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German Greens Dream Big: Too Big?

Vague, cloudy and romantic dreams of Eurasian Weltmacht were the great curse of Germany during the 20th century.  Now that the Fifth, Berlin-based Reich has replaced the old postwar Fourth Reich headquartered in Bonn, those dreams seem to be stirring once more.  A recent article in German weekly Der Spiegel casts the humdrum Durban climate talks as a major crossroads for China, believed to be choosing between a wasteful “Chimerica” future or an environmentally responsible partnership with Europe:

Under the first scenario, China has become the largest economy in the world, due to a close trans-Pacific alliance with the US. The People’s Republic mainly generates its wealth by providing its American neighbor in the Far East with cheap money and cheap consumer goods. But the toll for this strategy is high: Chinese CO2 emissions are now higher than the emissions of all other nations combined. Per capita emissions have soared even above the levels of the United States. As droughts, floods and food shortages increasingly ravage the planet, billions of people perceive Beijing as the main culprit behind climate change. More than 100 nations, including the EU, have formed an official alliance against “Chimerica,” as the two superpowers threaten to destroy the biosphere. There are warnings of an impending “climate war.”

Under the second scenario, China has become the largest economy in the world, due to a close Eurasian partnership with the EU and India. The People’s Republic mainly generates its wealth by developing and exporting green technologies. In collaboration with the EU, Beijing has put in place rules against excessive indebtedness, which apply both to financial and “ecological” debts. The cost to the environment is now integrated into how Eurasian nations calculate their gross domestic product. CO2 emissions are beginning to decline around the world, except in the United States. The former superpower is culturally incapable of modernizing itself ecologically and is losing its power due to its addiction to cheap oil. Eurasia has become the new superpower, with China as the dominant force.

It would be stretching the meaning of words to call this geopolitical thinking.  Cloud cuckoo land, Wolkenkuckucksheim is the place where this kind of thinking is common, but if it is geopolitical nonsense it is of a very familiar kind.  In the years before the Second World War, Germany was known for its dreams of global power and glory, but devastating losses in two consecutive world wars did much to temper them; the past half-century saw Germany adopt what many Fifth Reich thinkers now consider an almost Uriah Heepish, excessively-humble approach to international politics.

But now the dreams are drifting back.  Germany with its loyal third world friends can build a better, purer world than the Anglo-Saxons with their jangling, crash-prone, dog-eat-dog capitalism.  Germany is a bigger power than it used to be, and as is natural among human societies, its ambitions grow with its might. For Germany, this has led to trouble before.

While the Fifth Reich often looks down on the humble, unassuming Fourth Reich of the Cold War era, it is worth noting that Konrad Adenauer’s republic was the only German state in modern history to enjoy the friendship and respect of its neighbors.  Men like Adenauer and Brandt were more successful than Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck and they left Germany far better positioned than earlier rulers had done.

Cloud cuckoo land is appealing and romantic, but it holds nightmares as well as dreams.  Germans might want to think twice about going back.

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  • Cunctator

    I like Walter Mead’s articles, if only because there is a lot to chew on.

    Adenauer was a great leader, but he was a Rhinelander through and through. He did not care about Germany per se, but about “his” Germany. Let’s not forget, he was a separatist after WW1. So, to argue that he was the leader of the only Germany that was liked and respected by its neighbours is rather a silly statement. The Federal Republic of Germany was liked, as much as any state can be, by denying its larger national interests. The Rhinelander had a more circumscribed vision that was imposed on the country he came to dominate. It does not fit the current Republic and some people are having problems with that, not least many German leaders who gre up in Adenauer’s time.

    Oh, by the way, I would suggest that Prussia was respected for several years after Fred, II and before Jena, and again after 1866. Was it liked? Who cares?

  • vanderleun

    As we see Der Spiegel has gotten “enstupided.” That’s the problem with the Green Disease, it makes you dumb and then it bankrupts your country and kills your spirit.

  • Stephen

    “…the past half-century saw Germany adopt what many Fifth Reich thinkers now consider an almost Uriah Heepish, excessively-humble approach to international politics.”

    Didn’t Churchill say that they were either were at your throat or at your feet?

  • Mahon

    “Reich” in German means “empire.” The post-war German state with its capital in Bonn was not an empire, but a nation like its neighbors. What we may be seeing now is the emergence of “Fourth Reich” thinking – dominate Europe economically, come to terms with Russia and bring civilization and morality to the periphery. This would be unlikely to end well. I don’t see how it could have happened, but it would have been much better if East Germany had remained separate and come into the EU like Poland or Hungary.

  • Randy

    C’mon, Dr. M. These little appetizers on the British and German responses to Durban are all nice and tasty, but we really need a feast on this one. Evisceration of the Goracle yielded a three course meal; how ’bout at least an encore for the Durban debacle?

  • dearieme

    Was it Pompidou who said that he liked Germany so much that he was glad there were two?

  • bob sykes

    In 1914, Berlin was near the center of Germany. , the Königsberg/Kaliningrad, Kant’s home, was in Germany. The German border in the east abutted Russia. Most of now Poland was German.

    None of the boundaries in Europe are stable. None. Peace obtains only because of the US Army.

  • Robert Houghton

    How can the the Germans dream of empire when all of Europe is falling apart and taking them down with it?

  • Clark

    A climate war between the EU and Chimerica. That’d be one for the books. At least it would be short.

    Ridiculous anti-american green babble.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The few other articles that I have read in Der Spiegel seemed to be reality-based.

    While I agree with the sarcasm directed at this particular Der Spiegel article, I respectfully disagree that the 5th Reich is Berlin-based: it seems to me that power is concentrated in Baris and Prussels much more than in Berlin.

    Also, Bismarck was incomparably more successful than Adenauer and Brandt in the sense that he was the founder of the welfare state, i.e. of the modern state. As I understand, he was also a major source of inspiration for American “progressivism”.

    It is also my understanding that the major figure in the success of the Bonn republic was neither Adenauer nor Brandt, but rather Ludwig Erhard.

  • Mike

    Are your personal problems with Germans and Germany the result of some trauma? Most of what reads in Der Spiegel is the standard leftist / green tripe one finds in many periodicals throughout the world. This recurring “Fifth Reich” routine was never clever is has become old and tiresome.

  • teapartydoc

    Germany: the home of bad ideas.

  • Nate Whilk

    “Germany is a bigger power than it used to be, and as is natural among human societies, its ambitions grow with its might. For Germany, this has led to trouble before.”

    Of course, the way to prevent this would have been to copy Germany’s work ethic and other factors. But no.

  • ebt

    Mahon is right, not merely in substance but also technically. There was no Fourth Reich. Postwar Germany consisted of a Republic (ie, East) and a Federal Republic (West), and it’s the Federal Republic that continues today. If Germany were to follow the French model in such things, it would be the Second Republic. But they don’t, and it ain’t.

  • jim

    I don’t think China much cares what either Europe or America are doing.

    They’ll sell the Euros all the “green technology” the EU requires it’s members to adopt. At the same time, they’re not going to try to stop their people from acquiring cars or air conditioning their homes as they get wealthier in the name of reducing carbon emissions.

    This is real wishful thinking on the part of the Germans. The truth is that the Chinese don’t much like Europe because of 19th century history (a very large part of the history curriculum in their schools) and don’t look there for advice.

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