Roger Cohen worries that Angela Merkel will pay a political price for doing the right thing. The trouble is: she did not do the right thing. She made a catastrophic, world historical error. Merkel should pay a political price for doing the wrong thing. The real question now is: who will undo the damage?
Cohen judges Merkel’s open-arms policy to Muslim refugees in terms of her humanitarian sentiments. He adds that German history has made it impossible for the nation to shut its doors to those fleeing war and oppression.
Basing a policy on sentimentality is normally a very bad idea. It is an especially bad idea if you fail to understand who the refugees are and how they will affect your national culture. Inviting in hordes of violent, anti-Western misogynists who will never assimilate into your nation is a very bad idea.
Policy defines a plan of action. As happens with any pragmatic or empirical hypothesis, its truth or its value must be judged by the outcomes produced. Cohen hopes that the situation in Germany will right itself, but surely he is being overly optimistic. Errors of this magnitude tend to play themselves out to the bitter end.
By Cohen’s analysis, a large number of other events led by a large number of other players will determine whether Merkel’s policy succeeds. Yet, when your policy depends on so many others, others who have not signed on to the policy or have no real obligation to support it, is not wise governance. It is folly.
In Cohen’s words:
She [Merkel] needs the Syrian war, the main source of the refugee outflow, to end, but the latest American-Russian plan for a cessation of hostilities almost looks more likely to unravel in the weeks ahead than hold. She needs Turkey, in exchange for billions of euros, to tighten its borders and stop the refugee exodus. But Turkey is playing an extortion game, and is not above a little schadenfreude at seeing the Europe that rejected it fray.
In Russia, she needs President Vladimir Putin’s cooperation, but a core element of his strategy is the undermining of a united Europe; the refugee flow from Syria achieves just that. She needs the United States to exercise its power in a way President Obama has refused to do through the inexorable spread of the Syrian crisis. Unless the United States is prepared to establish a safe area in northern Syria and put pressure on Turkey to turn a chaotic refugee flow into an orderly process, the current untenable situation will persist. If America is unprepared to reverse Russian-Iranian gains in Syria, it must at least show commitment to managing the consequences. She needs European countries like Poland and Hungary — recipients of huge injections of cash from the European Union — to snap out of their ungrateful moods of nationalist xenophobia, but that’s not going to happen soon.
Years ago Merkel led a bailout of Greece. Now, she needs a bailout herself, but it is no longer about money. She needs other European countries to adopt the same bad policies that she adopted. If she cannot pawn off her refugees on other countries, Germany will be stuck with them. Of course, she could always try to influence the Turkish president Erdogan. Good luck with that.
According to Cohen, Merkel has made her nation’s future depend on the good will of Vladimir Putin and the competence of Barack Obama. This only proves that sentimentality clouds judgment.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Germany is falling out of love with Angela Merkel. Were it not for the fact that there seems to be no viable alternative, the two would probably be heading for a divorce.
The Telegraph reports:
Six months ago Angela Merkel was being hailed as the saviour of Europe, living up to the continent’s founding ideals of openness and tolerance by throwing open the gates of Germany to millions of refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria’s civil war.
“We can do it!” she cried, welcoming the first trainloads of refugees into Munich as they were applauded onto the platforms by crowds, who wanted to show that Germany was different from Hungary and other eastern European states that had spurned this human tide.
That was September – but how quickly the mood seems to have soured, as Germany comes to terms with the realities involved in absorbing more than a million migrants who were promised a better life.
Mrs Merkel has borne the brunt of the fallout. Her personal approval ratings hit a four-year-low this month, with Germany’s leading mass-market newspaper, Bild, posing a front-page question that seemed unthinkable only a year ago: “Is Merkel still the right one?”
Here we try to answer that question. Is Europe’s Iron Lady really finished? What can she do to arrest her precipitous slide – 12 points last month alone – in the polls?
Merkel leads a right-of-center political party, the Christian Democratic Union. Yet, her party has formed a coalition with the left-of-center alternative, which effectively supports her policy. Those who oppose her come from within her party and from the radical right. Understandably, Germany is not ready to embrace the radical right again.
Perhaps chief among these is that Mrs Merkel doesn’t have a serious rival at the moment, either among the parties or political personalities.
Germany’s next biggest party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is already in coalition with Mrs Merkel’s CDU and is tainted by the same policies. That leaves the Greens and the Left Party - who themselves took a liberal approach to the refugees, giving them limited credibility to attack Mrs Merkel on the issue.
Then there is “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) party which has nearly tripled its following from 4.7 per cent to 12.5 per cent since the refugee crisis began. But given the fear of resurgence of the far-Right that is baked into German society, it is unlikely they will ever be more than a fringe player.
That remains to be seen.