Berlin and Lincoln -- Am I the only one who shudders at the spectacle of a German chancellor addressing a crowd in a Munich beer hall, announcing that Germany henceforth will have to go its own way? It happened last week. Didn't a would-be (and future) chancellor say essentially the same thing in a Munich beer hall in 1923? Yes. We know how that turned out.
Times and issues are different, but it's worth looking at what Germany now sees as its own way and how geopolitically the situations are similar, albeit for different reasons. Germany has a fundamental interest in the Baltic States and in Eastern Europe for security reasons, with or without American partnership through NATO. Germany's relationship with Turkey, because of the large Turkish population left over from the Wirtschaftswunder, has dimensions beyond America's view of Turkey's importance. India and China are rushing in to fill a relationship with Germany being vacated by America. In technology, trade, and geopolitics, America will be left in the dust.
How will these changing relationships affect, say, America's effort to keep the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean from being taken over by China's rapidly expanding navies? It's hard to see how a split in German-American relations is going to have anything but a very bad outcome.
What if Russia continues to press forward in Ukraine and the Baltics under the ruse that it is protecting Russian nationals in those countries? Does Germany push back to protect German nationals in Kaliningrad (Königsberg, the city of Kant). Not without NATO's nuclear weapons behind it, you might think, if we are thinking the unthinkable. But Germany is aligned in continental Europe with France, itself a nuclear power, a country America seems equally intent on breaking up with.
Why is this even a topic of discussion? Didn't we Americans shed blood and treasure in two world wars to overcome the horrors of German nationalism? How can this be happening? Was last weekend's Memorial Day celebration for naught?
My own family has a history of war and peace with Germany. Three of my great uncles fought Germany in WWI; all were wounded (two seriously for life). Five of my first cousins, once removed, fought in WWII; three as navy officers, one as an infantryman, one as a paratrooper. When my time came for navy service a generation later, after two tours in the South China Sea I was sent to Germany as part of the U.S. European Command. In Stuttgart, I joined a German-American friendship group, the Metropolitan Club, and married one of its members. We raised two children who attended both American and German schools. Now adults, one lives in Maryland and one in Berlin. My dear wife is deceased. She would be appalled at recent developments. She was a great friend of America. As a high school student in Stuttgart, she amassed a collection of German newspaper and magazine articles about America, especially about President Kennedy and his support of West Germany in the face of Soviet aggression. Her collection is now in Lincoln, Nebraska, resting uneasy in a state that voted for an unworthy and unfit successor president who in his recklessness dishonors patriots who fought the wars and won the peace.