While Germany Lays Sleeping

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS (1)“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…”- Martin Luther King (Editors’ note: Martin Luther King Day is an American holiday on January 20th, 2014.)

As the events in Ukraine continue to unfold, many Ukrainians on the ground are asking ‘where are the Europeans and the Americans?’

It is both a legitimate question and a rhetorical one.

On December 2nd, 1823, Virginian James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, announced to the world in what was later to become known as the Monroe Doctrine, ‘… that any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by Europe would be considered an act of war.’ Though the US was mostly toothless at the time and unable to do much enforcing of the document, it laid the groundwork for the idea that any important decisions involving the Western Hemisphere would involve the US.

It was mostly formulated by John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, who was also the son of Bostonian John Adams (the second president of the US). The leaders of both the northern and southern states were in agreement.

This doctrine changed the US and its role in the world. Previously, George Washington had recommended that the US remain out of foreign conflicts and affairs. ‘It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,’ he said in his farewell address. But times had changed.

And they are changing once again.

A century later, as Europe was engulfed in the first half of the world wars, many Americans pleaded with the US government to remain on the sidelines. The Isolationists included some of the biggest names in business and politics. ‘Why should we involve ourselves in Europe?’

Woodrow Wilson, quite possibly the last intellectual president before Clinton or Obama, saw the danger of this thinking and continued to assert American influence on a global scale. His peace plan begged France and Great Britain to go easy on Germany. They did not. No better fertilizer was ever spread across a country for the rise of fascism a few decades later.

The United States of America supported the Allies in both world wars, covertly at first, and more overtly as the results became clearer. It had become increasingly impractical to remain neutral.

This lesson has changed little since.

second-world-war-russian-front-07

World War II was fought in Ukraine

The deaths that occurred in other theaters during World War II should not be lessened in any way, yet, the total amount of death and destruction incurred by Ukraine towers over every other participating country of that war in both raw numbers and percentage. Some have estimated that nearly 10,000,000 Ukrainians and Jews have lost their lives on Ukrainian soil. The number is probably closer to 7,000,000.

Ruined_Kiev_in_WWII (1)Ukraine was the anvil as the two ideologues, Stalin and Hitler, pounded away at each other creating more than a ‘Lost Generation’ for Ukraine, but a ‘Lost Century’. The remnants of this conflict can still be seen today. The Soviet Union won the ‘Great Patriotic War’, but lost the bigger cold war. Capitalism and democracy were the bigger winners, Germany rebuilt. Ukraine never recovered from their losses, never rebuilt, and their turning towards ‘Mother Russia’ is in many ways still explicable.

Germany, leaders of Europe, it is time to atone for your failings with Ukraine. The people who have braved the cold to demonstrate against totalitarianism (it is alive and well in Europe) are asking for Germany’s help. Germany should influence now and create their own ‘Merkel Doctrine’. This is Europe and not some faraway land. Any decisions in Europe should involve Germany, and it is time to put the considerable weight of your country to work to dissuade those who would try and create oppressive regimes in your own back yard.

Germany’s pacifism (now) is legendary. It has mostly forsaken military involvement around the world to focus on its economy.There is an old saying in Germany that goes something like this: “The person who pays gets to point the car in the direction he wants.” Germany should get this. But Germany must point the car towards the light and not look the other way as others dangle cheap things to help your economy.

bmwDriving the car of Europe is not only a courtesy. It is an obligation.

Germany, do what you do best. Your European brothers in Ukraine beg of you, please drive the car.

Michael V Owens, married to a Ukrainian, lived in Ukraine for a year, and is the son of a Ukrainian. He was a professor of American Literature and History, and gave numerous lectures on world economics, law, and government, at Kyiv International University. He has regular contact with Kyivians and Ukrainians, and travels once or twice a year to Ukraine.

The Center of the World Is Germany

Geographically Germany is in the middle. It may be socially as well.

Geographically Germany is in the middle. It may be socially as well.

Germany. Just the name itself is enough to form an opinion. Perhaps no other country in Western Europe conjures up so many diverse and divergent opinions of what this land is. It is unquestionably, and has been for centuries, the center of Europe. And it may just very well be the center of the world.

Germany is the heart of Europe. Nothing that is important in Europe over the last 1,000 years has been decided without the Germanic peoples’ consultation, concordance or confrontation. It has been at various times an economic powerhouse, a well of enlightenment, a feared military juggernaut, and now a pacifist.

