The Great German Disconnect : 1906 – 2016 and the Ghost of Algeciras

Outgoing U-S President Barack Obama has left Berlin. He was here post-Trumping with the leaders of France, Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany in the Chancellory, hosted by the new “Torchbearer” or the “Lonely Lady in the Tower” depending on how you look at it. She’s been feeling a chill lately, and not just because it’s Autumn in Prussia. There’s „a new wind“ as British Prime Minister Theresa May said before flying in – and it’s not blowing her way. And Merkel’s not alone.

Others on the Continent – especially Matteo Renzi and Francois Hollande – and yes maybe even Angela Merkel herself, could be out looking for a new job next year.

Angry electorates across the West are rejecting globalization and handing power to political outsiders. First Brexit with its „incorrigibles“, now Trump and his „deplorables“. And in just a few days in Italy , a December 4th referendum on the constitution could well see the Five Star Movement’s Beppo Grillo showing Matteo Renzi the door –the Renzit. Renzi launched the power grab and my feeling is he’s overplayed his hand. History’s headwinds are against him.

Europe’s wobbling left and right of center parties – long used to sharing places on the carousel of power – are aghast. Their top leaders don’t seem to grasp it’s not about Donald Trump or Nigel Farage. It’s far bigger. It’s about wanting something better than being told there’s no alternatives to bank bailouts and open borders, as if they’re acts of God and not acts of man.

The insurrections are coming in short order: in Holland and France elections are set for the Spring, in Germany in September. Their size is all that’s up for debate.

As Europe gets ready to bid the ancien’ regime of Obama adieu, I’ve been reviewing the comments made by Germany’s governing elite about his successor, Donald Trump. They’re shocking. Here’s a sampling:

Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier said before the vote „Politicians like Donald Trump play with people’s fear … he’s a hate preacher whose politics are those of fear .“ Hate preacher ? Move over Abu Hamsa al Masri, the failed Islamist bomber now, finally, behind bars.

Those words will prove to be a mistake. Especially as Steinmeier is slated for the (mainly ceremonial)post of German president.

Then there’s the Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel who said this after Trump was elected :

„It’s all about a real rollback of things to the bad old days, when women were either at the stove or on the bed, gays were in prison and the unions sat out in back with the help.“

Those words drip with contempt not only for Trump, but for the millions of women, gays and working class Americans who put him in office.

Gabriel has also said : “Trump is the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement. He is also a warning for us. Our country and Europe must change if we want to counter the authoritarian international movement.”

I thought that was the role for Vladimir Putin? Will we see Berlin adopting the same tone towards the world’s most powerful democracy as the one it employs against the Kremlin?

I could cite plenty more, but you get the idea.

I have never seen this level of animosity from Germany’s governing elite directed at the elected leader about to sit in the Oval Office,. Not in thirty years of reporting from and on Germany. That’s quite a statement.

I’ve searched my mind for a parallel. Forget the Pershing Two’s, Reagan and Schmidt, the Iraq War, Schroeder and Bush, Fisher and Rumsfeld, forget the NSA Affair. I had to dig deep.

I had to go back, way before my time, to 1906 – when things were tense between Kaiser Wilhelm and Teddy Roosevelt during the Morocco Crisis. Back then, world leaders spoke to each other with gunboats.

The Conference in Algeciras, Spain defused the tensions. But at the price of getting America on side with Britain (and behind France) against Germany.

That was the last time Germany’s leaders were, in peace time, so disconnected from their American counterparts. And from everything that makes up America and what still is the American Spirit. That everything includes Lexington and Concord as much as it does Neil Armstrong and Miles Davis.

The contempt in the tone and diction from Berlin over the last weeks saddens all of us who see the trans-Atlantic relationship as something valuable and worth protecting. They’re comments that undermine a friendship tested by the Cold War, 9-11 and the rise of an Islamist enemy who’s proving a bloody and implacable foe.

What Germany and America have achieved together over the last seventy years has meant peace for Europe. No matter what Germany’s leaders think of Donald Trump, the American people have spoken. Today’s German leaders should not, with ill chosen words and a lack of generosity, create an atmosphere that could summon the Ghost of Algeciras and an era when Berlin and Washington were neither friends nor allies.

The timing would be catastrophic as well: Germany can ill afford soured relations with the US and ist new President as it continues with sanctions against Russia, is at odds with Turkey over its post-coup crackdown, is facing a showdown with Britain over Brexit and has lost the good will it once enjoyed with Austria and with the Visegrad nations of Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics over the migration crisis. And let’s not forget the simmering resentment in Greece.

At least Belgium and Luxembourg have Berlin’s back. What can go wrong ?

Copyright Brian Thomas 2016. All rights reserved.  Please share this article if you like it. Let me know what you think in the comments section. You can also find out more by following me @Btnewsmakers on twitter, youtube,  and linkedin. Return here for my free ebook soon ! And thanks for being here.

 

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