Margaret Bourke-White — Time & Life Pictures /
Bashing Germany: USAAF B-17 Honey Chile II,
Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England, fall 1942
New Statesman, March 14, 2013
Edited by Andy Ross
Germany has weathered the world economic crisis well. But many call for
Germany be more active and to take the lead in resolving the escalating
The German question goes back a long way. In the
Middle Ages, the Holy Roman empire was the focus of furious political
action. Despite all efforts, Germany remained fragmented. The
Reformation divided western Christendom and split the Holy Roman empire
down the middle.
The strategic vacuum at the heart of Europe
sucked in powers from all sides. Germany was traversed by armies
fighting for causes that sometimes concerned Germany only tangentially.
German fighting men served as mercenaries abroad. The Holy Roman empire
was the font of ideological legitimacy in Europe, and in theory at least
gave Germans the right to rally Europeans in a common cause.
During the Thirty Years War, Germany was racked by civil conflict and
humiliated by foreign armies marching back and forth across its
territory. The population of the Holy Roman empire dropped from 21
million to just over 13 million people. The treaties of Westphalia
signed in 1648 forestalled a European war. Sweden and France were
recognized as guarantors of the Holy Roman empire.
for Germany drove internal politics across Europe. In the British Isles,
the failure of the ruling dynasty to support the Protestant cause in
Germany delegitimized it and led to civil war. French failure to prevail
in Germany precipitated the revolution that destroyed the French
monarchy and led to the Napoleonic wars. The Treaty of Vienna in 1815
established a German confederation strong enough to keep the internal
peace and deter foreign aggressors but was too weak to develop hegemonic
ambitions of its own.
Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck
finally united Germany in 1871. The "second" Reich had a rapidly
increasing population of 41 million people, a rapidly industrializing
economy, the best education system in the world, and an army second to
none. But it was threatened on two sides, by Russia and by France. While
Germany was territorially static, the British, French, and Russian
empires and the United States were all huge and expanding empires. And
Germans were emigrating in their millions to the British Dominions and
the United States.
Bismarck sought to win through diplomacy. But
the strain of making contradictory commitments to her main allies,
Russia and Austria-Hungary, was not sustainable. His successor as
chancellor sought to secure the German position in the world through
manufacturing. This strategy was met by tariff barriers. Territorial
expansion failed spectacularly by provoking opposing coalitions. The
Second Reich's ambitions in World War I and the Third Reich's ambitions
in World War II ended in disaster.
The United Nations originated
as a wartime alliance to defeat the Third Reich. Germany lost territory
in the east, and the rump was divided into four zones of occupation. How
to resolve the German question became the principal point of contention
during the cold war between the West and the Soviet Union.
European integration was intended to mobilize the Federal Republic
against the Soviet threat. The European project rehabilitated Germany
politically without frightening neighboring states. The European
settlement survived the collapse of communism and the reunification of
Germany. But it took much longer than expected for the German economy to
sort out the mess left by communism. The introduction of the euro was
accelerated to embed the united Germany more firmly in a uniting Europe.
But it helped Germany at the expense of southern Europe.
Germany worked closely with its partners on security. Berlin supported
the eastern enlargement of NATO and the EU into Poland, Hungary, and the
Czech Republic. Germany is now surrounded by friendly democracies. But
the problem of Russian power persists. Poland and the Baltic states look
not to Berlin but to NATO for support.
Germany sits at the heart
of an EU designed to accommodate German power. Germans must take the
initiative and do what it takes to complete the work of European unity.
AR This is an interesting history. Makes me feel
like adding a chapter to CORAL.
By Timothy Garton Ash
New York Review of Books, August 15, 2013
Edited by Andy Ross
The Federal Republic of Germany is as solidly bourgeois liberal democracy.
It has not only absorbed the huge costs of unification but also made
economic reforms by consensus and restored its global competitiveness. Asked
what feelings Germany awakes in her, Angela Merkel once replied: "I think of
well-sealed windows. No other country can make such well-sealed and nice
According to a BBC poll, Germany is the most popular
country in the world. It also has a rapidly aging population. Without
immigration, its population might fall from over 80 million today to under
60 million in 2050. Its economy is brilliant at making things that people
want to buy but weaker in services. German companies are outstanding at
incremental technical improvements but less good at disruptive innovation.
The country has many good universities, but none to compete with Oxford or
European monetary union was not a German project to
dominate Europe but a European project to constrain Germany. The Germans
were never asked in a referendum if they wanted to give up the Deutschmark,
but Germany accumulated a trade surplus with the rest of the EU, from the
birth of the euro up to 2011, of more than $1 trillion. Germany had not
sought this leadership role in Europe.
We are approaching a moment of
truth in the European Union. Fritz Stern described German reunification in
1990 as Germany's second chance. Its first chance came in the years before
1914. But it blew that chance in two world wars and the Holocaust.
Domestically, Germany has used its second chance well. The European question
is upon it now, in the years before 2014.
Unlike the United States,
Europe's central state is preeminent only in one of the three main
dimensions of power. Militarily, it does not compare for impact with Britain
and France. As for soft power, the Federal Republic still does not compare
with the cultural pull of the UK. But Germany does have economic power. In
2012, 46% of EU exports to China came from Germany.
The rhetoric of
German policy remains sternly dogmatic, with German economics often sounding
like a branch of moral philosophy. Germans want to impose a combination of
fiscal consolidation and structural reform on the weaker economies of the
eurozone. Their greatest worry is France, which is both the most important
country to Germany in the history of European integration and one
dramatically failing to reform. Germans are unwilling to pay for other
Europeans' self-indulgent mistakes. They are also obsessed with the danger
Europe will need some new institutional architecture,
most urgently for the oversight of national budgets in the eurozone, but
eventually for the whole structure of the Union. Whatever emerges, it will
not be made only in Germany.
AR Why not simply scale up the German federal
constitution to constitute the new Europe?