Germany's Age of Anxiety

German multiculturalism was dead long before Angela Merkel buried it for good this week.

BERLIN — There have not been many bright spots for Chancellor Angela Merkel since she won the German election in September 2009. But it plainly counted as a good moment this month when Germany beat Turkey 3-0 in a soccer match in Berlin. The Olympic Stadium was packed with Turks who have turned the German capital into what is effectively the world's second-largest Turkish city after Istanbul. They waved their Turkish flags, roared and shouted, but also whistled disapproval as soon as a German player named Mesut Ozil touched the ball. Worse still, Ozil, born of Turkish parents, scored for Germany.

After the game, the chancellor came into the changing room and embraced Ozil. "It wasn't easy for you," she said.

Why did Merkel seek out the soccer star with the immigrant background? Far from representing the "failed multiculturalism" that Merkel derided in a speech last weekend, Ozil is the model example of immigrant assimilation that Merkel sees as Germany's future. He is the son of a Turkish "guest worker" but has been going to German soccer classes since age 6; he speaks fluent German, has become a German citizen, and has a German girlfriend who has converted to Islam. For Americans, this type of integration may not seem out of the ordinary: you come to the United States because of its prosperity and its rule of law; you swear loyalty to the U.S. Constitution; you stand with America against its enemies, on the soccer field or the battlefield. But the evident frustration in Merkel's voice in her recent speech underscored that Germany has struggled to translate this type of integration auf Deutsch.

Indeed, Germany has little tradition as a welcoming home for immigrants. With no significant colonies, it had no tradition of assimilating foreigners. For 12 intense years in the middle of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler's Third Reich made a murderous ideology out of hostility to foreigners. It was only starting in 1955 that West Germany, squeezed by manpower shortages, began striking deals with southern European countries -- Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Yugoslavia -- to supply cheap workers. But these Gastarbeiter were given only short-term contracts and otherwise cast out of mind.

Of course, many of those workers ended up staying in Germany. Discomfited Germans responded by pretending that the foreigners didn't exist; they were banished to grubby dormitories on the fringes of cities and bused to the steel mills or car factories where they worked. Later, when they were joined by their wives, they moved into the rundown sections of inner cities. There, the Turks in particular began to develop a parallel economy, setting up grocery shops, halal butchers, cafes, and mosques that catered to their own.

Grudgingly, the German political class accepted in the 1980s that it had a problem. The birth rate of native-born Germans was dipping, while the Muslim families in their midst were expanding. It's here that Multikulturalismus was offered as a solution: Ethnic communities would be encouraged to coexist with the Germans. But that's not to say they were given a German passport -- citizenship was still reserved for those who could demonstrate the presence of German blood in their family tree. And it was only with German citizenship that you could become a Beamter, a civil servant. So there would be no dark-skinned police officers and no Turkish schoolteachers. Germany's multicultural bargain of the 1980s involved allowing immigrants to enter society while retaining the integrity of their own culture. The government would not bestow the rights and responsibilities of German citizenship, and the immigrants could lead their lives in Germany while preserving their ties to their home countries.

The result was supposed to have been a great carnival of cultures, the introduction of color into a monochrome society. But it proved a failure.

The immigrants continued to quietly keep to themselves. In retrospect, the very absence of the sorts of race riots seen in Britain and France should have been seen as a foreboding sign: The expectations of German immigrants, denied citizenship, simply weren't high enough to inspire anger against their government. The first- and second-generation Turks may have been content to save enough money for a house in eastern Anatolia where they could spend their old age. But the third generation of Turks, who came of age in 1980s and 1990s and only knew Germany as a home, began demanding more from the state. When all they seemed to receive in return were welfare payments, discontent rose both among immigrants and among German citizens. Germans resented what they saw as a permanent dependent class; Turks pointed to systemic discrimination and cultural exclusion.

That was the beginning of the end of the supposed multicultural idyll. Merkel may have pronounced multiculturalism dead on Oct. 16, but in truth the spirit has not registered a pulse for most of the last two decades. The failure of Multikulti has been clear for years; at the latest, the 9/11 attacks put it into stark relief.

A left-leaning Social Democrat-Green coalition government started to overhaul the country's outdated immigration laws in the late 1990s. But by 9/11 -- plotted out of Hamburg -- there was little enthusiasm for a liberal reinvention of the immigration problem. A 2005 law accepted that immigrants were not always short-term residents, but put most of the onus of integration on the incoming foreigner rather than on German institutions. Deportation rules were tightened, and the children of foreign parents who had been working legally in Germany were encouraged for the first time to apply for German citizenship. Yet these concessions did little to calm native Germans. Their perception was that immigrant areas were developing at odds with the German mainstream into "parallel societies." Marriages were arranged (often between German-born Turks and traditionalist villagers in Anatolia); brothers carried out "honor killings" on their sisters for allegedly disgracing the family or the faith; radical preachers were enlisting young disgruntled men in jihad; and drugs were being stockpiled and sold.

