Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Once and Future German Problem

My dad used to always warn against the eventual rise of Germany after World War II. It's a question that's always fascinated me. Germany's already wielding tremendous influence amid all the economic turmoil, but if the Eurozone crashes say goodbye to a united Europe and the promise of peace it established.

At Washington Post, "In Europe, new fears of German might."
BERLIN — For decades, Germany’s role in Europe has been to supply the cash, not the leadership. With fresh memories of war, the continent was cautious about German domination — and so were the Germans themselves.

But the economic crisis has shaken Europe’s postwar model, and Germany increasingly calls the shots. As countries struggle to pay their debts, only Chancellor Angela Merkel has enough money to haul them out of trouble. And the price Merkel is demanding — more control over how they run their economies — is setting off alarm bells in capitals across the continent.

In Athens, protesters dressed up as Nazis routinely prowl the streets, an allusion to the old model of an assertive Germany. In Poland, accusations that Germany has imperial ambitions became a campaign issue in the recent presidential election.

And although German leaders have sought in recent weeks to soothe others’ fears in advance of high-level meetings in Brussels on Sunday and in coming days, the tone has sometimes sounded pugilistic.
Germany reengineered its culture after 1945. And I expect its role as economic powerhouse will satisfy renascent nationalist aspirations for European dominance. But there were predictions of a return to multipolarity and armed conflict in the years following the end of the Cold War. Hyper-institutionalization in the European project made that an impossibility. But times change. A lot depends on the role of the United States, whether we stay engaged in NATO and continue to keep Germany down, as we had throughout the postwar era. Is war among the leading European powers even a possibility at this point? Well, probably not --- I haven't heard a lot of calls for territorial revisionism, for example --- but you can't rule these things out. The pillars sustaining the peace are giving way. See Joshua Goldstein's recent essay, "Think Again: War."

RELATED: Anne-Marie Burley (Slaughter), "The Once and Future German Question."


Scott R said...

I believe Germany gets the shaft either way, if they lead they will be criticized, if they pull out of the EU and let the other countries crash they will be criticized. What to do?