Wednesday, June 28, 2017


"Sand can only reach this strange conclusion by ignoring the vast amount of historical work that reads state-generated sources “against the grain”, bending them to purposes other than those intended by their authors. In my own work on Hamburg before the First World War, for example, I relied heavily on police surveillance reports of the city’s socialist pubs and bars, but I did not assume these were simply true reflections of reality. Rather, I used them critically to give a voice to the ordinary workers whose views they directly recorded. Vast quantities of similar reports exist for the Nazi years in Germany and have been the basis for a great deal of careful reconstruction of popular opinion under the Third Reich by Ian Kershaw, Martin Broszat and a host of others. The approach of Raphael Samuel and his History Workshop movement similarly involved reading official sources in a contrarian way, to recover the world of ordinary workers and their families. It’s simply naive of Sand to assume that because the state generates source material, the historian can do nothing but echo the spirit in which it was written and parrot the assumptions behind its creation."
Richard J. Evans, "Unending history". The Times Literary Supplement (TLS). 23 June 2017, p. 3.
"This book has been just over ten years in the making. Throughout this long endeavor, I believe I have been true to my resolve to write the life of Henry Kissinger 'as it actually was'- wie es eigentlich, in Ranke's famous phrase (which is perhaps better translated 'as it essentially was'). Ranke believed that the historian's vocation was to infer historical truth from documents -- not a dozen documents (the total number cited in one widely read book about Kissinger) but many thousands. I certainly cannot count how many documents I and my research assistant Jason Rockett have looked at in the course of our work. I can count only those that we thought worthy of inclusion in our digital database. The current total of documents is 8,380 - a total of 37,645 pages....My motivation in casting the widest and deepest possible net in my trawl for material was straightforward. I was determined to see Kissinger's life not just from his vantage point but from multiple vantage points, and not just from the American perspective but from the perspectives of friends, foes, and the nonaligned."
Niall Ferguson. Kissinger, Volume I, 1923-1968: The idealist. (2015), pp. xii-xiii.
To compare the statements from respectively the ex-Regis Professor of History at Cambridge, Sir Richard J. Evans, well known scholarly expert on 19th and 20th century Germany and the famous expatriate British economic and political historian Niall Ferguson (now at Harvard University) and anointed authorized biographer of former American Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, makes for interesting reading. Although Sir Richard and Professor Ferguson are both products of that elite foundry of erste-klasse historians, Oxbridge, their views on history could hardly be more different. Evan's coming out of the gauchiste, soixante-huitard, social history nexus, is almost not on the same planet as a historian with the traditionalist Ferguson, with his quotation of Ranke's famous dictum of 'wie es eigentlich'. The difference between the two raises the question (in my mind at least, hence this commentary), whose view on history and the writing and interpretation of it, is more accurate? After giving the matter some thought, it is self-evident to me that Ferguson, notwithstanding my minor caveats about his opus on Kissinger (subsequently to be reviewed in this pages), has a better handle on how to approach the question of the writing of history. To my mind, wie es eigentlich, is notwithstanding any Hegelian, idealist tendencies is by far a better method of approaching the historian's task than Evan's (quite evident) ideologically charged, re-creation of history. For what else can on take to mean his statement that he reads: "state-generated sources “against the grain”, bending them to purposes other than those intended by their authors". Id. est., Evan's is engaged in a purposeful re-creation, nay a re-invention of history to suit some political purpose or programme. Which of course was the intention, deliberate in fact of the E.P. Thompson, et. al., 'working-class history', 'history from below', et cetera. We now know of course, that Thompson's history was embedded in an idiosyncratic type of romantic Marxism. That there was no 'English working-class' which was created in the time frame that he discusses in his work. In short the point and purpose of history and the historian's craft is not to engage sub rosa in a political exercise for some contemporary purpose or other. Properly speaking history is about things which occurred in the past and the 'past' as such, in its strangeness and obscurity, can only have the most difficult and distant relationship to the present. As the great British, neo-Hegelian philosopher Michael Oakeshott, once beautifully expressed it:
"The world has neither love nor respect for what is dead, wishing only to recall it to life again. It deals with the past as with a man, expecting it to talk sense and have something to say apposite to its plebian 'causes' and engagements. But for the 'historian', for whom the past is dead and irreproachable, the past is feminine. He loves it as a mistress of whom he ever tires and never expects to talk sense. 1"
1. Michael Oakeshott. Rationality in politics and other essays. (1962), pp. 181-182. The title of the essay was: "The activity of being a historian".

