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Helmut Schmidt

Tag Archives | Helmut Schmidt

The Merkel Doctrine: Exporting Arms to Questionable Regimes

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President Barack Obama with Angela Merkel in Washington. Denzel/Bundesregierung

“It’s generally not enough to send other countries and organizations words of encouragement. We must also provide the necessary means to those nations that are prepared to get involved. I’ll say it clearly: This includes arms exports.” – Angela Merkel

President Barack Obama with Angela Merkel in Washington. Denzel/Bundesregierung

The German armaments industry has a good reputation for doing what it does best – exporting high grade and stylistic means of killing well. But during the Merkel years, a trend has emerged in what has come to be called the Merkel Doctrine. Der Spiegel took note of this in July last year. The case in question involved Saudi Arabia, and the relevant sale of 270 modern Leopard (Model 2A7) tanks. No reasons were given for the policy shift, and none have been forthcoming.

“This would be the first time Germany supplied heavy arms to an Arab government that has declared its intentions to fight its opponents ‘with an iron fist’, a country that deployed tanks against demonstrators in a neighbouring country and ranks 160th on the Economist’s Democracy Index, just a few spots above North Korea, which holds the very bottom spot,” Holger Stark writes in Der Spiegel.

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On Timing and Political Leadership

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Winston Churchill with FDR at the White House in the 1940s

“Men at some time are masters of their fates.” – Julius Caesar

Winston Churchill with FDR at the White House in the 1940s

Amid the worsening economic picture, political leaders across the globe are under attack for their lack of leadership and failure to inspire confidence in their constituencies in the face of mounting global problems. President Obama especially has been criticized as too aloof and lacking direction, particularly from rightwing commentators. During the recent CNN Tea Party debate, Mitt Romney stated that, if elected president, he would have a bust of Winston Churchill in the White House. The message Mitt Romney attempted to send was clear: strong political leadership could overcome even the most severe political crisis, and that he, Romney, would follow in Churchill’s footsteps. We often forget, however, that it not only takes charisma and extraordinary ability to inspire greatness in a leader, but more importantly, the right timing.

References to Winston Churchill are nothing new. Every U.S. President post-1945 is bound to be compared to him. Churchill, however, did not do very well during peace times. A great wartime leader, Churchill pursued a disastrous anti-independence policy vis-à-vis India in the 1930s and had an insignificant second premiership in the 1950s—not to mention his mediocre term as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Winston Churchill is considered the greatest Briton of the 20th century. He became Prime Minister in June 1940, when Britain alone stood defiant against the Nazi war machine, and in the words of Isaiah Berlin, mobilized the English language for war. He was the right man in the right spot at the right time.

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