Germany's decision to turn its back on its western partners with respect to military intervention in Libya is seen by many as a rupture in its foreign policy since the Adenauer era. The Westerwelle Doctrine would seem to dictate that Germany will seek out different international partners depending on how the domestic winds are blowing. Germany is happy to align with the US and Great Britain, as long as it doesn't require the use of force or the commitment of resources. Otherwise it will join with Russia, Brazil or India.
What was to become of this restless nation in the center of Europe that had spent its history shifting between east and west, that for so long entertained a special awareness of its historical role and that started two world wars?
The Germans have come up with three different answers to this question over the last 150 years. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck pursued an equilibrium, trying to preserve peace by preventing other nations from allying themselves against Germany. But even a diplomat as skilled as Bismarck wasn't able to maintain the precarious balance of power. The collapse of his system resulted in World War I. Adolf Hitler tried to solve the problem by trying to dominate Europe by force. That resulted in total defeat. Only with Adenauer's policy of firmly aligning West Germany with the West was the republic able to find its place in Europe and the world.
Does the new unilateralist "Westerwelle Doctrine" reflect a new strength and confidence for Germany on the world stage? Far from it, according to Neukirch. Rather, it reflects a fundamental cynicism and hypocrisy:
The Libyan controversy highlights this double standard. Westerwelle was at the forefront of Western politicians supporting the popular uprisings in Arab countries. But he left it to others to keep protesters from being massacred. That is simply hypocritical. One can't accuse the other European countries of being too slow in backing a weapons and oil embargo while at the same time withdrawing German ships that could enforce such an embargo.
On the Web site of Der Spiegel today, Gregor Peter Schmitz describes how the Westerwelle Doctrine is playing in Washington DC:
Inzwischen aber reicht es, wenn in den Denkstuben am Potomac der Name Westerwelle fällt oder die von ihm verantwortete deutsche Enthaltung im Sicherheitsrat der Vereinten Nationen zur Libyen-Invasion erwähnt wird - schon rattern die Kommentare los. "Er ist an dem Ärger darüber selbst schuld. Der Libyen-Einsatz ist wirklich multilateral angelegt und dient einem überzeugenden humanitären Zweck", sagt Stephen Szabo, Direktor der Transatlantic Academy in Washington. "Was will Berlin noch? Mir kommt Westerwelles Verhalten wie eine 'Ohne mich'-Haltung vor. Deutschland ist mittlerweile das wichtigste Land in Europa, doch es will sich noch immer wie die Schweiz gebärden.
(In the Ivory Towers on the Potomacthe mere mention of Westerwelle or the abstention decision is sufficient for unleashing a flood of comments: "He has only himself to blame for the anger. The Libyan action was a true multilateral decision which was first and foremost a humanitarian intervention." said Stephen Szabo, Director of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington. "What more does Berlin want? To me Westerwelle's is exhibiting a "Let the other guy do it" attitude. Germany is now the most important country in Europe, but it behaves more like Switzerland.)
I suspect that, other than the few die-hard Atlanticists, few in Washington are paying much attention to Guido and the Westerwelle Doctrine. In the scheme of things, he is simply irrelevant.