Feature

Germany: Testing the limits of U.S. friendship

It’s shocking how deeply hurt German politicians are acting about the NSA spy scandal.

Berthold Kohler
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

It’s shocking how deeply hurt German politicians are acting about the NSA spy scandal, said Berthold Kohler. Everyone’s been trotting out Bismarck’s platitude about states having no friends, only interests, but apparently we didn’t really believe it. The reaction to the news that the U.S. tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private phone has been the kind of pain “worthy of a spurned lover, even among politicians who never seemed to like America much.” The fact is, of course, that Germans have long had a love-hate relationship with America, the land of both freedom and oppression. It is “the airlift, the Marshall Plan, and Kennedy” on the one hand, and “Dresden, Guantánamo Bay, and Bush” on the other. The America that is now dominant is the one willing to apply overwhelming force whenever it perceives a threat. Collateral damage is not a consideration, whether in drone strikes in Pakistan or snooping on Europeans. Yet Germans were caught off guard by this episode partly because we became complacent by outsourcing our dirty work to the U.S. It’s past time that we developed our own technological capability for intelligence gathering. Only then will Germany “be able to respond to America with more than just outrage.”

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