l'Acte unique européen (1986) ont redonné à l'Europe le visage d'une réalité et d'un avenir désirables. L'embellie dure jusqu'au début des années 1990. En effet, en 1992, la fracture du débat autour du référendum sur Maastricht politise et clive la question européenne qui jusqu'alors relevait d'un consensus mou que les meilleurs observateurs de la question européenne qualifiaient de «consensus permissif». Les premiers signes d'une érosion durable et régulière se font sentir et, à partir de 1995, ce n'est plus qu'exceptionnellement que la barre des 50 % d'opinions positives sera dépassée. Un retour éphémère de la confiance européenne est sensible à l'automne 2004 ou encore fin 2007 mais ces sursauts passagers ne changent rien à la perception que l'Europe n'est pas un rempart efficace contre de graves crises sanitaires (épisode de la vache folle) ou le retour de la guerre sur le théâtre européen (conflits et massacres dans l'ex-Yougoslavie). Sur vingt-six mesures de l'opinion effectuées de 1996 à 2008, seules six voient la barre des 50 % d'opinions positives franchie. Dans le contexte général de retour de la confiance que la France a connue en 2007, 60 % des personnes interrogées considèrent, fin 2007, que l'appartenance de la France à l'Union européenne est une bonne chose. La «lune de miel» est brève puisque dès le printemps 2008 la rechute est brutale : en quelques mois, l'appréciation positive de l'appartenance de la France à l'Union européenne passe de 60 % à 48 %. La France est avec la Grèce le pays où la chute de confiance est la plus sévère dans l'UE. L'opinion française se retrouve aux côtés d'opinions de pays traditionnellement plus réticents vis-à-vis des vertus de l'Union et taraudés par l'euroscepticisme et l'europhobie : la Finlande (44 %), la Grèce (47 %), la République tchèque (48 %)… Sur les vingt-sept pays de l'UE, la France n'est plus au printemps 2008 qu'à la dix-neuvième place sur cette échelle d'europhilie. On est loin des années 1970 où la France était toujours dans le trio de tête des pays europhiles et même des années 1980 et 1990 où l'Hexagone figurait peu ou prou dans la moyenne européenne. Dans le dernier sondage Eurobaromètre de fin 2008, la situation reste la même : 49 % des Français considèrent que «le fait pour la France de faire partie de l'Union européenne est une bonne chose» (contre 53 % de l'ensemble des Européens qui pensent cela pour chacun de leur pays respectif), 21 % pensent que c'est une «mauvaise chose» (contre 15 % des Européens), 27 % se ralliant à la position sceptique selon laquelle l'appartenance ne serait «une chose ni bonne ni mauvaise». Fin 2008, la France est coupée en deux parts égales : les positions eurosceptique et europhobique rassemblent 48 % de nos concitoyens, la position europhile en attirant 49 % (3 % se réfugient dans le «sans réponse»). La France reste loin derrière les Pays-Bas (80 %), l'Allemagne (64 %), la Belgique (65 %), le Danemark (64 %), l'Espagne (62 %), l'Irlande (67 %) et ne figure qu'à la seizième place de l'europhilie. C'est dans ce contexte de chute de tension européenne que vont se tenir les élections européennes du 7 juin. «Figures du mal» La crise économique et financière imprègne désormais tous les domaines de la vie et marque tout du sceau d'un pessimisme certain. Mais celui-ci semble battre des records dans le cas français. Si déjà 69 % des Européens pensent que «la situation de (leur) économie nationale est mauvaise», ils sont 85 % en France. Si 69 % des Européens jugent «la situation de l'emploi mauvaise dans (leur) pays», ils sont 88 % en France. Si 34 % des Européens disent que «d'une manière générale les choses vont en ce moment, dans la mauvaise direction dans l'UE», ils sont 51 % en France. Si 43 % des Européens sont d'accord avec la proposition selon laquelle «l'Union nous aide à nous protéger des effets négatifs de la mondialisation» (37 % n'étant pas d'accord), ils ne sont que 36 % en France (56 % n'étant pas d'accord). Si 36 % seulement des Européens estiment que «depuis 2004, l'élargissement a affaibli l'UE», ils sont 54 % à penser de même en France. Nombre de nos concitoyens semblent utiliser l'Europe comme un écran noir sur lequel ils projettent leurs inquiétudes sociales, économiques, identitaires. Particulièrement en France, l'Europe d'instance de projection positive des rêves de paix et de croissance dans les trois décennies qui suivirent le Traité de Rome est peu à peu devenue, pour certains, le «bouc émissaire» des difficultés françaises. À droite et à gauche et particulièrement à l'extrême des deux camps, de nombreuses forces politiques en ont fait une arme stratégique et l'Europe prend place maintenant dans l'arsenal des «figures du mal» : mal bureaucratique, mal néolibéral, mal cosmopolite, mal interventionniste… L'Europe fait clivage et rejoint les figures de «l'ami» et de «l'ennemi» qui définissent le cœur de la politique. Décidément, l'Europe est entrée en politique, elle fait clivage, le consensus mou et permissif d'antan a laissé la place à un vrai combat politique qui partage le pays en profondeur. Il s'est exprimé avec force en 2005, il s'exprimera, sur un mode davantage mineur, en juin 2009. (*) Directeur du Centre d'études de la vie politique française (Cevipof)-Centre de recherches de la vie politique de Sciences Po. you could have done it with the article title I'm sorry it's in french, but your bad will forced me to edit it

Pat Patterson on :

OK, after all that my original question was right in that almost 60% of Europeans still think enlargement was good and those thinking it was a bad thing are still in the minority and have been so, plus or minus, for over 17 years. http://tinyurl.com/c64z1a

Marie Claude on :

so I imagine your deduction "noir c'est noir"... LMAO

David on :

Yes, honoring Kohl and GHW Bush is good, but why leave out perhaps the most important player: Mikhail Gorbachev? The fall of the wall was the (perhaps unintended) culmination of Glasnost. Gorbachev refused to intervene on behalf of his erstwhile comrades in the SED, sealing their fate. Hats off to Gorby!

Pat Patterson on :

Honoring Gorbachev is akin to honoring Jefferson Davis for unintentionally bringing about the end of slavery.

David on :

Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. In the words of the Committee: "He has pursued disarmament, pulled Soviet troops out of Afghanistan and allowed popular revolutions to topple hard-line Communist governments in Eastern Europe, paving the way for German unity." Anyone who has studied "die Wende" of autumn 1989 would acknowledge his contribution to the outcome.

Pat Patterson on :

Which still doesn't excuse the fact that Gorbachev was an incompetent and was also responsible for sending Soviet troops into Afghanistan in the first place. And unlike Le Duc Tho didn't have the decency to refuse the honor in the first place. But did accept a bundle from Louis Vuitton for advertising his pensive mug and clutching a leather bag.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Gorby's Peace prize is precisely our point. If the Nobel Committee were fair, they would have shared that prize between all the partners: Gorby, Reagan, and Thatcher. Just like they did later with Arafat, Peres, and Rabin. Awarding the Distinguished International Leader Award to Kohl and Bush is a modest step in the right direction, on behalf of the international community. The Nobel Committee, as a member of that community, should consider correcting its oversight.

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