Spying on allies is not right, but in our indignation we do not ask whether the distrustfulness of the U.S. has its justification. It cannot always be sure of its German friends.
Germany and Europe are outraged: The U.S. is spying on us. Very few nations — for example, Iran and Pakistan — are watched more intensively by American intelligence services than Germany.
Is our country something of a country of rogues in the eyes of the United States? All over Germany, this resounds almost in unison: This is not how one behaves toward friends, allies, partners. Yes, the actions of the U.S are highly problematic. Freedom and security may not be permitted to exclude one another. That is the irrevocable norm of democracy itself. But does the oldest democracy in the world need German tutoring?
Please, more modesty, dear fellow countrymen — and gratitude. Without the U.S. there would be no German federal and democratic republic. Without the United States, Hitler would not have been defeated; without the U.S. we would have been not dead, but red after 1949, and after 1989 we would not have been reunited.
One should consider in addition that the United States, like Israel, as the number one target of terrorists, attaches greater importance to security than we do — and that we also profit from this orientation to security.
Disappointed by the Germans
Or do we want to have our cake and eat it, too? America’s distrust is neither legal nor proper. But is it justified? Is it the result of decades of disappointments in Western Europe, especially Germany?
There was real West German-American friendship in the years 1948 to 1963. Its beginning was marked by humane occupation policies, care packages and, from 1948 to 1949, the self-sacrificing air lift into Soviet-blocked West Berlin. The high, turning and end point of this German-American heart and soul friendship was the Kennedy visit in June 1963.
After the escalation of the Vietnam War under U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (in the summer of 1964), the one-time marriage of love turned into a marriage of convenience. The U.S. remained the protecting power of West German and Western European freedom.
That was not selfless; in this way, the U.S. had a continental buffer for its East Coast and a war would have taken place on European, not U.S., territory. It didn’t take place because the U.S. protected itself and us with deterrence.
Thankless Europeans, Thankless Germans
Since the mid-‘60s, the European and German public has not thanked the U.S. for it. The lasting distance from the U.S. on a societal level has been clearly reflected in surveys since then.
“The” Germans loved Gorbi [Mikhail Gorbachev] and detested Ronald Reagan and Bush Senior. They had a lot to thank both for: the overture and consummation of the reunification. They hate Bush Junior as well. They worshipped Obama in advance as a sort of Messiah; now he, too, is Beelzebub.
Criticizing America, yes; anti-Americanism has long been considered “good manners” even in polite society. The clichés are well-known, to name a few: Hire and fire, lousy social policy, disastrous health system, crappy media, politics as a show without substance.
Hostile Stupidity and Conspiracy Fantasies
Apart from the surveys there have been hostile stupidities for almost 50 years: “USA-SA-SS.” This monstrosity was imported from France around 1968. It was a popular “battle cry” of New Leftist 68ers when they moved against America Houses in Germany, throwing stones and burning U.S. flags.
Since the ‘70s, the protecting Americans more and more frequently had to be alert for terroristic attacks from the protected German people. U.S. facilities in Germany began to resemble high-security facilities, like Israeli and Jewish ones.
Finally, unnoticed by German “security” authorities, the core of the mass murderers from the assassinations of Sept. 11, 2001 came from a Hamburg terror cell.
Andreas von Bülow (SPD), former secretary of defense and minister of research and technology under Helmut Schmidt, cites the guilty parties: The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were planned by the U.S. government and carried out by the CIA as well as the Israeli Mossad. Did the U.S. and Israel also mobilize jihad tourists from Germany and Western Europe?
Were United States politics, media and society not supposed to have observed such security-deficient public displays of affection of Germany and Western Europe? Did we expect them to turn the other cheek to us or even the terrorists who grew up with us and trust us more than themselves regarding their security?
Let’s look at the governmental level. The Nixon administration approved of the eastern policy of Willy Brandt (SPD) and Walter Scheel (FDP) in principle. However, they distrusted Brandt’s confidante Bahr. They feared that he, and in his entourage West Germany, were striving for decoupling the Federal Republic from the West via détente.
When the U.S. wanted to transport life-saving weapons to Israel in the October War in 1973 from the Federal Republic, the Brandt/Scheel government opposed it. They wanted to forbid the U.S. to move its own weapons out of Germany and quashed the reproach of deficient loyalty to the alliance from Henry Kissinger.
Helmut Schmidt’s Scolding for Jimmy Carter
Bonn’s veto came exactly at the point in time when Washington feared a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) missed no opportunity to scold U.S. President Jimmy Carter and make him look like a fool, and not only in economic policy. In the fall of 1980, shortly before the Bundestag [Federal Parliament] elections, Islamic Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz for oil exports.
Carter wanted to prevent that by means of a peacekeeping international fleet and asked for help. The chancellor refused rudely and in the global public eye.
Chancellor Kohl (CDU) is thankful to Bush Senior to this day for promoting reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in the Gulf War at the beginning of 1991, he hung the U.S. out to dry.
After Sept. 11, 2001 Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pledged “unconditional solidarity” with the United States. Soon afterward, he steered an anti-American course in the Iraq War with his friend Putin, the “exemplary democrat,” and France’s President Chirac.
“The monitoring of friends — this is unacceptable,” Angela Merkel’s spokesperson now states. She is a true friend of the United States. Who else is in Germany and continental Europe? Do Merkel and Cameron result in a German-European-American friendship? The U.S. did not act legally. Are its actions justified? And if not justified, are they understandable …?
Michael Wolffsohn is an historian at the German Armed Forces University in Munich and author of the books "Wem gehört das Heilige Land?" [Who Owns the Holy Land?] and "Juden und Christen" [Jews and Christians].