I am a complete Germanophile. I studied German, I speak the language and have lived in the country, albeit many years ago. German culture is to be admired, and the German people are among the nicest and kindest I have ever met. But the country as a whole still carries the burdens of the past upon its very broad shoulders. It shrinks from any hint of aggressive military involvement, knowing that the sight of German soldiers marching to war is something some would find difficult to stomach.
But at some point, Germany needs to understand something. It can’t be a leading member of the international community if it abstains on the big questions. Its economic size and population give Germany international responsibilities which it ought to have the courage to meet. But on Thursday night it abstained on the UN resolution for a no fly zone over Libya, and at the earlier EU Summit it prevented the EU coming to a united position.
Germany is a member of the UN security council at the moment. To abstain on a motion like the one on Thursday ought to be seen as a national embarrassment. Instead, Angela Merkel will probably receive domestic plaudits. If the international community needed proof that Germany has become an intrinsically pacifist country, this provided it. Some may see that as a good thing. I don’t.
Britain has acted in its own national interest, but also provided international leadership. Germany has acted in cowardice and sent a message to the world that it doesn’t feel it has any international responsibilities.
A third of the German flag is taken up by the colour yellow. Perhaps that proportion should be expanded.