The late-arriving prophet of this Age of Anxiety -- and the reason why Merkel has now belatedly entered the debate about multiculturalism -- is a maverick former central banker named Thilo Sarrazin. His new book, Germany Is Abolishing Itself, argues that the strong Turkish and Arab birth rates will lead to the dumbing down of Germany. His message has struck a chord among a middle class fearful of declining educational standards and among unskilled workers who are nervous about lower-paid immigrant competition. The political class had mostly shied away from addressing these concerns; the subject has been a taboo in Germany's largely conformist media. Since the World War II, xenophobic rhetoric has been barred, both by law and custom. Yet on the German street, resentment about foreigners smoldered, especially so during the Balkan wars of the 1990s when hundreds of thousands of Bosnians and Kosovars arrived in the country. Confined to hostels on the fringes of small German towns, they frequently found themselves clashing with ethnic Germans who had recently emigrated from the splintering Soviet Union. Homegrown Germans, still reeling from the costs of unification, watched aghast, and some of their pent-up frustration is being vented now. Certainly Sarrazin's book is being hailed as the work of a truth-teller: He sold 800,000 copies in three weeks this summer and his public readings are crammed with fans. I attended one the other day and was shocked to see how a teenage schoolgirl was shouted down and hustled out of the room by security guards for mildly questioning the Sarrazin thesis. Merkel, sensing danger, was quick to condemn at least one passage that seemed to suggest that there was a "Jewish gene."

This is not just about a book. Germany is beginning to realize that there is a gap in the party political spectrum to the right of Merkel's Christian Democrats, but to the left of the virulently undemocratic neo-Nazis. Opinion polls show that a party inspired by Sarrazin's thesis -- a party that would be critical of Islamic expansion in Europe and that seeks to control immigration -- could win 15 percent of the vote, thus seriously shaking up the German political system. The fact is that Merkel, like many other supposedly center-right administrations in Europe, has moved her party leftward. This has partly been by happenstance -- she was forced to spend her first four years in power in coalition with Social Democrats, and the economic crisis has demanded bank bailouts and assertive industrial policy. But it was partly by design: Far from a Teutonic Margaret Thatcher, Merkel has always preferred to seek moderate consensus on economic and social matters.

Merkel is not the only one rattled by the wave of populism. While Merkel reversed course to officially bury multiculturalism, one of her primary coalition partners, Horst Seehofer -- the leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union -- called for a wholesale stop to immigration. The newly elected German president, Christian Wulff, gave a speech emphasizing the Judeo-Christian foundation of German society, and left just a touch of room for Islam to play a role, too. Their seemingly coordinated pronouncements smacked of panic.

Were they right to be nervous? Certainly anti-Islam parties have been riding a wave of popularity across the continent. A dissident Christian Democrat, Rene Stadtkewitz, is trying to set up a German Freedom Party, modeled on the successful right-wing Austrian party founded by the late Jörg Haider. In September, an anti-immigrant party in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats, stunned the country by entering parliament for the first time. Pia Kjaersgaard, head of the right-wing Danish People's Party, actively campaigned for the Sweden Democrats because, she said, she could no longer be a "silent witness" to the Islamization of Denmark's neighbor.

In the same spirit, Dutch populist Geert Wilders recently visited Berlin to help the Germans form a new anti-Islam party. I stood in a jam-packed Berlin conference room to see him address more than 500 German conservatives and couldn't help but admire the serpentine way in which he seduced them into loosening the shackles of their post-Holocaust guilt. It was indeed possible, he told them, to be suspicious of foreigners but not be anti-Semitic. Germans needn't inhibit an indigenous radical conservative movement out of fear of being lumped together with shaven-headed Holocaust deniers.

"The crimes of the Nazi era," he told the cheering crowd, "are not an excuse for you to refuse to fight for your own identity. Your only responsibility is to avoid the mistakes of the past." The cardinal error of the interwar years, according to Wilders, was the failure to identify gathering threats against democracy. In his analogy, it was the Muslims who were the Nazis. The audience rose to its feet to applaud him. It was the first time in decades of reporting from Germany that I witnessed a passionate response to a passionately delivered political speech.

Merkel does not want to grasp the nettle of anti-immigrant populism -- one senses it stings her as much as it does the Muslims she finds herself unloading against. But if she doesn't, if she simply bides her time, she will see her Christian Democratic party crumble. Germans are restless, and they increasingly believe their political class is tone-deaf. Popular resentment is running high, and there is a powerful head of steam behind the emerging anti-Islam movement. No longer can Merkel get away with simply hugging well-integrated Turkish-German soccer heroes and pretending that everything is just fine.


Sudan's War Inside

As pundits warn of a north-south Sudan scuffle, they might miss the real brewing conflict: within Southern Sudan.

