• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Does America Still Love Germany?

My New Atlanticist essay “German-American Partnership in Peril?” answers a question that likely hasn’t occurred to many Americans. Angela Merkel is in town, though, and a spate of pieces in the German press this week have expressed the concern that Asia and “Europe” are getting all the attention while Berlin is becoming an afterthought.

There are legitimate and substantial policy differences, which I outline in the piece.  The bottom line, though, is that America and Germany are very close allies who work together routinely on all manner of issues.

Part of the reason Washington pays less attention to Berlin than in the not-so-distant past is that members of the transatlantic community simply take one another for granted.

There are many pressing problems to juggle and China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and others suck up an enormous amount of oxygen because they are so perplexing to deal with.   The differences between the United States and any country in Western Europe, by contrast, as relatively small and viewed through a shared historical prism.

Ultimately, while Obama and Merkel may disagree on many policies, all they need to do to discuss their differences is to pick up the phone.  That makes this controversy, much like the recurring questions about the US-UK “special relationship,” silly in the grand scheme of things.

Indeed, there seems to be much more “does America like us, check yes or no” contemplation in Europe than there is reverse self-examination here.

Photo: CafePress

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. ‘shared historical prism’

    In living memory, the two countries chose very different paths out of the great depression. While there is certainly some shared history, up until the 50’s, the US and Germany tended to have very different views of the world. And that change was brought about by being beaten silly in WWII and then living in a divided land with a grouchy Russian bear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. James Joyner says:

    Fair enough. Still, we do share the basic experience of Western Civilization – Reformation, Enlightenment, and so forth. Very different than dealing with, say, North Korea or even Russia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. . . .chose very different paths out of the great depression.

    Answering the question: can you give an example of understatement?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. DavidL says:

    As I recall my social studies, and that was long time ago, the ethnic Germans constitute the largest ethnic European bloc, larger than any particulur Brithish ethnic gruup such as the Scotch or Welsh, but smaller than ethnic British as a whole.

    I think that process fighting two world war with the Germans, surpressed open display of germanic culture. Ethnic Germans have assimilated to a greater extent.

    Yet an examination of our culture, shows deep German influence. Rather spending Sundays in church, like the Puritans, we spend Sundays playing games like the Germans. We go to baseballs games, likely Brithish in origin, but drink German style, read cold, beer and ext German style sausages, a/k/a hot dogs.

    Americans have a lot ties to Germany. On the other hand, the petty, vain, snot, that passes for our President, does not seem to care for any freely elected leader anywhere in the world Then Obama has shallow American roots and but a passing fancy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Hmmm, hates Obama, loves German culture . . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. anjin-san says:

    Fair enough. Still, we do share the basic experience of Western Civilization – Reformation, Enlightenment, and so forth

    I am not sure that that is entirely correct. Go back a bit further. The shared heritage of Italy, Spain, France, England, The Low Countries, and to some extent Switzerland, is much closer due to their shared Roman heritage. Even their languages have deep roots in Latin. Germanic languages are a very different breed of cat.

    Though most central and western European peoples share a Celtic heritage, the wester lands that were conquered by Rome had far more advanced civilizations than Germanic tribes at much earlier dates. Modern Germany did not even become a coherent nation until 1871.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Ben says:

    anjin,
    Dutch and English are Germanic languages, not Romance. The latin influence is based entirely on vocabulary, not on syntax or construction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. anjin-san says:

    Ben… Did not say Dutch and English are romance languages, but the deep roots of Latin in English are undoubtely there. Dutch is not a subject I have any knowledge of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. anjin-san says:

    From Wikipedia:

    English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian and Lower Saxon dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers and Roman auxiliary troops from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands[citation needed] in the 5th century. One of these Germanic tribes were the Angles,[19] who may have come from Angeln, and Bede wrote that their whole nation came to Britain,[20] leaving their former land empty. The names ‘England’ (or ‘Aenglaland’) and English are derived from the name of this tribe.

    So while there in undoubted Germanic influence upon England (anglo/saxon, after all), I think it is safe to argue that the influence of England/Western Europe upon Germany in ancient times & the middle ages is not so substantial.

    Battle of the Teutoburg Forest essentially established the Rhine as the northern border of the Roman empire & the tribal culture of Germania continued to thrive long after the Roman provinces in the west moved towards a culture patterned after the highly advanced Roman civilization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. An Interested Party says:

    …the two countries chose very different paths out of the great depression.

    You mean FDR wasn’t a Fascist!? Who knew!? Someone should let Jonah Goldberg in on this little secret…

    On the other hand, the petty, vain, snot, that passes for our President, does not seem to care for any freely elected leader anywhere in the world Then Obama has shallow American roots and but a passing fancy.

    Oh you silly person, didn’t you know? The president just loves, loves, LOVES leaders like Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Kim, and Putin…they’re his best buddies…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. PD Shaw says:

    anjin-san makes some interesting points: America’s shared culture is primarily with the English and French Enlightenments, and to a lesser extent Dutch mercantilism. These were the liberal powers in World War I. German unification was forged and gained in opposition to French domination and well before WWII had exhibited an authoritarian streak that made it more comfortable in alliance with the imperial states to it’s east.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. PD Shaw says:

    It’s also worth considering that Germans make up one of the largest immigrant group in America, but they came, particularly the Forty-Eighters, in rejection of German culture as illiberal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. I think you may be dismissing too lightly the influence of the Reformation and Protestantism on the settling and development of the colonies that became the United States.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. anjin-san says:

    Dutch mercantilism

    Check this book out – The Coffee Trader by David Liss. Good stuff.

    http://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Trader-Ballantine-Readers-Circle/dp/0375760903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246059503&sr=8-1

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. PD Shaw says:

    I think you may be dismissing too lightly the influence of the Reformation and Protestantism on the settling and development of the colonies that became the United States.

    Not me. I would just argue that the founding was far more influenced by the reformation outside of Germany in places like France or French-speaking Switzerland (Calvin) and more specifically Scotland (Knox) and England (Puritans). None of which is intended to cast a value judgment, I just think anjin-san has a point about a lesser degree of historical connection between the U.S. and Germany.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. PD Shaw says:

    BTW/ Somewhere on the internet I once saw a list of the books quoted or referenced by the Founding Fathers. I would love to find it again, but I would bet that the works cited were almost all either Greek, Roman, British or French.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. […] Does America Still Love Germany? […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. nevrdull says:

    Somewhere on the internet I once saw a list of the books quoted or referenced by the Founding Fathers. I would love to find it again, but I would bet that the works cited were almost all either Greek, Roman, British or French.

    i think that that’s unsurprising. the most important works of german enlightenment (think hegel, kant, herder, et al.) came after the american revolution. indeed, the most important german contributions in the field of (political) theory were made in the 19th century, which has everything to do with german history. my theory is that, in general terms, the holy roman empire did not inspire much thinking about political progress, because of its political structure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0