Jochen Bittner (Continuación)

All of a sudden, Germany says it wants to be a grown-up.

“There are people who use Germany’s guilt in the past as an excuse for withdrawal and laziness,” President Joachim Gauck said at the opening of the 50th Munich Security Conference late last month. “This restraint can lead to a notion of being privileged, and if this is the case, I will always criticize it.”

These are remarkable sentences, a direct challenge to Germany’s postwar pacifist edifice. They are of a historic piece with a famous speech by one of Mr. Gauck’s predecessors, Richard von Weizsäcker, in 1985. Then — 40 years after Germany’s capitulation in World War II — Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

The young woman walking down the steps of the Niavaran Palace in Tehran glares angrily into the sun. She has just finished a tour through the splendor and Versailles-like pomp of the last shah’s residence, today a museum. Is she angry at the arrogance and remoteness that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, toppled in 1979, showed toward his people?

“No,” she replies, somewhat baffled. “I’m angry at him because he let the revolution happen. This country would be better off today if it had been spared the Islamists.”

Traveling through Iran these days, you notice the agitation of the young. Defusing the conflict with the West over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, it appears, is just one challenge for the new president, Hassan Rouhani.…  Seguir leyendo »

Would the Germany of today help liberate the Germany of 1944? You don’t need to tap Angela Merkel’s phone to find the answer: It’s no.

Germany is Europe’s unrivaled superpower, its largest economy and its most powerful political force. And yet if its response to recent global crises, and the general attitude of its leaders and citizens, are any indication, there appears to be nothing that will get the German government to consider military intervention: not even a clear legal basis for action, not even an acknowledged security interest, not even an obvious moral duty.

Such adamant antipathy is actually a source of pride in Germany.…  Seguir leyendo »

After Santa Claus, Geir Lundestad has what may be the most joyful job in the world. Every year, on the second Friday of October at around 10:30 a.m., the suave, gray-haired Norwegian historian picks up his phone to inform a lucky earthling that he or she has just won the Nobel Peace Prize.

On Friday Mr. Lundestad made that call to The Hague, where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has its headquarters. It is an appropriate choice. True, the organization has only just started its work in Syria, and overall has not done away with many chemical weapons in 2013, but it has achieved much to keep the world free of chemical warfare since its founding in 1997.…  Seguir leyendo »

The National Security Agency scandal has given us Germans a nostalgic summer. How self-assured we have been, especially we journalists, in lambasting the alleged surveillance of our e-mail and phone calls by American spooks. It reminds us how far we’ve come from our various totalitarian pasts — a point of pride as much as humility.

Throughout the debate, though, I have had a slight feeling of complacency. I don’t deny the dangers in storing huge amounts of data. But we Germans are getting upset for the wrong reasons.

The German concern for data protection stems from the early 1980s, when the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that every citizen had the right to know who kept what data on him, particularly the state.…  Seguir leyendo »