It has been instructive to watch the reaction in the German press to the unfolding events in Syria. Throughout much of the summer, the press gleefully described the US as a weakened bystander to the strife in Egypt and the worsening civil war in Syria. Obama was simply clueless (ratlos). But, paradoxically, that didn't prevent many commentators from implying - or directly accusing - the US as being responsible for all the turmoil. Meanwhile, there was precious little discussion - and much hand-wringing - about what Germany's response should be to the multiple crises in the MIddle East, or if Germany should take the lead in finding a solution. Yes, there have been constant calls for a "political solution" - a fantasy in light of Assad's ethnic cleansing - and a United Nations resolution - impossible in light of Russia's intransigence.
Then, on August 27, Assad's regime launched a nerve gas attack on its own citizens that killed 1,400 (including 400 children). The Obama administration announced it was considering a military response. Suddenly, over night, President Obama goes from being a clueless bystander to a ruthless warmonger. Germany's response to this terrible atrocity? Directionless / Ziellos:
Die deutschen Reaktionen bleiben dennoch unbestimmt, unsicher, ohne Ziel. Und das, obwohl die Deutschen mit ihrer schlimmen Giftgasvergangenheit im Ersten Weltkrieg über einen solchen Tabubruch eigentlich nicht hinweggehen können. Warum ist das so?
(The German responses remain uncertain, without any direction. Even though Germany, with its terrible history of deploying poison gas in WWI, can ill afford to look the away when confronted with such a breach of tabu. Why is this happening?)
But it's even worse than "directionless". Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht, ever loyal to Moscow, comes across as a German spokesperson for Bashar al-Assad.
Why the weak response to Syria? To Egypt? Because being on the sidelines - pointing fingers - allows Germany to feel morally superior, while benefiting from the sacrifice of others:
There is no doubt that the German ambassador to the United Nations in New York occasionally has to introduce a politically correct, ineffectual resolution that -- on paper, at least -- is intended to protect children in war zones. But when the time comes to concretely prevent the massacre of children and adults in Libya, we abstain from voting and, to be on the safe side, withdraw our warships from the Mediterranean. And although we recognize that the threat of a terrorist coup in Mali could have far-reaching consequences for our own security, we would rather let the French step in to prevent it.
In the final analysis, Germany doesn't really have a foreign policy:
"When it comes to foreign policy, Germany is oddly idle. Germany is being administered, not governed"
In an interview yesterday in Der Spiegel, Daniel Cohn-Bendit - representative of the Green Party to the European parliament - urged Germany to be an active participant in a robust response to the nerve gas attack in Syria:
Cohn-Bendit: Vergessen Sie "Nie wieder Auschwitz!" Man kann einem moralischen Dilemma nicht durch moralische Überhöhung entkommen. Auschwitz ist einzigartig. In Syrien versucht ein Diktator mit allen Mitteln, auch mit der Vernichtung eines Teils seines Volkes, seine Macht zu sichern.
(Forget the slogan "Never again Auschwitz". You can't avoid a moral dilemma by being excessively moralistic. Auschwitz is unique. In Syria a dictator is using every means to remain in power, even eliminating part of his own people.)