Column: Defining Global Stances
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 02:09
Last Sunday, Germany’s conservative CSU party had a great victory in its home state of Bavaria, forecasting another most-likely victory of its sister party, CDU—Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party—for the German federal election next Sunday. Except for the expected changes in the formation of the parliamentary federal government—most likely by the grand coalition with her rival center-left SPD—Merkel’s victory has been expected and has not been newsworthy outside of Germany.
The interesting, expected policy result is the continuous German reluctance to be the ostensible hegemon within and beyond the EU premises. Idealistically, Germans want to preserve the EU and the euro. Realistically, Germans support only minimal financial participation in the euro-crisis just to make sure Germany won’t sink altogether, despite the responsibility of the largest economy in Europe. This explains the rise of the new anti-euro party, AfD.
Merkel has been the master of dancing on the political fences, and her voters have liked her dancing. Her political strategy fits in the German political culture, as Germans are more interested in the discussion of the political logistics of issues within Germany than being the frontier actor outside Germany. Germans can talk about an issue for weeks until a majority is convinced by an argument. For instance, the discussion about whether to introduce the use of armed drones for the German military has gone on for weeks, while the American use of drones hadn’t bothered the Germans. Nonetheless, Germans aren’t convinced enough to support the American military intervention in Syria.
Now, what I really want to talk about is the different stances of Germans and Americans on intervention and sovereignty. Since the Gulf War, Americans have enjoyed absolute global leadership by almost-unilateral military actions against political injustice—but now the American public is distinctly divided into half for further American military interventions abroad. The way I see it is that the U.S. can no longer afford such international tasks to maintain American credibility abroad, not just financially but also socially. Americans are worn out to see another drop of American blood spilled on foreign soil, but when they admit their exhaustion, the de facto American power in international politics declines.
Some might say Americans should’ve listened to what Washington and Monroe said about foreign intervention, but those words were said when the country wasn’t the unipolar superpower. Back to Germany—it’s unusual for the country with the status of the fourth largest world economy to refuse the position of hegemon, especially when the economy has been relatively wealthier than its neighboring states’. The German taboo around political and military dominance comes from the inhumanity of the Nazis and dates back to the 1949 German Constitution, which emphasizes human rights before the national structure.
Perhaps, Germany is lucky to pass the Syrian “buck” (responsibility) to other states due to its history and constitution, as the U.S. would want to pass the Israeli buck to others, if there were others to take it. America’s best interest in the Middle East is to withdraw its absolute support for Israel—boldly speaking, if there were no AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobbyists, the U.S. would withdraw that support, because there is more to gain from multilateral peaceful relationships with the Muslim states. Similarly, although Germany seems exempt from the discussion of military intervention in Syria and have more or less put the matter under the carpet, other countries still view German responsibility in the euro-crisis as inevitable.
The American intervention in Syria seems a little late to preserve either American credibility or the international humanitarian norm. In my opinion, Americans should either accept America’s declined international status or take effective actions—regardless of use of soft or hard power—for political, humanitarian justice very soon.