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


"When Helmut Kohl was wooing the woman who would become his wife of more than 40 years, by her account he sent her 2,000 love letters. It is a measure of the passion, persistence and sheer persuasiveness of the man who orchestrated the unification of Germany and established himself as the dominant European statesman of his time. Kohl, who has died aged 87, began his first term as chancellor in the Bonn of 1982. By the time he left office 16 years later, parliament was about to move to a Berlin no longer divided by a wall or entrenched ideology. His populace had swollen by more than a quarter to 80m with the reintegration, after 45 years, of the Moscow-influenced east. Beyond this expanded frontier, Kohl strove to supplant — yet mourn and learn from — the evils of the century’s two world wars. His determination did much to embed a friendship with France and a Europe of closer ties, at the same time smoothing relations between Russia and the world’s main western democracies. Taking office at the head of a coalition of his own Christian Democrats, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the liberal Free Democratic party, he led this sometimes quarrelsome combination to a succession of election victories. In doing so he surpassed the tenure of Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first leader and Kohl’s model and mentor. A substantial figure in all senses (at the height of his power he carried at least 120kg on his 1.93m frame), Kohl was an instinctive wielder of power. He would often prevaricate, as befits a politician schooled in the tortuous ways of coalition government and a federal constitution cluttered with checks and balances. Yet he could move with decisive speed to achieve his objectives, relying on his instinct for the possible and a talent for timing. Despite a near total lack of foreign language skills, he struck up warm relations with counterparts as varied as François Mitterrand, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, convincing each in turn that a united Germany was a trustworthy partner and no threat to peace".
Peter Norman, Jeevan Vasagar and Gordon Cramb, "Helmut Kohl, first chancellor of a reunified Germany". The Financial Times. 16 June 2017, in
I was of course one of those who looked down upon the seemingly provincial looking and sounding Helmut Kohl. Which was enough to do considering who his predecessor was: the intellectually superior if not brilliant Helmut Schmidt 1. However, as I stated here when talking about Schmidt after his demise, intellectual brilliance and cultural arrogance were not what was needed in the Fall of 1989 and the Spring of 1990. What was needed in that short period of time, that small window that 'history' suddenly opened up, was an ability to read the minds of the common people, and to sense that things which were impossible, nay unthinkable yesterday or the day before yesterday, were now on the table and that if one did not pick-up and move, and indeed move aggressively, then one could have very well thrown-away whatever was possible. Or as Henry Kissinger noted in comparing Kohl and Schmidt: "to achieve greatness, a statesman must possess not only knowledge and character; he needs to be blessed with the opportunity for a heroic response" 2.Kohl, provincial, and un-intellectual though he was, sensed (how we are not quite sure), that the poor people of the DDR were ready to drop their benighted state and merge with Federal Republic. Or as the British Ambassador to Bonn remarked on Kohl's initial speech on the 28th of November 1989, wherein Kohl first laid out a programme for German unity:
"The key point is that the pressures have reached a level where Kohl has felt obliged to make a high profile statement of a policy expressly intended to lead in time to German unit. And he has done so on his own authority, not on behalf of the whole coalition [Christian Democrats-Free Democrats coalition government], and without prior consultation with the Allies [UK, USA, France] having responsibility for the German question. It shows how fast the German question is moving" 3.
