Streetwise Professor

May 15, 2018

Merkel Seems Intent on Proving Churchill (“Germany Is Either At Your Feet or At Your Throat”) Right

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 6:25 pm

The political and commercial elite in Germany generally, and Angela Merkel in particular, are having quite the meltdown of late.  Angela angrily said that Germany would no longer hold back its anger against the United States. And a mere few days after lamenting that Europe could no longer depend on the US to defend it, Merkel huffily said Germany would not comply with Trump’s “demand” that it increase its defense spending.

The proximate cause of Merkel’s rage was Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran “deal”–a secretly negotiated, and largely undisclosed, transaction negotiated between Obama and the mullahs, never submitted for ratification, and which therefore is a legal nullity insofar as the US is concerned.  Obama refused to formalize it because he knew such an attempt would fail, but figured that it would live on because Hillary would succeed him.  Ah, Barack, the best laid plans, eh? Your personal agreement as president could be undone by your successor, and with the same effort that was exerted to give it the force of law: that being none whatsoever.

Germany is particularly distressed at the prospect of losing investment in and trading with Iran.  Even if Europe does not reimpose sanctions, it knows that is irrelevant because the secondary US sanctions of the kind that cost BNP Paribas a cool $9 billion, and risk destroying Rusal, make it suicidal for any European company to deal with any Iranian entity the US sanctions.

One reason that Merkel, and other Europeans, are beside themselves is that their utter impotence is exposed.  They pretend as if they are an independent geopolitical force, but can act only at the sufferance of the US.   Being exposed as powerless and subordinate does breed rage, no?

The evidence of this is all around, both in Trump’s punitive actions (the sanctions on Rusal or ZTE, for instance), and in his proffers of mercy (again to Rusal or ZTE).  Mercy is the prerogative of the powerful: masters can extend mercy, and doing so is the most powerful demonstration thereof.

This whole episode also demonstrates the irrelevance of the Europeans to the process from its beginning.  What is happening now demonstrates that German, French, and British participation was utterly irrelevant to imposing economic hardship on the mullahs.  The US could have–as it is doing now–unilaterally deterred the Europeans from offering Iran aid and comfort.  Including them only led to a more Iran-friendly deal.  (Actually, it just basically cheer-led for Obama’s Iran friendly deal, because he was about as friendly as could be imagined to the mullahs.)

It must also be noted that the German posture towards Iran is beyond unseemly, given Germany’s history.  The moral obtuseness of Germany, of all nations, panting after the business of a nation that has vowed to destroy Israel is mind boggling.

It is especially mind boggling given the German predilection for moral preening, and their tendency to lecture all about their moral superiority.

If you think this is too harsh, consider the fact that Germany’s Incitement to Hatred law (i.e., its Holocaust Denial law) makes it a felony punishable by five years imprisonment for those who:

  1. incites hatred against a national, racial, religious group or a group defined by their ethnic origins, against segments of the population or individuals because of their belonging to one of the aforementioned groups or segments of the population or calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them; or
  2. assaults the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning an aforementioned group, segments of the population or individuals because of their belonging to one of the aforementioned groups or segments of the population, or defaming segments of the population,

So, if the mullahs did in Germany what they do in Iran on a daily basis, they’d be in the slammer for a nickel.  But they’re OK to do business with, even though they have far more power to act on their threats than some skinhead in Leipzig. AfD is beyond the pale, but the mullahs–now there’s somebody to do business with!

Got it.

As for Merkel’s threats to show her displeasure–who’s stopping you? Go ahead.  Act like any respectable Resistance member. Stomp your feet.  Roll around on the floor screaming.  Hold your breath until your face turns blue.

I won’t say that it won’t have any effect on me–because I’ll genuinely enjoy the spectacle, primarily because it just makes all the more clear your impotence.

As Putin is fond of saying: the dog barks, but the caravan moves on.

