It appears that Germany’s president has just resigned for saying, “A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes.”
The president didn’t say that the deployments in question would have to be unilateral, just that they would have to be. (The country in question does indeed have troops in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebanon, Kosovo, and Sudan.) The reaction is ostensibly over the implication that Berlin has troops in Afghanistan to keep trade routes open, but that idea is so obviously ridiculous that it is hard to believe that it is actually the root of the controversy.
If you are expecting me to speak badly of the political reaction to the comments, think again. Despite Angela Merkel’s wishes, history weighs heavily on many foreign views of the Federal Republic. I know Germans who have been dismayed to discover this.
That history, however, means that it seems to me entirely appropriate, even heartening, that the President came under such a firestorm. I would call anyone who denounced such an obvious comment in the United States an idiot. I would not have a whole lot of respect for someone in, say, Canada or France or Brazil who said likewise. But for better or for worse, Germany has a different burden than Canada or France or Brazil.
By the way, Germany won the Eurovision song contest! Who knew? That the Eurovision song contest was underway, that is. I didn’t.