Germany’s Interests, and Ours

Since I suspect a post I did entitled “Our German Masters” might have helped inspire my friend Peter Ross Range to send in a Ten Miles Square piece admonishing those who “blindly bash” Germany, I feel obligated to offer a brief comment. Peter knows vastly more about Germany than I ever will, so I will take his word for it that the Germans are more far-sighted than their American conservative admirers give them credit for, and that Merkel’s negotiating posture enjoys broad-based support in her country. And of course he’s right that national stereotyping is generally a bad, and often a malicious, idea, although Germany’s record in the last century necessitates a somewhat higher tolerance for mockery and suspicion than might otherwise be the case.

I also assume Peter’s right that the German government is not trying to destroy a European project on which its own prosperity obviously depends, and it’s entirely possible the course of action Merkel prefers makes sense for Europeans in the long run. But what I was mainly writing about myself was the possible impact on the U.S. economy (and let’s face it, U.S. politics) of Germany’s determination to set what it regards as the right precedents for Europe. Whether or not Germany’s right and France, Italy, Spain and Greece are wrong about how to deal with the debt and stagnation, there’s not much question which route poses the greatest peril for us. Perhaps I am being selfish, but I regard a double-dip recession and the election of a Republican president and Congress too high a price for Americans to pay for the vindication of Angela Merkel’s sense of responsibility. And yes, I feel a sense of frustration that Europe’s fateful decisions are beyond my country’s control, a feeling that people in many other countries have so often shared with respect to America’s decisions.

So I’ll try not to “bash” Germans, but I remain hopeful that Merkel does not get her way in the EU summit this week, because her way may well be the highway, not only for Greece and Spain but for Barack Obama and for the welfare of Americans who can ill afford to be left to the tender mercies of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the years just ahead.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.