Don’t mention anything about the war

June 1, 2010

Given the euphoria over Germany’s Eurovision win, it was probably only an event of the magnitude of the German President resigning that could bump Lena off the headlines… But as tabloid Bild shows not by much…

bild koehler.jpgThe surprise resignation of President Horst Köhler has both politicians and the media playing over and rewinding the tape of an interview he gave to Deutschlandfunk, the national radio broadcaster, on his way back from visiting German troops in Afghanistan.

Here are the specific remarks about sending German military forces on missions that imploded on Herr Köhler.

"A country of our size with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes."

Köhler is a long time member of Chancellor Merkell’s CDU party. Opposition politicians and some media commentators claimed his views could be interpreted as gunboat diplomacy and supporting military missions not covered by the constitution to protect Germany’s economic interests.

Germany has only just got to the point where (some) politicians have actually uttered that German troops are fighting a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I wonder if the journalist who recorded the interview knew that he had a potential political IED on his hands? The piece ran under the headline: "They do great things under difficult conditions" – obviously referring to the head of state’s visit to meet and thank troops for their service.
 
In his short resignation speech, President Köhler fired back saying his comments were misunderstood.

The man has a good point there. He supports the United Nations and a multilateral approach to sorting out global problems. Something you’d expect from a European, a career civil servant (who should know his country’s constitution quite well), and a former head of the IMF.

It would appear this resignation is another twist to Germany struggling very publicly to define its modern role as a global citizen – both to Germans and to the rest of the world.

Being on the receiving end of flak from politicians about his views on German military deployments, Köhler also said his critics do not have respect for the office of the President.

This is a point which has left many political commentators wondering why a public figure such as the President has become so prickly over public criticism that he could have weathered, and what does it say about Germany when the President, and supposed moral voice of the country, decides to quit in a sort of a huff over an important, yet robust, public debate?

Winning hearts via Eurovision is obviously a lot easier. As Lena loves to say: "You’re crazy!"