Tired Republic

Germany today has no existential fears to contend with. German society is free to bask in its self-made prosperity and indulge in fretful overreactions. No topic of debate is too small. Indeed, Germany was the only country that expressed a strong opinion on the most trivial of questions in an EU poll on whether daylight saving time should be abolished or not. Politicians, theologians and moralizers of all stripes are debating whether an opt-out organ donation system is ethically permissible, even as tens of thousands of critically ill people die before an organ becomes available. It’s tempting to imagine how these opinionators and finger-waggers will change their tune if they ever find themselves languishing on an organ donor list.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Land of Cockaigne (1567) wikimedia/Public Domain

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Land of Cockaigne (1567)
wikimedia/Public Domain

While time is frittered away debating trivialities and self-evident truths are deliberated into oblivion, important questions that will shape our future are avoided and ignored. In Germany, a nationalistic political party that claims to represent the concerns of ordinary citizens but has so far failed to put forth either a policy platform or a charismatic leader has nonetheless managed to hoodwink millions of voters.
Will the European Union survive Britain’s exit? Why are the member states unable to join forces to bring Britain back on board? Despite his occasionally erratic behavior, some of US President Donald Trump’s observations are very much on the mark – for example, his warning that Europe and especially Germany have long been shortchanging their defense budget. While its support of poor and developing countries is commendable, Europe must nonetheless boost its defense capabilities. Germany, too, will need to significantly increase its defense budget.
Also, the awareness of citizens, and particularly the younger generation, needs to be raised. One year of compulsory military or national service for young people would help foster the appreciation of the needs of society and the community. The General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Party, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, floated this idea in August, but her proposal was dismissed as little more than a filler story for the slow news season.

Self-righteous lethargy

By contrast, the EU was unified in its condemnation of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Likewise, Europe has spoken with one voice in its support of the International Atomic Energy Report that found Tehran continuing to comply with the nuclear deal. At the same time, however, Iran continues to develop its nuclear-capable ballistic missile program, acquire regional dominance over states such as Iraq and Lebanon, provide military support to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in his total war against his own people, exacerbate the civil war in Yemen and persist in its outrageous threats of annihilation against Israel – whose security Chancellor Angela Merkel has said is part of Germany’s reason of state. Nonetheless, all of this is ignored in favor of what is being called “peace”.
In the fall of 2018, Germany is a fool’s paradise – mired in a kind of self-righteous lethargy. This desire to preserve the status quo, however, threatens to devolve into political inertia. After all, even the very meekest cannot be at peace if his ill neighbor will not let him rest. History has shown that such “ill neighbors” will always be with us. Many would prefer to ignore the lessons of history. But present circumstances offer ample proof that peaceful intentions do not always prevent aggression.
In Syria, some half a million people – among them hundreds of thousands of women and children – have been killed in Assad’s war of annihilation. Half the population has been forced to flee their homes. The world’s democracies, including Germany, watched from a safe distance and provided humanitarian aid.

Remember the 1930s

Then, in 2015, the German government opened its doors to refugees. Chancellor Merkel’s rallying cry was “Wir schaffen das” – “we can do it.” That promise has not yet been fulfilled. It is not only Germany’s political leadership but the entire country that is to blame. Germany’s generosity in opening its doors to refugees was exemplary. But initially, at least, the rules were anything but clear. Why did Germany fail to properly register so many of the new arrivals? Why were refugees not given to understand that they, too, must observe German laws and norms? Why were people whose asylum applications were denied not expelled?
Germany, Europe, and all the countries of the Middle East could indeed benefit from a viable nuclear deal with Iran. But the prerequisite for such a deal is that Iran must acknowledge the right of all states to exist – and this includes Israel. Without this prerequisite, we are inviting Tehran to maintain its policy of expansion and annihilation by other means. Convincing Iran it must accept this additional proviso will not be easy. But it must be done. Our security and prosperity depend on our insistence that liberal norms and principles be observed on both a national and global level. Anything else would be a fatal policy of appeasement. The example of Europe in the 1930s should serve as a warning.■

Photo Credit: wikimedia/Public Domain

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