Best columns: Europe
An anti-Nazi purge that hurts the army
Surely even “thoroughly pacified” Germans can see that our army needs to be an effective fighting force? said Jan Fleischhauer. So what does Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen think she’s doing by decreeing that every German barrack be searched top to bottom for Nazi memorabilia? The pretext was the arrest in April of a junior officer who, seeking to stir hatred against refugees, had been poised to launch a terrorist attack while posing as a Syrian asylum seeker. This raised understandable fears that the army might be harboring other far-right extremists—and one other soldier has been arrested for allegedly aiding the plot. But von der Leyen’s response is way out of proportion. Even portraits of German army officers who heroically resisted the Nazis are being ripped from barracks walls. It’s mad to equate the familiar enthusiasm of young recruits for military souvenirs with the “murderous fantasies” of the arrested officer. All this does is feed public distrust of the modern Bundeswehr, which many Germans foolishly see as the heir to Hitler’s army. Training people to kill in defense of our nation is a serious business, and our soldiers should be respected, not reviled. Demoralize them in the way von der Leyen is doing and “we could soon say goodbye to peace and freedom.”
Have our youth just given up?
Spain’s young people aren’t doing so well, said Sandra León. With a youth unemployment rate hovering near 40 percent, those ages 25 and under have every reason to get politically active. So why aren’t they? Most students profess to be disillusioned with the established political parties, which is why many jumped eagerly aboard the left-wing, anti-austerity Podemos movement when it emerged a few years ago. Podemos surged to become the third-largest party in parliament in 2015. But when elections were held again six months later, the party lost nearly 20 percent of that support, as young voters simply stayed home. They’re only hurting themselves, of course. Government policies are biased in favor of pensioners, “the most loyal and participatory voters.” That’s one reason why Spain doesn’t do very well redistributing its income to young people. Still, apathy isn’t the only thing holding back the youth. Their small numbers also work against them. Even if every young voter turned out every election, there are nearly twice as many pensioners as people ages 15 to 24. The cliché is that young people are supposed “to change the world.” For them to be able to make a difference in Spain, though, first the world will have to change—and then the youth will have to “change themselves.”