Schmidt for all his brilliance and vast experience could not sense this. Or at least see it immediately. That is au fond, Helmut Kohl's true claim to historical fame. Making him along with Konrad Adenauer (in the words of Churchill) 'the greatest Chancellor[s] since Bismarck'.
1. As shown by witticism about Schmidt that: "What is the difference between God and Schmidt' the answer was, 'God knows everything, but Schmidt knows it better'". From Sir Nicholas Henderson. Mandarin: the Diaries of an Ambassador, 1969-1982. (1994), p. 144.
2. Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Renewal. (1999), p. 610.
3. See: Sir Christopher Mallaby (Bonn) to Douglas Hurd (Foreign Office), 28 November 1989, in Documents on British Policy Overseas. Series III, Volume VII: German Unification, 1989-1990. Edited P. Salmon, et. al., p. 140.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


"The United Arab Emirates has ramped up the pressure on Qatar by saying the decision by Arab states to cut diplomatic and transport links with Doha was a “golden opportunity” to deal with what it alleges is one of the “main sponsors” of extremism in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a regional blockade on Qatar two weeks ago as they accused the gas-rich state of supporting terrorism, triggering the worst crisis in the Gulf region for decades. The dispute, which pits important US allies against each other, has raised concerns that it could escalate in a region already blighted by conflict and instability. Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said the “harsh” measures imposed on Qatar — which denies that it sponsors terrorism — were necessary to send a “wake-up call for behavioural change”. But the four countries had not put forward specific demands to Doha because they first wanted to receive a “commitment that they [Qatar] will change course”. “Our message to many of the western states is of course the solution has to be diplomatic, but it has to be preconditioned on a change of course,” Mr Gargash said on Friday. “We haven’t seen that yet and until we see that I don’t think anybody is ready for a sort of bazaar of this is what we want.”
Andrew England, "Qatar blockade is ‘golden opportunity’ to halt terrorism". The Financial Times. 16 June 2017, in
"It began as a squabble between Arab allies, but the standoff between Qatar and its neighbours is threatening to engulf the Horn of Africa. When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives declared at the beginning of June that they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar it appeared to be of interest mainly to the Arabian Peninsula – and the Gulf in particular. The Saudis and their allies accused Qatar of backing international terrorism. The US, which has the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, looked askance, but did little more than use its good offices to try to ensure that the war of words did not flare into an open conflict. But the countries just across the Red Sea have found themselves dragged into the dispute. After prevaricating for some time, Eritrea, which had hitherto good relations with Qatar, fell into line with the Saudis and broke ties with Qatar".
Martin Plaut, "Qatar’s conflict with its neighbours can easily set the Horn of Africa alight". Reaction. 20 June 2017, in
If and only 'if' the House of Saud and their Gulf Arab allies have in the past shown any plausible degree of diplomatic skill and discernment, then and only then, would the diplomatic contretemps in the Arabian Gulf be deserving of support from the Western Powers. Make no mistake: the regime in Qatar is as dreadful in its diplomatic playacting and in its amateurish (but dangerous just the same) support for Sunni extremists in the Near and Middle East, as the Saudis, et. al., now claim. Of course the regime in Qatar may very plausibly counterclaim that the Riyadh has been equally at fault in the playing the very same game, only with more money and worse results for almost forty-years now. The real and pertinent issue in the quarrel between Qatar and the House of Saud is that given the maladroit character of Gulf Arab diplomacy, it would be the very mid-summer of madness to expect anything positive in nature coming out of such a situation. It is highly unlikely that the regime in Qatar will quietly and with good grace bow its head and agree to terms. A more likely scenario is that Qatar will endeavor to invite in Persia to support it in its struggle. Now the very last thing that anyone should wish for is for Persia to become involved in any way whatsoever in the other side of the Gulf. So far it has not occurred in a serous fashion. However, there is a real danger that unless the regime in Qatar decides to call it quits, then they may be forced by events to involve Persia. In short, I have extremely limited (indeed it is more akin to non-existent) faith in Saudi diplomacy and diplomatic skill. As I pointed out only a few months ago in the case of Yemen, the Saudis are simply unable to operate in any erste-world fashion:
"There is nothing in the situation in Yemen from when I first wrote about it back more than eighteen months ago, which the errata-filled Saudi-lead military intervention has not proven to be true. The military intervention other than preventing the Houthi rebels from completing ousting the government of President Abd-Rabbu Hadi, has not achieved any of its original goals. It has not defeated the Houthi, nor has it restored peace and security to this wretched country and its poor people. Instead the Saudi campaign, especially its military campaign has shown itself both ruthless and incompetent. The image that one is left with is that of Air Chief Marshal 'Bomber' Harris of World War II fame being impersonated by P. G. Woodhouse's 'Bertie Wooster'. Added to which is the sordid fact that the Saudi military intervention has perhaps inevitably resulted in a greater role for Persia in the country, as it has gradually increased its support for the Houthi. In short the Saudis have more than lived up to their previous military reputation as incompetent brutes and blunderers" 1.
