Monday, March 03, 2003
So Paul Johnson has articulated 5 lessons from the run-up to war in Iraq:
(1) Don't trust the French - in fact, treat them as, effectively, an enemy because of their penchant for coddling and arming our enemies.
(2) Therefore, don't let the Germans be subsumed by the French, but act to pull them out of their current alignment.
(3) Don't use the U.N., trust to coalitions tailored to specific situations where interests are common.
(4) Disband NATO and repatriate our forces in Europe; rely only on Britain, rare bases in other friendly locales, and largely on the seas for "basing."
(5) Cultivate the will to act alone.
Tough stuff. (1) is pretty commonly heard these days on the Right, as are (3) and (5). (4) is fairly extreme; what you hear more often is that we should move our German bases to Poland and Czechia, countries eager to curry favor with America. But there is a deepening sense that NATO as it has been is no longer. So the interesting comment is (2).
Perhaps I am not entirely objective, but the basis for Johnsons' confidence in the German character is, to me, obscure. One thing that has been brought home by the recent elections there is: this is not our fathers' Germany. (Not our grandfathers' either, of course; don't get me wrong.) Prior to reunification, Germany was a conservative society, firmly anchored in the West and deeply grateful to the Americans for saving them from themselves and for not destroying them in vengeance for their crimes. Adenauer had recast the German character in Christian rather than national terms after the war, and the change appeared to have taken.
But in the East, this is not what happened. It is striking that the East Germans, unlike the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Lithuanians and so forth, did not come out of the Cold War with strong pro-American feelings. After all, they were no less a captive nation, and no less saved from Communism by American firmness and constancy. Why are their attitudes towards America more comparable to those of the Russians than those of the Poles? Because East Germany is still, well, German. It was never de-Nazified; it never had its identity reconstructed by its own people, only by a foreign conqueror. When East Germans dig out from under the Russian oppression, and look to restore their former glory, what they unearth is the Reich and its precursors in German nationalism. The ossies see their relative deprivation next to their brothers in Hamburg and Frankfurt, and, naturally enough, associate their own loss of status with German national humiliation. This is, after all, how Germans looked at the world from the beginning of the modern German state through the destruction of the Second World War.
In the new Germany, these resentful ossies hold the balance of power. The pacifist, anticapitalist Red-Green coalition of Schroeder and Fischer commands well short of a majority in the old West Germany. But a strong and successful appeal to Eastern voters pushed them over the top. And this reality in turn, I believe, is changing the character of the Left in the old West Germany, making it more anti-American than it was, more prone to the old German radicalism.
So I question Johnson's judgement on this point. And a great deal depends on this question, specifically: are we to actively try to destroy the European Union, or merely to contain it.
If we neither contain nor destroy it, the European Union threatens to gobble up a vast percentage of the West and subordinate it to France. This is explicitly why the Union was created, so it should be no surprise. And this is obviously against American interest. It is vital that Poland, Britain, Turkey, perhaps Spain and Italy - that all nations who are essentially friendly to America retain the freedom to articulate a foreign policy independent of Brussels. On so much, Johnson and I agree. To contain the EU would mean to try to restrict its political core to France, Germany and the BeNeLux, and encourage other European states to associate more loosely with the Union for trade benefits, and to similarly negotiate favorable trade relationships with the U.S.
A successful containment would, however, result in a necessarily close relationship between France and Germany, probably leading to the merger of the two countries, along with the BeNeLux. On the assumption that France would be the dominant power in this partnership (a good assumption), such a result would be a real negative from Johnson's perspective.
The alternative, however, means intervening actively to break up the European Union, and this is not so easy a project, I think, nor is it without its risks. The primary reason that we have long supported the Union, after all, is that long experience has tought us that Franco-German rivalry is a Bad Thing, leading to enormous wars that we have to come in to finish. It is perhaps true that the Germans have honor, and that their interests truly coincide with America and Britain more than with France. But the Germans also have yearnings, yearnings which historically have been left unsatisfied as a junior partner in a British-dominated world. It is far from certain, after all, that British and German interests in, say, 1910 could not have been brought into harmony, had Germany not been determined to achieve practical independence from Britain and to dominate the Continent. Why is Johnson so sure that a policy to separate Germany from France would permanently anchor Germany in a pro-American orientation?