THE AFTERMATH OF BREXIT: GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER ONJuly 3, 2016
Mr. P.S. shared this important article of the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, and of course, there are two things here that caught my attention right away. We'll get to those in a moment, but it is to be noted that this article was most likely composed by Herr Steinmeier prior to the BREXIT vote in the United Kingdom, and hence, presents a "view of things" prior to that event. This means certain sections of Herr Steinmeier's article are indeed amplified in their significance by the result of the BREXIT referendum. I suspect, however, that Berlin was not shocked by the result, given the flurry of last-minute pressure from Chancellorin Merkel to forestall that result. Hence, I suspect Herr Steinmeier, like all senior diplomatics, carefully crafted his words to take into account either potential result from the UK referendum.
Here's the article:
As Herr Steinmeier points out, Germany has used a careful combination of diplomacy and very limited projections of military force to achieve certain carefully and specifically defined roles in recent history. But there are two areas which he mentions in this article that suggest Germany intends a long range strategy - with, or without, the EU in tow. Note the concluding paragraph:
Some politicians, such as the former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski, have described Germany as Europe’s “indispensable nation.” Germany has not aspired to this status. But circumstances have forced it into a central role. Perhaps no other European nation’s fate is so closely connected to the existence and success of the EU. For the first time in its history, Germany is living in peace and friendship with France, Poland, and the rest of the continent. This is largely due to the renunciation of complete sovereignty and the sharing of resources that the EU has encouraged for almost 60 years now. As a result, preserving that union and sharing the burden of leadership are Germany’s top priorities. Until the EU develops the ability to play a stronger role on the world stage, Germany will try its best to hold as much ground as possible—in the interests of all of Europe. Germany will be a responsible, restrained, and reflective leader, guided in chief by its European instincts.
Note that what Herr Steinmeier seems to be tacitly admitting is that Germany realizes the EU in its current form is unlikely to survive, and whatever structures replace it - and one can only hope it's a structure with more respect for national sovereignties and culture - will be held in some sort of "trust" by Germany until more adequate and acceptable structures can be devised. To me, this sounds rather suspiciously like backhanded confirmation of a prediction I made in last weeks's News and Views, for in the wake of a potential crack-up of the EU, one may expect that the whole euro-zone concept will be redevised, and as I argued, Germany will "piece up the pieces, particularly with respect to maintaining security and free trade (not necessarily "open borders" to limitless numbers of refugees) in central Europe: Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmarck, the Netherlands, and possibly Scandinavia. Already Germany and Poland have made steps to integrate their navies in the Baltic, and Germany is undertaking a dramatic expansion of the Bundeswehr over the next few years. (And for those who don't recall the Kohl-Lammers CDU memorandum of the 1990s, I'd urge you to consult my book The Third Way, pp. 210-212.) Again, this isn't "German revanchisme" or miliarism, it's simply the geopolitics and economics of being both in the center of Europe, and Europe's premier economy and heavy-industry power.
But there's an even more intriguing suggestion that Berlin intends some sweeping changes in its global geostrategic role, and again, intends them with, or without, the EU, with, or without, FREXITS, NEXITS, Italeaves or Czechouts. Ponder this one a moment:
Sometimes Germans need others to remind us of the usefulness of our own history. Last year, for example, I had an inspiring conversation with a small group of intellectuals in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. One of them remarked, “We need a Westphalian peace for our region.” The deal that diplomats in Münster and Osnabrück hammered out in 1648 to separate religion from military power inspires thinkers in the Middle East to this day; for a native Westphalian like me, there could be no better reminder of the instructive power of the past.
The fact that Herr Steinmeier would be reminded of the Peace of Westphalia by a group of Saudi intellectuals suggests that Germany will seek to invoke this principle on the world stage. But this principle, if one examines it a moment, contains some huge implications. The Westphalian principle is cuis regio, eius religio, "whose the region, his the religion." This carries with it come consequences, for if invoked in the Middle East, it could conceivably result in the current status quo in such countries as Saudi Arabia, with a vengeance, where the Shia minority would continue to be under persecution by the royal-Wahabbist conjunction. Equally, it might mean a complete redrawing of borders in the Middle East, including a fragmentation of the Saudi kingdom itself, into Suni and Shia areas, something the Saudi monarchy is highly unlikely to agree with, since the Shia areas are also the kingdom's oil producing areas. Similarly, the Westphalian principle does not address the problem of the Christian minorities in the Middle East, which have under the secular dictatorships in the region, faired rather better than they do under the imposition of Islamic regimes and their customary intolerance. Would the "Westphalian" principle tolerate the idea of the Islamic jizya, the poll tax that non-Muslims must pay for "protection"? In the west, we call it racketeering. Under Westphalia, it was agreed that all religions, Protestant and Catholic, and their adherents, would receive equal protection under the law, and with no special privileges or sanctions for or against any religions' faithful being invoked or enacted. If one was Catholic living under a Protestant prince, no special tax had to be paid simply for the privilege of praticising Catholicism in a Protestant land, and vice-versa. I find it highly questionable that Saudi "intellectuals" would agree to this, unless they were speaking to Herr Steinmeier "off the record." We all know how the (out)house of Saud handles such thoughts.
Additionally,both the EU and the Islamic world stand in huge violation of it, for the influx of non-assimilating Islamic refugees can be viewed as an attempt to invade and convert by softpower means, and indeed, this is precisely part of Al Qaeda's seven step program for the Islamicization of the West. More importantly, this means that in practice, the EU itself is in fundamental violation of one of the key principles in its long historical evolution that could be seen as part of its conceptual foundations. The BREXIT vote can, from this long historical perspective, be seen as Britons reasserting that principle for their own country, and this, as I said, will only spread. In short, to make the Westphalian principle work, there has to be fundamental agreement and respect for the western principles of humanism and rule of law, and this is not going to play in Tehran and Riyadh without a fundamental and long-term cultural readjustment and a fundamental reform within Islam itself.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this is what Herr Steinmeier has in mind.
See you on the flip side...