So unless there is an immediate resolution of this diplomatic equivalent of the clashing of swords, it is best and indeed necessary for the Americans to force a modus vivendi settlement on both sides before matters truly get out of hand.
1. Charles Coutinho, "THE CEASE-FIRE IN YEMEN OR THE HOPED FOR END TO SAUDI MILITARY BLUNDERING". Diplomat of the Future. 18 October 2016, in

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


"Theresa May’s decision to call a swift General Election took everyone by surprise, except those who know her well. For some time those closest to her have been weighing the pros and cons of an early election. Mrs May was sceptical about the desirability of asking people to go, once again, to the ballot box, but the Prime Minister is strong and confident enough to be able to listen to an argument and change her position if she feels it is necessary. Theresa May is a careful and thoughtful leader, but unlike Gordon Brown whose dithering over whether to call an early General Election sealed the fate of his chaotic and pointless Premiereship, she has not allowed herself to be boxed into a corner. It is a good example of the adroitness and flexibility necessary in all successful leaders. Theresa May’s thoughtfulness has resulted in decisive and resolute action. Her care and determination over decision making and her resoluteness once a decision has been made are two of the Prime Minister’s finest qualities. She is a strong leader, but not a dogmatic one..... The need to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in the long negotiations and to establish that unique bond a Prime Minister has with the British people that can only be forged in the white heat of a General Election victory meant that an early election, on balance, seemed to be the sensible and positive way forward.... Clearly however the Prime Minister is right when she says this election is essentially about the leadership we need over the next few years as Brexit is negotiated and the business of the country at home is conducted".
Mark Fox, "Theresa May is right to call an early General Election". Reaction. 18 April 2017, in
"That was quite the election night — one that almost no one in Westminster was expecting. Mrs May was ready to sail back into power, shake up the cabinet and go on with Brexit as before. None of that is on the cards. Jeremy Corbyn had become increasingly confident of putting in a good performance but few in the Labour party expected to better its 2015 result. Conventional political wisdom has been flipped on its head and Mr Corbyn’s grassroots and social media support have translated into votes. Young people turned out to vote in large numbers, after threatening to do so for many years.... The anger in the Conservative party, however, is visceral, deep and set to bubble over at any time. This election was a waste of six weeks and a serious embarrassment for the party. Mrs May is in power but has no authority. So how long will she last? Her departure could come in the next few days or weeks. She might decide that she has no confidence in her own ability to lead the country and the lack of moral authority has made her position untenable. Cue a messy leadership contest between Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd, David Davis and someone from a younger generation in the party. Mrs May might last until the autumn, seeing through the first wave of Brexit talks and stabilising HMS Great Britain after the shock election result. This would allow tension to ease and give the Tories time to decide where they want to go next (they would do well to listen and learn from Ruth Davidson). Or she might last a couple of years, assuming the DUP can be placated and Brexit talks do not entirely collapse. The party might decide to let Mrs May take the flak for Brexit and ensure she is ejected before the next election. Whenever that happens, the relationship between the PM and the Conservative party has been damaged beyond repair. Regicide is in the air and it’s only a question of when, not if, Mrs May makes an inglorious exit from Downing Street.".
