Thursday, June 6, 2019

Angela Merkel's Extended Swan Song

When savvy commentators bemoan the fact that President Trump has undermined traditional alliances, they are usually referring to our relations with Western Europe. And especially, our relations with Germany.

We need allies, they tell us. And Trump is spitting on our allies. How terrible. How can Trump meet the challenges facing the world today without Angela Merkel at his side? Hmmm. Would it not be better to ask: how can Trump meet the challenges facing the world with AM at his side?

The answer is simple. It is so simple that I have often remarked it myself. If Germany wants to be treated like an ally, it should act like an ally. A Germany that is working to undermine United States policy in the world is not acting like an ally.

Evidently, Chancellor Merkel much preferred the more urbane citizen of the world, Barack Obama. She liked the Paris Climate Accord. She liked the Iran nuclear deal. And she happily adopted an open-borders Obamaesque policy toward migrants.

Obama went to Berlin to declare himself a citizen of the world, of Merkel’s world, we might add. And Merkel went to the most recent Harvard commencement and trashed the president of the United States. To cheers and huzzahs.

If Donald Trump had gone to Germany and demeaned the German Chancellor before an audience of her enemies, the furor, Victor Davis Hanson rightly notes, would never have ceased. Trump would have been denounced as the worst president, the president most lacking in decorum and couth, even worse than Hitler, don’t you know. And yet, when Merkel does the same thing, no problem.

Hanson explained:

More recently, when she visited Harvard University to deliver a commencement address, she won loud applause from the young grads in the audience for systematically damning American president Donald Trump — she made thinly veiled references to the president as an abject liar and to his policies as ignorant.

What might have been the political equivalent to this bizarre example of a German chancellor pandering to a hard-left American audience as she attacked a sitting conservative U.S. president in his own country?

Perhaps imagine something akin to Donald Trump’s traveling to Munich to address a hard-right audience of Alternative für Deutschland members — and then winning their applause by systematically attacking Merkel’s disastrous solar and wind energy policies, disastrous open-borders immigration dictates, disastrous subversion of NATO by her deliberate reneging on past promises on defense investments — and then, without saying the word “Merkel,” calling her an abject liar for breaking her promises. The irony, of course, is that the supposedly reckless Trump, who is not shy about replying in kind anywhere in the world to ad hominem attacks from various foreign officials — would probably not fly to Germany to attack Merkel in a partisan setting in the way the supposedly stateswoman-like Merkel just did at Harvard. And if Trump had done so, the media — and the German — response would have been unhinged furor.

Germany, Hanson explains, is going back to being Germany. Merkel is fostering the illusion that Europe will be a player on the world stage, alongside the United States, China and Russia. At a time when Europe is fracturing, when her own policies are destroying her country, when her political career is ending in ignominy, Chancellor Merkel went looking for a scapegoat. All failed leaders look for scapegoats. It’s part of the game.

Merkel all but announced that Germany, or for that matter Europe itself, is no longer really an ally of the United States: “There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world. . . . The old certainties of the post-war order no longer apply.”

She insisted that Germany views the democratic United States as not much different from autocratic Russia and Communist China: Urging Europe to present a united front in the face of Russia, China, and the U.S., she said, “They are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions.” And Merkel concluded that therefore Germany must find “political power” commensurate with its economic clout to forge a new independent European path.

In other words, in the calculus of the supposedly sober and judicious Merkel, the democracy that saved Europe twice from a carnivorous Germany — and Germany once from itself and once from becoming a Soviet vassal — is now similar to the world’s two largest authoritarian dictatorships, nations that not so long ago murdered respectively 30 million and 70 million of their own citizens. And how odd a sentiment for someone who grew up in Communist East Germany, a nightmarish state whose collapse was largely attributable to the Reagan-era effort to bankrupt and roll back the Soviet empire.

What is her problem? Simply put, for the first time America is stepping forth on its own. It is not pretending to need Germany or even the other weak sisters of Western Europe. Thus, it is diminishing Germany’s status and stature in the world.

Why the angst? A skeptic might note that an America that is for the first time pushing back on Germany’s refusal to meet its NATO requirements, that leaves the Paris climate accord and the Iran Deal, that complains about asymmetrical German trade and tariffs, and that is at odds with Germany’s role in global illegal immigration would naturally offend German sensibilities, which have long assumed an acquiescent United States.

Merkel’s Germany is no doubt the acknowledged political leader of Europe, given that its huge economy accounts for well over a quarter of the aggregate 27-member EU annual GDP. But its leadership remains a funny sort, with a spirit now more attuned to its imperious past than to its supposedly enlightened future.

Thus, Merkel erases America from the post-war picture. She does not acknowledge the important American support for a revitalized Germany. She certainly does not recognize publicly that America is defending Germany militarily and that a wealthy country like Germany does not even meet its treaty obligations to NATO.

So Donald Trump did not create the wound with Germany. He simply tore off the scab, exposed, and poked at what was long festering beneath. When Merkel tsk-tsked, “The heads of [European] state and government will decide how far to let populism go,” one wonders whether she is just repulsed by the contagious Trump-deplorables virus, or really believes that it is the right and duty of European governments such as her own to determine what the proverbial people will be allowed to think and do.

There are many reasons that Germany might not like Donald Trump’s America. Germany certainly does not approve of American fracking or its abandonment of the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord. Trump is too close to Israel for Germany’s comfort. Trump has an old-fashioned view that allies especially should practice trade reciprocity, and that what would not be tolerated with an enemy should certainly not be indulged with a friend. Trump’s idea of sovereignty and the need for a secure border is at odds with Merkel’s instance that eastern and southern Europeans follow her own disastrous immigration debacles. Trump then, in Al Czervik style, sees no reason not to point out these obvious contradictions between Merkel’s soaring humanitarian rhetoric and Berlin’s often quite selfish and provocative commercial, political, and financial policies.

We await further developments.


UbuMaccabee said...

What is the price of energy in Germany? What is the price of energy in the US? What is the future for the price of energy in Germany vs the US? How energy independent is Germany? Great powers like the US are energy independent, not reliant on Russian natural gas just to keep the lights on. Germany did everything wrong in the past 10 years, and nothing, not even DJT will suffice to obscure the colossal failure of Angela Merkel and her government.

Sam L. said...

As I've said before, we should pull all our military bases from Germany and move them to Poland and the Czech Republic, telling Ms. Merkel, "You're on your own, now. Don't call us about any problems you might have."

Anonymous said...

Retired in Spain for many years,surrounded by many German retirees, I have yet to encounter one single pro-American German. Why? The humiliation of having been defeated twice continues to fester. I do not have any other explanation.

Anonymous said...

Sam, If you haven't already subscribed you would possibly like the Institute of World Politics' Youtube channel, a Polish think-tank based in D.C., well at least the Director of the program is Polish and very patriotic.

CSIS's channel is ok too for information, but seems a somewhat Canadian-driven think-tank that is also based in D.C.

I like these 2 primarily for their informational and educational content. Plus the Polish guy is interesting to watch.

Anonymous said...

The heads of [European] state and government will decide how far to let populism go,

This is the kind of attitude that gets tyrants beheaded.

Sam L. said...

The Yellow Vesters may yet reach that point.