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Germany's German Problem -- and Ours

Since the time of Augustus, when a German army under Arminius wiped out three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest and sent the Empire scurrying back permanently across the Rhine, the question of how to live with the Germans has concerned both their immediate neighbors in central Europe and, latterly, the world. From the ferocious Vandals who sacked Rome in 455 to the hapless Hessians who got surprised by George Washington at the Battle of Trenton to the Panzer divisions of the Wehrmacht that swept across Europe and the Soviet Union in 1939-41, the Germans, it seems, are always a problem.

After the war, tamed and domesticated, and despite (or perhaps because of?) being bisected into capitalist and communist states, the Germans developed a cohesive civil society that abjured aggressive warfare and, shielded by the American nuclear umbrella and some 50,000 U.S. troops, turned into a pacifist state, especially after the fall of the Wall in 1989 and reunification. So... yay, right?

Not so fast. Today, under the worst German chancellor since you-know-who, the Germans are once again part of the problem instead of the solution. Having had the starch beaten out of them by the Russians, the British, and the Americans during the war, and still bearing the enormous burden of their war crimes during the National Socialist period, the Germans have turned passive-aggressive, bullying the European Union while at the same time destabilizing the Continent with Angela Merkel's disastrous and inexplicable decision to throw open her country's -- and thus Europe's -- borders to more than a million mostly Muslim "refugees" and "asylum seekers," a move that will have deadly consequences in the future as a childless Europe moves toward senescence.

The state of affairs inside Germany is symbolized by this story in the Los Angeles Times:

There are so few German army helicopters available for the troops that pilots have been forced to train in bright yellow civilian choppers leased from the German Automobile Club.

A chronic shortage of spare parts and assorted technical woes have grounded 29 of the Bundeswehr's 130 camouflage-green helicopters. Acute shortages of parts have also left only 39 of the Luftwaffe's 128 Eurofighter jets combat-ready — idled along with nearly half of the armed forces' 224 Leopard tanks and five of its six submarines.

No country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance has savored the "peace dividend" as much as Germany, which slashed military spending in half after the Cold War. And no country in NATO has drawn more criticism from President Trump for not carrying its own military weight than Germany.

The country's embarrassingly long laundry list of inoperable fighter jets, grounded helicopters, idled tanks and dry-docked submarines has exacerbated tension between Germany and the United States, which — like other NATO allies — worries about the threat of Russian aggression after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

But for many Germans, a country with a deeply pacifist streak following two wars in the last century, the lack of military preparedness is of little concern. In fact, it's a source of pride among the peaceniks who grew up with a post-World War II idealism of a world without wars — the Nie wieder Krieg generation.