Sebastian Payne, "UK Election Countdown: how long can May last?" The Financial Times. 9 June 2017, in
"She does share with both Eden and Brown a tendency to be both a boring (at worse) or uninspiring (at best) speaker. All three were and are not 'clubbable' and glad-handing sort of politician (Neville Chamberlain & Balfour as well), being for the most part, private individuals with few friends outside of their immediate family. The fact that May succeeded in winning the race to Number Ten by in essence avoiding taking sides in the BREXIT debate also does not bode well for her going forward. Equally problematic is the fact that like both Eden and Brown, May has surrounded herself at Ten Downing Street the same coterie of youngish aides who were with her at her departmental office. Aides who are both violently loyal to their chief, but unpopular with the rest of Whitehall 1. This is of course all in the possible future and mere conjecture. And it could very well be that six plus years at the Home Office is not as dangerous to a future prime minister's political skills as say being either Chancellor or Foreign Secretary for ten plus years. To-day Prime Minister May is the toast of the town, at least Westminster. Hopefully this will continue to be so. The portents for those who known their Prime Ministerial history is unfortunately, not the very best. Or as the ancient historian Tacitus once put it about the Emperor Galba: 'Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset'".
Charles Coutinho, "THERESA MAY AS PRIME MINISTER: THE ILL-FORTUNE OF TOO MUCH EXPERIENCE?" The Diplomat of the Future. 19 July 2016, in
I would have preferred to have been wrong about Theresa May last Thursday night. Especially, since there were some (not on Brexit though) policies of hers (such as about Grammar Schools, Fox Hunting, Immigration) that I agreed with her. Unfortunately, as I predicted last year and as the election campaign (of a mere six-weeks no less) clearly, nay brutally showed, May is not the stuff that successful British Prime Ministers are made of. It is a sad thing to say, but it is a true one. All of the flaws that I pointed out (along side a few, very few indeed others) pointed out when she first was elected Tory party leader and then installed as Prime Minister have become crystal clear. Now of course the United Kingdom is in a rather horrid shape. May is in a sense (in the cruel but mot exact of George Osborne) "“She is a dead woman walking and the only question is how long she remains on death row" 1. But unfortunately, May must remain Prime Minister for the next crucial months to both stabilize the country and commence the Brexit Talks. This is of course nothing like the role that May thought of herself playing two months ago, but as Harold Wilson once aptly put it "A week is a long time in politics".
1. George Osborne quoted in the Financial Times. See: George Parker and Henry Mance, "Theresa May faces party showdown after disastrous election". The Financial Times. 12 June, in

Thursday, June 08, 2017


"If the template for the job of White House national security adviser had been written in the 1970s, two men, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, would have served as the models. Both were born in central Europe, had distinguished academic credentials, impeccable political connections and wrote extensively about the state of the world. And both were able to practice what they preached in print as the right hand men of the occupant of the Oval office. Brzezinski, who has died at the age of 89, was far from his predecessor’s doppelganger, but his record in office can stand fair comparison. On his watch, under President Jimmy Carter, the US normalised relations with China, severing ties with Taiwan in the process, signed the Salt Two arms treaty with the Soviet Union, brought Egypt and Israel together in the Camp David accords and concluded the Panama Canal treaty, ceding control to Panama. In each decision he was an influential player. On the downside, the US was caught flatfooted by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, allowing the deposed Shah refuge in the US, which eventually led to the Iran hostage crisis, a factor in Mr Carter’s election defeat in 1980. Brzezinski was also instrumental in arming the Afghan mujahideen after the Soviet invasion of 1979, a policy that came back to haunt the US two decades later (to prove his point, flamboyantly, he was photographed in the Khyber Pass pointing a rifle across the border). From their White House vantage point, both men had notoriously poor relations with the state department, respectively headed by William Rogers and Cyrus Vance, whom they viewed as staid and unimaginative. Vance eventually resigned in protest over the abortive hostage rescue mission in 1980, an operation Brzezinski actively supported. But both Kissinger and Brzezinski were known for their world views and doctrines, seeing the globe as a global chess board around which the US and USSR moved pieces. No national security adviser since them has had the temerity to venture so far, preferring roles as the facilitators of policies rather than as their intellectual authors".
