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The Limits of German Patience

An Edgy Nation

Let me sum up. Germans are, just as the stereotypes go, thrifty, solvent, and an industrial people who played by all the postwar rules. To watch the Rhine is a dizzying experience as barges zoom by, as if on a three-lane highway, while rail cars roar in the background and the parallel autobahns are crammed, all beneath the steam stacks of the Ruhr plants. In comparison, California seems like it is in a slumber.

Germans rebuilt their country, renounced war and did not rearm, unified their bifurcated nation at their own cost, subsidized European development, were good EU and UN head nodders, are at the forefront of the green global warming cult, are rejecting nuclear power -- and are terrified that they are unfairly not liked. I am not sure whether they are afraid that the world does not appreciate their efforts or that anytime the world does not appreciate German efforts, petulant Germans can become a bit scary to Germans themselves as well as to their neighbors.

I would be very careful to support Germany as much as we can in accordance with U.S. national interests. I would not, like Obama, encourage French-socialist calls for “growth,” which is a euphemism for inflating and stimulating European economies without commensurate structural reform at the expense of Germany.

I would also be careful about downsizing and redirecting NATO at a time when Germany has an anemic military and a growing list of envious if not angry rivals and former friends. I would cut Germany some slack (and I have been guilty in the past in print of not doing this) about its hypocrisies and strained multicultural internationalism, given its own psychological uneasiness about its past proclivities. And finally, at some point, cannot some American flat out state that it was Germany that worked hard, saved, invested, and prospered, and that is to be admired rather than caricatured and condemned? Texas is not responsible for California any more than Germany is responsible for contemporary Greece. An envious Europe seems to look at Germany the way that Obama has trained us to disdain those above the $200,000 in annual income Mason-Dixon line.

Yes, we might prefer to vacation in Florence or Santorini, but only because we are able to -- given that there are for a while longer more wealth-producing Germanys in the world than there are wealth-consuming Italys and Greeces.