Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Some voices in Germany are growing louder in portraying the Merkel government’s inaction as a disaster

There will be an interesting diplomatic moment at the White House next month
muses John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune,
when President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian distinction, to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Just what do you say at a state dinner honoring the leader of an allied country that, against the instincts and commitments of France, Britain and America, declined to vote in favor of a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians in rebellion against the dictatorship of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi?

In February, before the Libyan uprising, the German U.N. abstention, and the allies’ efforts at interdiction, praising Mrs. Merkel’s embrace of liberty didn’t present a problem. Handing out the freedom medals for 2010 — Mrs. Merkel could not attend the event — Mr. Obama chose to quote her: “Freedom does not come about by itself. It has to be struggled for, and then defended anew, every day of our lives.”

Next month, the easy diplomatic course might be to toast Germany’s great democracy, its economic prowess and to let the rest lie — without any reference to a German strategic choice seemingly inspired by the government’s fear of the effect of Libyan intervention on a series of important regional elections this year.

But Mr. Obama’s dilemma is real. The postwar Germans, to their immense credit, are usually their own harshest critics. Should the president listen to them these days, some leading voices are becoming increasingly insistent in portraying the Merkel government’s inaction as a disaster.

Last week, Lothar Rühl, a former high-level Defense Ministry official, said Germany was now regarded in NATO as a “second-class” player

Oh, and for those of you who thought, who predicted — who knew! — that Barack Obama's replacement of George W Bush in the Oval Office would usher in a new golden era of mutual understanding and productive diplomacy, John Vinocur (who wrote about Germany's "hysterical" reactions a month ago) has this:
some Americans have heard complaints from Germans that they were insufficiently consulted as the Obama administration weighed — and hesitated, and then measured out — its military involvement.
Ach ja. Plus ça change… Read the entire original article, also to see how, in the final paragraph, John Vinocur manages to bring John Cleese and Fawlty Towers into the equation. As for us, we will let Kurt Volker, who served the Bush and Obama administrations as ambassador to NATO, have the final word:
As for Germany, Mr. Volker did admit to some surprise: “It didn’t do what Germany normally does — say ‘yes,’ and then not do much of anything.”