Friday, June 3, 2011

Anybody But Him!

Why does Robert Kaplan get all of the attention?  Balkan Ghosts was an awful book and had a big impact.  His other stuff was much the same.  And now he is getting quoted for saying that Germany's rising power is the big deal in Europe.  First, this is hardly original.  Lots of fear-mongering about Germany since 1989.  Second, it is hardly right.  Yes, Germany has more power because of the debts owed by the rest of Europe to it.  But Germany is imprisoned by that debt as well.  Not unlike the China-US relationship, where mutual vulnerability limits the power of both.  Germany's well-being depends on its cooperation with the rest of Europe, whether it is within the EU or beside it. 

Oh, and, while we ponder the awesome power of Germany, we must not forget how marginalized Germany was in Afghanistan--the third largest contributor of troops spending nearly all of its time on the defensive.  Defensive in two senses--not engaging in offensive operations until mid-2009 and having to defend the value of its contribution to allies paying in blood (that would be the US, UK, and Canada).  As a result, Germany was not a mover and shaker in Afghanistan except at the beginning. 

And what do we see with Libya?  Is Germany leading the effort?  Or, is it like 2003, where Germany failed to stop something that it found to be problematic?  Merkyl has received much criticism not only abroad but also at home for Germany's stances on the Libyan uprising.  Once again, Germany is watching from the sidelines.  And then there is the flipflop on nuclear power.

Germany will be relevant and a major player in Europe (but beyond?), but we ought not to overestimate it.  And the general rule applies: if Robert Kaplan says x, then expect something other than x. 

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