Germany, The Re-engineered Ally: Readiness For Endless War
By Axel Brot
08/08/07 “Asia Times” — – Not so many years ago, many hoped Europe might step up as a counterweight to US imperial policies. Such hopes were focused in particular on Germany – not only as the leading European power, but as a known moderating, non-military force in international politics.
US vituperation of the reputed European preference for diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution as well as official Britain, in the person of Richard Cooper, former prime minister Tony Blair’s international-relations guru, deemed it necessary to lecture “post-industrial Europe” about the need for “double standards” and colonial ruthlessness to beat down benighted non-Westerners, seemed to give substance to these hopes.
Well, Germany and the European Union did step up – but rather differently than expected. And it was no electoral twitch that set the stage for “better be wrong with the United States than being right against it”. Since Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington (as the conservative opposition leader) on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, to denounce then-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s decision to oppose the war, the return to US good graces was not only the main conservative foreign-policy project; it turned rapidly into the supreme project of the German political class – including the Social Democrats.
Merkel became the chancellor-to-go-to, the most trusted European interlocutor for the US political class to work jointly and determinedly to harden US global hegemony against the consequences of America’s Iraq-inflicted weakness – this not only in the wider Middle East but also, and especially, with regard to Russia and China, the Bush administration’s original enemy of choice before the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” consumed so much of its political capital.
Overcoming the domestic constraints on its ability to use the German army more extensively for “humanitarian interventions”, for the defense of “Western civilization” against Islamist terrorism, is an important, though not the most important, part of the Merkel government’s “the West united behind the US” policy. Notwithstanding the absence of public debate on its strategic implications – eg, of the US (and Israeli) doctrine of preventive war, the abolition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s geographical restrictions, the mission of “securing access to raw materials” – the rejection on general principles of a more activist military role by a majority of Germans has not (yet) been overcome.
This has far-reaching consequences: it has, in a significant way, rebooted German elite attitudes and expectations toward the EU, and toward Germany’s relationship with France. The public discourse about foreign policy as well as the underlying elite mindset is changing – from “responsibly conservative” to the channeling of the demons Hannah Arendt dealt with in her search for the origins of 20th-century disorder: (British) imperialism, Western militarism and racism. And since the majority of Germans is (again) far behind the curve of elite opinion, the efforts of “re-educating” them (as Der Spiegel recently demanded again) are as consistently strident as they are mythologizing.
But there are also quite a number of senior officials and politicians, still serving or retired, who are looking with dismay or worry at the evolution of German policies in response to the crisis of US-German relations. Their publicly voiced concerns are focused on the expansion of German military commitments – of the easy to get into, but next to impossible to get out of sort – and the rapid deterioration of relations with Russia.
In addition, among the small number of senior experts on international economics, a majority are looking with deep foreboding at the mounting instabilities of the international financial system. They see them driven by the huge trade imbalances of the US and the growing threat to leverage them against the creditor nations – in particular against China, Russia, and the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that are running large surpluses.
The US congressionally mandated financial sanctions against such countries as Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea are taken, moreover, as indicators that the United States is about to destroy the trust the international financial system is based upon. The consequences of its eventual – sooner rather than later – meltdown will be dramatic and uncontrollable.
These warning voices are, though, in the wings of the German debate. The stage is held by the narrative of the terrorist menace. But there are very few serious experts who sincerely believe that Islamist terrorism is motivated by their hate for “Western freedoms and values”. Hate and the desire for revenge are certainly crucial elements; but this has not much to do with Western culture or with the alleged humiliating realization of Muslim inferiority.
If one should be looking for causes, the decades of violence the West visited upon these countries, either directly or through its dependent regimes, is a necessary part of the explanation. The other part, of course, would have to face the fact that it was the West that transformed weak and isolated fundamentalist cells into its terrorist Golem. It nurtured, trained, financed, organized and used it for decades in terror campaigns against secular nationalist and socialist regimes and movements until those were defeated or isolated, leaving their compromised remnants to do the Western bidding.
Though Germany was not in the forefront of Middle East meddling, it was fully engaged in creating and empowering a Wahhabi-Salafist coalition to fight the Soviets and the communist regime in Afghanistan – the central front in the global anti-communist offensive that appeared to have turned terrorism on three continents into the Western weapon of choice.
And for the Middle East this still seems to be the case. It is seen in the Western use of Sunni terror groups (and the anti-Iranian-government Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, as well as the Iranian sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers Party) against Iran, and against the ascendent Shi’ites in Lebanon.
But the mythologization of al-Qaeda and the “clash (in German, war) of civilizations” serves to legitimize the readiness for endless war. In the words of a retired German official: “We have been walking the world over the cliff, and are falling into a sea of blood.”
All of this does not only involve ideological re-rigging. In the US wake, Germany is running up the pennant of permanent war. The following should serve to provide a view into some of its particulars.
Read all of it, with a link to Part 2, here.