Argument

Germany's Not That Sorry Anymore

And its newfound assertiveness is tearing Europe apart.

With market confidence in Greece and Italy further eroding, Germany's cash reserves are now the last best hope for the euro. Without a bold, continentwide rescue effort led by Germany, the single currency is likely to disintegrate. Yet it now seems clear, as indeed it should have for the last three years, that Angela Merkel's government would rather risk the euro's collapse than act decisively.

Germany has profited mightily from the adoption of a common currency. Blessed with a dynamic export economy that does most of its trade within the eurozone, it has gained more than anyone else from the greater ease of doing business with its neighbors. What's more, even Germans who remain nostalgic for the Deutsche mark should realize how catastrophic a collapse of the euro would be. The world economy would fall back into recession. German exports would shrink precipitously. German banks, which have large holdings of Greek and Italian assets, would require vast sums from taxpayers to survive. Unemployment and the national deficit would skyrocket.

Germans, in other words, ought to be falling over themselves to protect their currency from meltdown. And yet, at each and every turn, they have done as little as they possibly could. When pushed to the brink, Merkel has been willing to make available modest funds to avoid immediate financial meltdown; under intense international pressure, she has recently persuaded the Bundestag to increase Germany's contribution to the European Financial Stability Facility, a bailout fund for the euro. But despite periodic promises, she has not even tried to look for a large-scale political or financial plan capable of ending the crisis. In fact, she continues to oppose any proposal -- like a truly harmonized fiscal policy or the introduction of Eurobonds -- that might help European economies regain the confidence of the markets. Why?

To explain Germany's response to the crisis we must start from the fact that the country has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last 20 years. In the postwar era, leaders from Konrad Adenauer to Willy Brandt realized that, for Germany to be readmitted to the fellowship of civilized nations, it had to atone for the recent past. Germany thus paid reparations to Israel, concluded peace treaties with its eastern neighbors, and, above all, entered an unwavering alliance with former foes like Britain, France, and the United States.

But the contrite Germany of the postwar era has been long gone. Since Germany's reunification, the need to atone for Auschwitz has been replaced by the desire to draw a definitive finish line underneath irksome talk of the Third Reich.

The first decisive step in this direction was taken in 1998 by Martin Walser, a famous novelist, when he called Auschwitz a "moral baseball bat" wielded by sinister outsiders intent on harming Germany's interests. Germany's assembled political and cultural elite feted Walser's speech with standing ovations.

The call for a finish line went on to shape Germany's foreign policy. In 2002, struggling with a difficult reelection campaign, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder decided to exploit his opposition to the Iraq war for electoral gain. His country, he promised, would no longer be America's lapdog; instead, it would go the "German way." Schröder unexpectedly won reelection.

Finally, during the Libya crisis, Germany's center-right government demonstrated that even the traditionally more hawkish and pro-American parts of the political spectrum are now intoxicated by this notion of independence. Foreign Secretary Guido Westerwelle not only refused to let German troops participate in the Libya operation -- he even went so far as to abstain in the crucial U.N. vote authorizing the mission.

The same set of attitudes now also explains Germany's reluctance to help its neighbors in the euro crisis. Many Germans are convinced that their country's foreign policy has been driven by servile submission for too long. They have thus been particularly incensed by suggestions that, in light of Germany's history, the country has a special moral obligation to bail out the Greeks. Sixty-five years after the end of the Third Reich, they insist that they no longer have any moral responsibility toward their former victims. As Bild, Germany's largest daily, wrote recently: "In 1960, Adenauer's government doled out 115 million Deutsche marks to indemnify Greek victims of the Nazis and their descendants. 'Once and for all,' as the contract stated."

In moderation, this resentment is understandable. It is indeed unfair that Germany's frugal taxpayers should foot the bill for Greece's mind-boggling waste. But if, as seems increasingly likely, public outrage will stop Germany from doing what is in its own, as well as its neighbors', interest, then it is simply self-defeating. It may be unfair that Germans are now forced to spend their hard-earned money on helping out Italy and Greece. But that just doesn't make it rational for Germany to let the European economy go up in flames.

The inability of Merkel and her colleagues to realize this basic point demonstrates how confused German foreign-policymakers now are about Germany's past and present interests. The sober reality is that, though postwar Germany's keenness to cooperate with its allies may in small part have been owed to genuine contrition, it also served the country extremely well. Compared with the United States, China, or Russia, Germany is a small power with an even smaller military. It needed the help of its American and European partners to be safe, wealthy, and influential.

This remains as true now as it was then. The Cold War may be over, but on its own, today's Germany will be no more successful at solving global challenges from terrorism to energy security than yesterday's Germany would have been at defending itself against the Soviet Union.

Germany's seeming willingness to let the euro crash and burn thus indicates that the current leadership vastly underestimates the country's need for long-term strategic partners. German politicians of the postwar era were masters at pursuing Germany's self-interest even as they talked about noble ideals. German politicians today have naively taken their predecessors' rhetoric at face value. Disgusted by a submissiveness that never actually existed, they have grown determined to be more assertive. As one leading member of the FDP, the small liberal party that is part of Merkel's governing coalition, insisted: "For once, we've got to show that we're capable of saying no." In that spirit, Germany's leaders are talking up a storm about their country's self-interest even as they gamble away the economic livelihood of their own citizens.