Jurek Martin, "Zbigniew Brzezinski, US national security adviser, 1928-2017". The Financial Times. 26 May 2017, in
"Zbigniew Brzezinski had an academic background similar to Kissinger's; conceptually, though the two could hardily have been more different. Kissinger had articulated a consistent view of International affairs: one could read A World Restored (published in 1957) and find in it a generally reliable guide to the policies he would seek to implement a decade and half later. Brzezinski's writings showed no such depth. There was instead, as one critic put it, an 'enduring penchant for fashionable issues and concepts that are adopted or discarded in the light of changing circumstances, unbecoming reliance on the intellectual cliche of the moment".' "
John Lewis Gaddis. Strategies of Containment.Revised edition. (2005). p. 346.
Like his fellow European emigre, academic star and thereafter high administration official, Henry A. Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski was one of a kind in many ways. Both men were of a generation which saw American academia rises to new heights, and both men quickly became scholars for whom mere scholarship was not nearly enough to withstand the siren calls of political power to be found in Washington. Five-years younger than Kissinger, Brzezinski was slower off the mark and perhaps due to his specialization in what was then called 'Soviet studies', less able to switch as quickly to the political realm. Also unlike Kissinger, Brzezinski had a taste, or perhaps what one may characterize as a flair for running after the current day's novelties. From being one of the co-originators of the once famous 'Friedrich-Brzezinski' model of totalitarianism, to his futuristic Between Two Ages, which eventually resulted in the setting-up of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in the early 1970s. As James Earl Carter's foreign policy sponsor and then National Security Adviser, Brzezinski had a very mixed-record. His semi-persistent anti-Soviet rhetoric and policies helped to put the 'detente' policies of the Kissinger era permanently on ice. Given the fact that it is now evident there was no Soviet aim or ambition to either conquer Afghanistan or for that matter Pakistan / Persia, his treating, nay opportuning the Soviets into an Afghanistan morass, is from hindsight questionable. As per contra to his later claims, it is very well imaginable that sans, the Russian Afghanistan intervention, that the dismantling of first the Russia Empire in Eastern and Central Europe and then Sovietskaya Vlast itself, would have occurred regardless. Similarly his pronounced leaning towards the Peoples Republic of China, also appears to be in retrospect questionable, given the fact that the Americans while offering the PRC much, received very little back in turn 1. Of course in that respect, Brzezinski was merely following in the unfortunate footsteps of Henry Kissinger. However, to give credit where credit is due, Brzezinski must be lauded for stepping up the Human Rights campaign against Sovietskaya Vlast. This campaign was important for two reasons in retrospect: i) it allowed the Americans to gain credit worldwide, after the debacle of Vietnam and the cynicism of the Nixon-Kissinger years for re-possessing the mantel of idealism. A weapon, while amorphous in nature, was and is vitally important in terms of 'soft power'. Similarly, Brzezinski must be credited for predicting, in the Hugh Seton-Watson Memorial Lecture (and elsewhere) in 1988 the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Central and Eastern Europe. Wherein, he predicted a (in the words of Timothy Garton-Ash) 'a 1848 in 1988' 2. Aside from this instance, there was not much by the way of glory or triumphs in Brzezinski's years out of power. Like Kissinger, he wrote a memoir, but unlike Kissinger's it was short (one volume only) and not nearly as interesting from either a historical or literary perspective. Again like Kissinger, he was never granted, rightly or wrongly access to the heights of power after he left government. In short, there was something truncated and (dare one say it?) second-rate about Brzezinski. Not so much as a man, but as a historical personality. In that respect for good or ill, he was never able to match Henry Kissinger.