Primitive Beginnings

In its earliest years, the tribes that would unite to form Germany were overshadowed by the stronger, more organized Roman empire (which seems inconceivable if one looks at Italian politics today). When the Vandals (a Germanic tribe) sacked Rome in 455, the term ‘Barbarians’ had already been established. We have the word ‘vandalism’ as well. Common contemporary thinking at that time perpetuated by St. Augustine and the Catholic Church was that the sacking of Rome plunged Western Europe into darkness.

Professor George Brooks, a Medievalist from Valencia College, in Orlando, Florida, has spent his whole career trying to dispel this myth. In fact, he says, the period after the Roman Empire’s collapse was one of incredible progress. The term ‘Dark Ages’ is a misnomer. Dr. Brooks does admit that in the early years after the fall of Rome, the uncertainty surely made the population of western Europe uneasy, and for things to appear ‘dark’.

It is cliché, but Germany was forged in blood and steel

Germany was the battleground for the world's first world war

Germany was the battleground for the world’s first world war

The unification of the order and structure of the Catholic Church with Charlemagne’s military might (his main palace was in Aachen) set Europe on a path which would see it eventually overcome the difficulties presented by its enemies and the elements. German armies, under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire, would be the sword of St. Paul, while the Catholic Church would be the Bible. This continued for the next 800 years plus, until the schism created by (yet another) German, Martin Luther, tore Germany (and Europe) apart.

Luther’s questioning of the Catholic Church led to the Thirty Years War, and an almost inconceivable destruction of Germany. It engulfed nearly every country of Europe at the time, and was for all intents and purposes Europe’s First World War.

Estimates from historians Marvin Perry and Jackson Spielvogel place the total number of Germans killed at 40% of the population in rural areas, some may have even seen numbers as high as 60%. The general agreed-upon figure is about 33% of the total population. Economically, it took until the late 19th-century before Germany fully recovered.

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power

By the time Germany recovered, it promptly embarrassed France in the Franco-Prussian War, marching into Paris in less than 10 months from the opening of hostilities. France, in a rare moment of collective clairvoyance rarely seen since the French Revolution, had attempted to stop the unification of the different German kingdoms. Perhaps it recognized the danger of a more powerful country on its eastern border or it may have been unwilling to share the globe’s colonies, which it and Great Britain had been divvying up for three centuries.

Whatever the case, France felt more than many the brunt of German steel and technical ingenuity.

That power was sometimes misused, causing horrible damage to Europe and the world

That power was sometimes misused, causing horrible damage to Europe and the world

Germany twice unleashed these aspects again in the 20th Century, decimating Europe. Though the reasons for the two World Wars are more complicated than most realize, Germany has been, and will continue to be, blamed for both conflicts.

After near total destruction (which is another trait of the Germans – following a path to its absolute conclusion), Germany today has reconstituted itself into a world power. But with that comes the responsibility of trying to influence others to follow your lead.

Germany is the engine of the EU

Today Germany uses its economic muscle to influence decisions in Brussels, and the greater world

Today Germany uses its economic muscle to influence decisions in Brussels, and the greater world

Talks of any significance between developing countries normally have a seat reserved for Germany. Germany again finds itself in the position of being the driving force of Europe, much to the chagrin of Great Britain and France. But it cannot escape this fact, though it has little desire for the limelight.

Germany’s days as a military power on the field of battle are behind it. Its battles in the future will be fought over economic, environmental and societal issues. Germany can no longer think of itself as only an economic power. It must begin to accept its role in the world as a leader. The world is looking for a counterbalance to the USA – why not one of its strongest allies?

The most optimistic forecasts have Germany at the forefront of worker‘s rights and conditions, green energies and technologies, and integrating the numerous nationalities and ethnicities that have recently made Germany their new home.

Germany, with its long and storied history is poised to ‘show’ the rest of the world how things are done. Beyond building high-end products that the world desires, Germany is trying to fashion itself as a most tolerant, organized, and (environmentally) friendly nation.

Plans for carbon neutral cities are in the works. Much work needs to be done, but stakes are in the ground.

After World War II, few would have expected Germany to have recovered so spectacularly and some, like the Soviet Union (Russia), did all that they could to keep Germany from realizing that recovery.

Germany is not heaven on earth (Bavaria is even closer), but it is better here than in many other countries. Neither Germany nor Germans would ever claim such a thing (Bavarians WOULD). Others might just do it for them.

Note: The distance from Munich to Tokyo is 9,399 km, from Munich to San Francisco it’s 9,446 km, and from Munich to Capetown it’s 9,105 km. That’s pretty damned central.