A transformed Germany now threatens the stability of the euro, and indeed the future of the European Union itself. But the reason is not just that the new Germany has grown more selfish. If Germans were simply acting rationally, they would bail out the euro. The problem, rather, is that the leaders of the new Germany are so mired in an overreaction to the past that they have become blind to their own self-interest.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Argument

The Tears of Somalia

Turkey is redoubling its efforts to end the suffering of the Somali people. The world should follow.

Somalia is suffering from the most severe drought and famine in the last 60 years, which has already resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and endangers the lives of 750,000 more Somalis. This crisis tests the notion of civilization and our modern values. It reveals, once again, that it is a basic human obligation to pursue international cooperation and solidarity to provide solace for those suffering from natural and man-made disasters.

It is not realistic to consider Somalia's plight as caused solely by a severe natural disaster. We cannot ignore the fact that, in addition to the drought, the international community's decision to leave Somalia to its own fate is also an underlying factor causing this drama. Twenty years of political and social instability, lawlessness, and chaos have added enormously to the problems in Somalia. The horrifying truck bombing of the Transitional Federal Government's ministerial complex on Oct. 4 is just the latest evidence of this. The international community must not respond to this act of terrorism by retreating from Somalia, but by redoubling its efforts to bring aid to its people.

Nobody with common sense and conscience can remain indifferent to such a drama, wherever on Earth it may be and whichever people have to bear it. Our urgent intervention as responsible members of the international community can contribute to the alleviation of the Somali people's distress. However, the establishment of lasting peace and stability will only be possible through long-term, far-reaching, and coordinated efforts.

Turkey mobilized last month to help end this suffering. We consider this solidarity a humanitarian obligation toward the people of Somalia, with whom we have deep historical relations. Many of our institutions, NGOs, and people of all ages have made an extraordinary effort to alleviate the suffering of women and children in Somalia. We are proud of the sensitivity and cooperation displayed by the Turkish people during the holy month of Ramadan. In the last month alone, approximately $280 million worth of donations for Somalia were collected in Turkey. The Turkish people's generosity has served as an example to other donor countries as well as the international community, offering hope for the resolution of the crisis in Somalia.

The Turkish government has also moved decisively to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Turkey took the initiative to hold an emergency meeting of the executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the ministerial level on Aug. 17. At this meeting, which was attended by the president of Somalia and high-level representatives from 40 member countries of the OIC, $350 million was committed to help relieve the famine in Somalia, and the participants agreed to increase this amount to half a billion dollars. The Turkish Red Crescent is also standing shoulder to shoulder with international aid organizations and is working to meet the needs of those in all the camps in the Mogadishu region.

Following the emergency meeting of the OIC executive committee, I -- along with a number of Turkish ministers, some members of parliament, bureaucrats, business people, artists, and families -- visited the country on Aug. 19 to tell the people of Somalia that they are not alone. We visited the camps. We tried to give hope and encourage people who live in very different conditions from ours. We took note of the lack of such a high-level visit from outside of Africa to Somalia for the last 20 years, and informed the international community of this fact.

Turkey has decided to launch a major humanitarian effort to help restore normalcy to Mogadishu. To this end, we are preparing to provide assistance in the fields of health, education, and transportation. We will inaugurate a 400-bed hospital, provide garbage trucks for the streets of Mogadishu, build a waste-disposal facility to burn the accumulated garbage in the streets, pave the road between Mogadishu's airport and the city center, renovate the parliament and other government buildings, dig water wells, and develop organized agricultural and livestock areas. Our embassy, which will be opened in Mogadishu shortly and headed by an ambassador who is experienced in the field of humanitarian aid and familiar to the region, will coordinate these activities.

By supporting the restoration of peace and stability efforts, we will work with the Transitional Federal Government and other institutions in Somalia in order to launch the development process of this shattered country. To this end, we expect all Somali authorities to demonstrate an extraordinary effort in unity, integrity, and harmony.

The success of aid operations is directly linked to the establishment of security. The withdrawal from Mogadishu of armed elements in the al-Shabab organization is clearly a positive development for security in the region. But this is not sufficient. Moving the Somali-related U.N. offices currently located in Nairobi to Mogadishu will be a positive step to support this process and one that should be taken without delay.

Neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya bear a special responsibility regarding the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union will also share this responsibility, and Turkey supports them in their tasks. In line with the Djibouti peace process, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government should intensify efforts at reconciliation by maintaining dialogue with all fighting groups and pledge prosperity, brotherhood, order, and prosperity in return for peace.

The military contribution provided by Uganda and Burundi within the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to prevent chaos and terror deserves appreciation. With this opportunity, I would like to issue a call to all neighboring countries, including Eritrea, to increase their existing efforts for the establishment of peace and security in Somalia and to enhance long-term regional stability.

In Turkish culture, it is believed that something good will come out of all bad experiences. In Somalia, too, this disaster can mark the beginning of a new process by focusing international humanitarian efforts and global attention on the plight of the region. However, this situation will only be sustainable if we continue to be sensitive to the needs of the Somali people.

The tears that are now running from Somalia's golden sands into the Indian Ocean must stop. They should be replaced by hopeful voices of a country where people do not lose their lives because of starvation and where they express their eagerness to develop and restore peace and stability. Regardless of which culture we come from or where we live, I am confident that our common heritage as human beings will motivate us to ease the suffering of Somalia.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images