1. See: Raymond Garthoff. Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan. (1985).
2. See: Zbigniew Brzezinski, "America's New Geostrategy". Foreign Affairs. (Spring 1988), p. 686, wherein he states: "In the meantime, Eastern Europe is rapidly emerging as Europe's region of potential explosive instability, with five countries already in a classic prerevolutionary situation. Economic failure and political unrest are becoming the dominant characteristics of life in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia".

Monday, June 05, 2017


"Donald Trump’s first visit to Europe was awkward. Its aftermath has been explosive. Speaking at an election rally in Munich, shortly after the US president had returned to Washington, Angela Merkel came close to announcing the death of the western alliance. The German chancellor warned that: “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days. We Europeans must really take our destiny in our own hands. Of course we need to have friendly relations with the US and with the UK and with other neighbours, including Russia. But we have to fight for our own future ourselves.” Ms Merkel’s remarks swiftly made headlines. Richard Haass, who as president of the Council on Foreign Relations is the doyen of the US foreign-policy establishment, tweeted: “Merkel saying Europe cannot rely on others & needs to take matters into its own hands is a watershed — & what US has sought to avoid since WW2.” It is easy and appropriate to blame President Trump for this state of affairs. But despite her cautious phrasing, Ms Merkel has also behaved irresponsibly — making a statement that threatens to widen a dangerous rift in the Atlantic alliance into a permanent breach".
Gideon Rachman, "Angela Merkel’s blunder, Donald Trump and the end of the west". The Financial Times. 29 May 2017 in
"Every great plan is long-term. Despite its power, I don't believe the United States has a long-term policy. Its desire, and it will satisfy it one day, is to desert Europe. You will see".
Charles de Gaulle quoted in Andre Malraux. Felled Oaks: conversations with De Gaulle. (1971), p. 30.
The German Chancellor's comments on the Americans no longer being reliable source of security is a diplomatic blunder in two senses: a) it is a warning couched as prophecy, which makes the prophecy more likely to become true. Something which I am sure that Frau Merkel does not in fact wish to occur; b) following from 'a' is the fact, that the words uttered by the Chancellor Merkel are completely and absolutely empty. Unlike Charles de Gaulle, who conceived and indeed worked towards a situation wherein: "the defence of France must be in French hands" 1. And among other things that required not only the ouster of NATO from French soil in 1966, but as importantly the construction of the Force de frappe. France's nuclear arm 2. There is absolutely nothing similar in either the remarks nor indeed the thought processes of Angela Merkel. It is all very well for her to proclaim that "We Europeans must really take our destiny in our own hands". But in the absence of a concerted and voluminous military build-up by Germany and to a lesser extent other European powers, her words a mere empty rhetoric. So, if that is indeed the case, and there is nothing to gainsay that that is not the reality of the situation, then Merkel's words are a diplomatic blunder of the first water. In the age of Trump, the very last thing that is needed or desired is for Europe to give the Americans the idea that Europe is self-sufficient and does not need or desire American protection. If Merkel were a politician of Gaullist stature and aims then it would be otherwise, but she is not by any means that. So accordingly, what needs to be done is for Europe to refrain from empty rhetoric, however desirable the feeling that it gives off and await the inevitable end of Trumpism. Just as Europe will see the inevitable (admittedly in a longer vein) end of Putinism. Until then diplomatic tranquility and not empty rhetoric originating from a Beer garden are what the current situation calls for.
1. Charles de Gaulle. Memoirs of Hope: Renewal and Endeavor. Translated by Terence Kilmartin. (1971). p. 204 and passim.
2. See, in addition to Memoirs of Hope, Michael M. Harrison. The Reluctant Ally: France and Atlantic Security. (1981), pp, 49-101 and passim.