Germany let down by US friends

Excellent piece (Charlemange) in last week’s Economist ‘Falling Out of Love’ – gives a sense of the disappointment/ disenchantment in Germany as a result of learning that Mrs Merkel’s mobile was tapped from 2002 until this summer.

In many such activities the maxim is ‘don’t get caught’.  But in this case Mr Snowden has ‘spilt the beans’ and of course it impacts relationships between US and Germany.

It is quite understandable that there would be sympathy in Germany for granting asylum to Mr Snowden – when his sojourn in Russia comes to an end.  Without his disclosure would the tapping have continued indefinitely?

Suppose it really comes down to a superpower deciding whether it is in its best interests to spy on leaders of ally countries.  Obviously in this case the view in the US was that it was best served by conducting such phone tapping.  And I suppose one has to put it in the context of ‘war on terror’ and a general feeling after 911 that the US lacked useful intelligence.  This is not to excuse the bahaviour – but somehow to try and understand or rationalise the thinking.

I think what Charlemange does very well is to explain the impact in Germany – on the German psyche. And it certainly plays into the hands of all those who focus on the ‘ugly American’ image.  It must also remind Mrs Merkel, formerly of East Germany, of some of what she thought was left behind when the Wall came down.

Hopefully fences will be mended and friendships rebuilt.  Pretty clear what the US would like to do if they get their hands on Mr Snowden – and I don’t think the Germans would be much different in their attitude to someone disclosing their secrets.  However would be very interesting to watch this play out were Germany to contemplate some form of political asylum for Mr Snowden.




What do we mean or suggest by a German hegemony in 2013?

Just read two articles from the Irish Times: Derek Scally’s piece: Germany would have much to lose from a Eurozone failure., and Dan O’Brien’s Paying German workers more is a win-win fro Europe.

Both pieces are written from a different angle while both recognising the power and influence now exercised by Germany across Europe.

We are well familiar with the argument that bad bank debt which has been socialised in Ireland (and other peripheral countries) should have been partly written off in Germany/ France – as bad lending.  And doubtless Germany would maintain that the purchase of bonds by ECB and the extension of cheap finance to peripheral countries  – in as much as this is part financed by Germany – is i nfact Germany accepting write offs.

Hegemony is not a word I use in every day life.  I note it’s use recently by our President – in his reference to Europe’s hegemonic economic model.  Adn Derek Scally references the concept in the context of Germany’s current influence.  It has been used many times in the past by those critical of US influence across the globe.  Looking to wikipedia, I read: ‘In the praxis of hegemony, imperial dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism, whereby the leader state (hegemon) dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the subordinate states that constitute the hegemonicsphere of influence, either by an internal, sponsored government or by an external, installed government. The imposition of the hegemon’s way of life — an imperial lingua franca and bureaucracies (social, economic, educational, governing) — transforms the concrete imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of the status quo, indirect imperial domination.[1]Under hegemony, rebellion (social, political, economic, armed) is eliminated either by co-optation of the rebels or by suppression (police and military), without direct intervention by the hegemon; examples are the latter-stage Spanish and Britishempires, the 19th- and 20th-century reichs of unified Germany (1871–1945),[7] and currently, the United States of America.[8]

Seems only yesterday we were witnessing the unification of Germany and all of the serious social and economic challenges facing Germany at that time.  Interesting to understand what potentially moved Germany from its then status to it current perceived status as a hegemon?  Has it been the currency, the profligate spending of some nations, sustained conservatism in Germany or was it more subtle?  Or is the case overstated?  Clearly in Ireland there is national feeling that our sovereignty, our independence has been undermined, compromised – at least for the short term, hopefully not permanently.   The decision making of local, nationally elected politicians, is much less relevant.  Hence the talk of a European or German hegemony.  And I think President Higgins was questioning  the motivation of some of the hegemonic influences.

It remains to be seen how these current imbalances across Europe will play out.  Time will tell whether Europeans want such a hegemony – or whether, perhaps, the case is overstated.