The Great German Meltdown

The Great German Meltdown, by Victor Davis Hanson.

Every 20 to 50 years in Germany, things start unraveling. Germans feel aggrieved. Ideas and movements gyrate wildly between far left and far right extremes. And the Germans finally find consensus in a sense of victimhood paradoxically expressed as national chauvinism. Germany’s neighbors in 1870, 1914, 1939 — and increasingly in the present — usually bear the brunt of this national meltdown.

Germany is supposed to be the economic powerhouse of Europe, its financial leader, and its trusted and responsible political center. Often it plays those roles superbly. But recently, it’s been cracking up — in a way that is hauntingly familiar to its European neighbors. On mass immigration, it is beginning to terrify the nearby nations of Eastern Europe. On Brexit, it bullies the British. On finance, it alienates the southern Europeans. On Russia, it irks the Baltic States and makes the Scandinavians uneasy by doing business with the Russian energy interests. And on all matters American, it increasingly seems incensed. …

For all of its growing animus toward America, Germany has still not met its promised 2 percent expenditures of GDP on defense according to NATO’s requirements. Yet it still runs up huge trade deficits with the United States ($65 billion a year). Germany also enjoys the world’s largest account surplus at $287 billion — warping international trade as the country discourages imports and calibrates its economy mostly for export. The Euro is, by Berlin’s design, still undervalued, and allows the Germans a commercial competitiveness likely impossible were they still to use the Deutsche Mark. …

In a perfect world, Germany would address its frustrations through introspection. After all, no one forced Berlin to take in over a million problematic refugees from the Middle East. No one forced it to export goods on easy credit to leveraged buyers who visibly lived far above their means. No one forced it to renege on its NATO defense promises and responsibilities. No one forced it to have a long and catastrophic history with the Jewish people. And no one forces it to expect perpetual U.S. military protection while continually setting record trade surpluses.

Despite the long postwar history of U.S.-German friendship, and despite Germany’s financial and economic power, the country is becoming psychologically isolated, if not unhinged. While Germans broadcast their anti-Americanism, they seem oblivious that Americans may likewise be tiring of German petulance.