BENTIU, Sudan—Gen. Gabriel Tanginye has a complicated relationship with his home region of south Sudan. Born and raised there, he has spent much of his life fighting for the country's north. And during a 21-year-long north-south civil war, that meant Tanginye was fighting against his own regional kin. It's a role he seemed to have no qualms in undertaking; in 2000, he hijacked a U.N. plane to show his displeasure with the international body's assistance to south Sudan's vice president. Today, he lives in the northern capital of Khartoum, supporting his southern-based family from afar.

Recently however, Tanginye has been back in south Sudan trying to make amends. With the looming January 2011 referendum, in which south Sudan is likely to vote for independence from the north, Tanginye realized that his future as a northern military commander may have a limited horizon. So when the men now leading the Southern Sudanese government came calling, Tanginye's calculation was simple: Take the hefty reward they offered him for switching camps, rejoin the south, bring his 44,000-strong ethnic militia with him, and express his solidarity with his former enemies ahead of the crucial independence vote. Then after the ballot, reconsider his options.

These days, South Sudan is full of men like Tanginye, strategically positioning themselves for key roles in a new, independent nation. In fact, a conference in the Southern capital of Juba earlier this month was meant to take advantage of exactly that, "reconciling" the various Southern minority tribe factions. At this point, there is little attention paid to how or why those reconciliations are made; it's a matter of patching things up long enough to ensure political and military support for independence from Khartoum. The simple message: United we stand, divided we fall.

But in a fractured country, whose divisions are usually drawn between north and south Sudan, or Khartoum and Darfur, it's easy to forget that there are other, internal fault lines. In the south, huge fissures separate the population along tribal, linguistic, and economic lines. Two decades of civil war have made matters worse; guns and money bought alliances that have sliced apart communities and families. In recent months, the international community has been warning of a war in Sudan around the referendum -- between the north and south. But even if a new independent Southern Sudan emerges without a shot being fired early next year, it may not be at peace. The convenient reconciliations taking place today look frighteningly ephemeral, which means that the coming war in Sudan might be within south Sudan.

Many of those reconciliations took place last week, when the south's ruling party brought together more than 20 registered opposition parties at a conference aimed at building consensus on issues essential to the future of the Southern Sudan. The most significant outcome of the five-day meeting was a clear expression by the parties of their strong commitment to the January 2011 self-determination vote. Lam Akol, the leader of the breakaway Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement-Democratic Change faction, for example, ran against Southern President Salva Kiir in the April elections, but he seemed as committed as the next opposition member to southern secession. The support of these key South Sudanese political players is critical for the region's government, because these men could prove to be spoilers if not appeased or convinced to get in line with the common agenda.

Already however, a number of signs suggest that the government's bold attempt at political and military inclusivity won't last long. Many of the now reconciled enemies of the Southern government happen to have significant military forces under their command, leaving a huge margin for troublemaking should alliances falter. And it's not hard to lure many of these leaders away for a price: Since April, there have been three post-election insurrections of note.

Take Tanginye's case, for example. Despite spending most of his life as a bush fighter, Tanginye holds powerful cards in the Southern Sudanese political arena -- and he knows it. When I met him in one of Southern Sudan's provinces, Unity state, he was relaxing riverside near the regional governor's mansion. He boasted of his force strength, emphasizing that his tens of thousands of men are under the control of no army, and loyal to him alone. "I own these guys, and they will do what I tell them to do," said Tanginye. Stories are swirling around Bentiu, capital of Unity state, that Tanginye will leave town with suitcases of cash and swaths of land to enrich himself and his people -- simply for claiming that his men will fight for the south if it comes to that. After the referendum, Tanginye may well find a higher bidder for his loyalty and that of his militia. And there are many men in south Sudan in the same position.

There are other reasons to think that an independent Southern Sudan will struggle to achieve sustainable peace as well. Tribal loyalty bodes against long-term reconciliation, and its role in politics should not be underestimated. If the southern government is not carefully put together after the referendum, including representatives of all Southern Sudan's more than 40 tribes, it risks the wrath of an armed insurgency in one remote corner or another. The marginal populations that wouldn't be represented have in the past found other ways to make their voice heard -- taking up arms in militias like Tanginye's.

Indeed, tribal discontent is already rearing its ugly head. The past year has seen an uptick in armed cattle raiding and deadly intercommunal violence, perhaps in anticipation of how unequally the benefits of peace may be shared among ethnic groups. The southern army's attempts at disarming the civilian population in the run-up to and aftermath of the April elections illustrated how tribal tensions can be exacerbated by the composition of the army itself; various minority groups suspect that they are targeted for disarmament because of their tribe's relation with the majority groups within the army.

Every possible destabilizing factor here is also magnified ten-fold simply by the copious quantities of small arms swirling around. In Unity state, a tank sits ominously outside the Unity state governor's mansion; the governor himself is guarded by boyish looking soldiers who man anti-aircraft assault weapons mounted on pickup trucks. Every sign indicates that the military apparatus may be gearing up for an even bigger, internal fight.

To outside observers of Sudan, it is tempting to believe that an autonomous south would mean an end to the country's long civil strife. But the war on the horizon might not be the one that everyone is expecting.

Photo Courtesy of Pete Muller