FINIS GERMANIA AS A GREAT POWER? A BRIEF COMMENT
"Drastic spending cuts of more than €80bn (£66bn) were unveiled by Angela Merkel, German chancellor, yesterday, along with up to 15,000 job losses in the public sector as part of a sweeping austerity package for Europe's largest economy....
The four-year savings plan was approved after negotiations between the partners in the ruling centre-right coalition. It is intended to curb the country's soaring budget deficit, set to exceed 5 per cent of gross domestic product this year, and provide an example to other members of the European Union, Ms Merkel said. She described the package as a "unique effort" to reinforce budget discipline and meet the demand written into the German constitution to keep a balanced budget.
Ms Merkel said a decision on the abolition of conscription in the armed forces had been postponed, but the Bundeswehr (Federal defence force) would face radical reforms in order to meet its spending target.
Quentin Peel, "Berlin reveals drastic 80 Billion Euro Cuts," 8 June 2010, in www.ft.com
"Defence Secretary Liam Fox is used to looking across the Atlantic for military inspiration and across the English Channel to France for the future of defence cooperation. But he might do well to look somewhere else – namely to Germany where the young defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has launched one of the Cabinet’s most ambitious cost-cutting programmes.
He is planning to cut the number of active-duty soldiers from 250,000 to 150,000 as part of a an effort to find €1bn (£840m) worth of cuts as part of the government’s €80 billion austerity programme. He is even contemplating an end to compulsory military service -- something normally seen as a fundamental principle for the CDU and CSU. Earlier in the week, the man tipped as a future chancellor, said that deep spending cuts were needed in his budget because of the federal government's dire fiscal situation. "A symbolic cutting of a few individual acquisitions will not be enough," the German defence minister said after a speech to soldiers in Hamburg. "If one looks at the current numbers there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift."
True, Germany’s military cannot be compared to the British army. One goes to war, the other shuns even the word “krieg”. The German president had to resign a week ago when he stated the obvious – that Germany’s safety and prosperity is related to its willingness to be a security provider, not a security free-rider. Nor was Germany’s spending on defence particularly high in the first place; its defence spending – 1.32percent of GDP -- is the second lowest among the G8 countries".
Daniel Korski, "Achtung Liam!" 10 June 2010, in www.spectator.co.uk.
"Beust was no Metternich equipped - or handicapped - with a profound political philosophy; his stock-in-trade, like that of all the statesmen of these little German states with no basis in reality, was smartness - the clever phrase and the quick result with no thought of the consequences."
A.J.P. Taylor, The Habsburg Monarchy, 1815-1918, London, 1942, p. 143.
Some years back, the American historian, James J. Sheehan wrote a study of German history for the one hundred or so years before the battle of Koniggratz, in which he posited that there was a German 'third way', which had failed to come about, between Prussian and Austrian ascendancy's. Namely the Germany of the smaller, liberal (id est., 'liberal' in the 19th century, sense of liberal-bourgeois, rather than in the contemporary American [mis]-usage of the term), states of the South and West of the German Confederation. Viz, Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg, et. al. Parliamentary states, albeit Monarchical ones, on the Belgium and Dutch models, these states, were in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, the playthings of international politics. Objects rather than subjects, acted upon rather than acting. First by Metternich, then by Bismarck. With no armies or forces to speak of, in any real sense, it is not altogether surprising that even eight years after Koniggratz, which saw them all subsumed into Bismarck's political fold, that a historian like Taylor can only write of them with absolute contempt. The reports in the Financial Times, with its elaboration in the London Spectator cited above, can only put one to mind that the denouement of the Federal Republic as a modern-day Baden or Wurttemberg write large has come to pass. States exist, if they exist for any purpose whatsoever in this Hobbesian world of ours, to exercise power and force. Otherwise one can put paid to any idea of real sovereignty. If the reported cuts in the German army do in fact come to pass, then one may indeed speak of Finis Germania. At least insofar as one may consider Germany a state which has the right to be even vaguely considered as a Great Power and a machtstaat. For good or for ill. Considering its role in contemporary Europe, one can only consider it as something to shudder at.