As for Trump’s “demand” regarding defense spending.  Um, this was a commitment that Germany voluntarily made to Nato, on more than one occasion long before Trump came to office.  So I guess it’s utterly outrageous for the US to walk away from a deal with the mullahs that did not involve the imprimatur of America’s designated representative body (the Senate), but it’s totally OK for Germany to stiff the US and other Nato allies–all European, mind you–because they are just too fucking cheap (despite having the healthiest fiscal condition of any large nation).  (I further note that Germany is more than happy to “stitch up” (Tim Newman’s phrase) its European confreres when there’s money to be made, kumbaya rhetoric notwithstanding.)

Churchill came close to the truth when he said that the Germans were either at your feet or at your throat.  They certainly go for the throat of the weaker members of the EU, and now at the UK for having the audacity to leave. These days, however, they don’t have the might to tear at the US’s throat, their presumptions notwithstanding.  So while they practice proskynesis at Persian feet, the best they can muster is to nip at Donald Trump’s ankles.

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  1. Germany underspends on defence by even more than you’d think: they count autobahn maintenance as defence spending. It’s becuz the autobahns have a military purpose in allowing troops to be deployed, see? American troops mainly, German not so much for obvious reasons.

    Comment by Green as Grass — May 16, 2018 @ 8:19 am

  2. Prof – you could acknowledge that it’s not an easy time to be a western US ally at the moment. It’s hardly unsurprising that Merkel would express frustration after being dragged in one direction by the US under Obama and now being dragged in the oposite direction under Trump. From inside the US that might not look unreasonable – democracy has delivered a leader with different foreign policy outlook after all – but from the outside, with respect to Iran that’s extreme foreign policy flip-flopping.

    The US manages to project significant power through marshalling it’s western allies (e.g. sanctions against Russia) – achieving foreign policy goals without risking and sacrificing the precious lives of its military. I don’t see any upside for the US in deliberately pissing off/insulting the countries that generally do your bidding, even if global power dynamics allow you to do so without immediate short term risk.

    If the Iran deal was so detrimental to US interests (personally I don’t think it was – but that’s a different debate), then after pushing US allies into the Iran deal, the deal could have been fairly easily dismantled but it might have taken a little more time. I mean, GW managed to marshall a bunch of western allies behind Desert Storm 2 even if everyone knew the WMD stuff was probably bullshit.

    I fear for a world where the US is less capable of projecting power. And diplomatic power is just as real as military power and in some cases far more cost effective in terms of money and the lives of servicemen.

    Comment by derriz — May 16, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

  3. It’s made less easy, to be sure, when your only moral compass is domestic political expediency or pure profit. Hypocracy takes effort.

    Comment by Dh — May 16, 2018 @ 5:01 pm

  4. @Dh – meh, that’s what you get with democracy and it has little to do with morality for me.

    Aren’t all politicians driven by domestic political expediency and the economic interests of their countries? Would you expect any democraticlly elected leader – including Trump – to be behave in any other way?

    If you only want countries ruled by leaders that will do US bidding without consideration for domestic politics and their countries wellbeing as US allies, then you rule out most western democracies.

    Comment by derriz — May 17, 2018 @ 3:41 am

  5. It’s hardly unsurprising that Merkel would express frustration after being dragged in one direction by the US under Obama and now being dragged in the oposite direction under Trump.

    That’s their fault for basing major decisions on one man ruling by decree. Just because it was Obama, doesn’t mean they should not have heeded the warnings. Ditto for the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 17, 2018 @ 6:17 am

  6. The real question is why Germany would not have stood up to and refused Obama’s deal with Iran. They have no business doing business with a regime sworn to destroy Israel that vigorously suppresses domestic dissent, acts as an aggressor in Syria and Yemen, and marinates in domestic corruption.

    Comment by srp — May 28, 2018 @ 6:51 pm

  7. @srp–Revealed preference. Those things clearly don’t matter as much to Germany as the opportunity to make some money.

    I’m reminded of Thomas More’s remark to Richie Rich in A Man for All Seasons: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales?”

    It is the combination of moral vanity and venality that I find particularly repulsive about Germany’s politicians and business elite.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 28, 2018 @ 8:37 pm

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