About this edition
After reunification and the attainment of full sovereignty,
Germany and its partners needed to redefine Germany’s role in
the network of international relations. Germany, now a “normal”
nation state, was taking on new responsibilities worldwide,
which included where necessary the use of “normal” military
means. At the same time, however, German foreign policy opted
for predictability and remained embedded in its European and
The disputes before and during the war in Iraq indicate that
old role relationships are once more being called into question.
In this situation of uncertainty and turmoil, the Federal Chancellor’s
talk of a “German path” suggested the will to pursue a self-assured,
independent policy. But this concept also revived associations
with Germany’s “Sonderweg” (special path) of the past, and thus
concerns that it might make a dangerous departure from the path
of normality. This reveals how much the debate is characterized
by the burden of history and the ambivalence of the concepts.
“Special paths” are dangerous, although the right to choose
an autonomous, country–specific path is a normal element of
a community of sovereign nation states. On the other hand, the
talk of “normality” in the German debate often triggers negative
reflexes, because it is associated with a suppression of historical
responsibility. Or because a quiet departure from the special
role of “civilian power” is suspected, which commits Germany
above all to pursue a norm-oriented
This edition of INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AND SOCIETY sets out to analyze
the sensitive issue of Germany’s role from a variety of viewpoints.
Adam Krzeminski observes Germany’s attempts
to assert itself since reunification from a Polish perspective.
While historical self-limitations are being discarded, the Germans
seem to be rediscovering their role as victims, rather than
perpetrators. This, however, arouses old fears among the “foreign
victims” of German history. The sovereign, non-revisionist handling
of its own past, which Germany especially encounters in its
relations with Poland, is – according to Krzeminski – a measure of Germany’s European orientation, which for
its part is indispensable for the success of the whole process
of European integration.
Anne-Marie Le Gloannec discerns a change
of direction in German foreign policy, also in regard to Europe.
Although the mantra of multilateralism still prevails in Germany’s
foreign policy approach, it is more than ever subject to the
temptation to pursue its own national interests and follow unilateral
paths. This trend, however, is thoroughly “normal” – to use
the term once more – because the very patterns of multilateralism
are – according to Le
Gloannec – in a process of radical change at the international
level. Particularly in the EU, short-term coalitions and alliances
are increasingly taking over from the firm partnerships of old.
European interests are giving way to short-term national interests.
A similar change of pattern, from values to interests, is characteristic
of German-American relations. Stephen Szabo concludes that the transatlantic friendship will not
revert to its old form, even after a possible change of leadership.
The changes in the strategic landscape are too fundamental,
and due to the generational change
obligations and bonds formerly anchored in German society
have become weaker. A new strategic consensus is possible, but
the “German question”, which lurks behind worries about a new
“special path”, will in the future mainly have to be answered
These analyses consistently emphasize one point: Germany has
not become any easier to deal with as a partner, but equally
the environment surrounding the Berlin republic has become rougher
and more uncertain than before. This raises the question of
a foreign policy strategy for the Federal Republic. Joscha
Schmierer and Alfred Pfaller have approached this from
different viewpoints and reached similar conclusions: integration
and co-operation are the keywords in the German state’s raison d’état. In contrast, thinking in terms of zero-sum games, old
alliances and balances of power is useless, even dangerous.
To resolve the tensions between the world of states, the world
economy and the emerging world society, requires integrated
and integrative strategies. These new challenges can not be
tackled alone, not even by the USA, which – according to Schmierer – as the only remaining superpower
may not really be a superpower (cf. also the review essay by
Stephan Böckenförde). Schmierer recommends an alliance of democracies
within the United Nations, which Germany can support via an
“integration policy” on several levels. In addition, the economic
aspect of security policy is central, as Pfaller
points out. Economic growth and a reordering of the world
economy in favour of the South are vital levers for reaching
the goal of global societal stabilization. These strategic recommendations
do not at all mean an idealistic denial of the concept of national
interest, which would hardly stand a chance given the Zeitgeist described by Le Gloannec. What is called for is an appropriate
definition of interests in an age of globalization, which includes
in its calculations the long-term benefits of global commitment
and the profits of co-operation.
This rationalistic approach seems to reach its limits, however, where
security is threatened by international Islamic terrorism. Conflict
situations, in which one side has subordinated its own survival
to religiously legitimized aims such as destruction and revenge,
seem hardly compatible with the search for win-win solutions.
In fact, though, the roots and origins of international terrorism
are very amenable to rational analysis, as Herbert Kitschelt shows. International
terrorism is foremost a specific strategy
– and indeed a strategy of weakness – which is chosen in
quite specific economic and political situations. If at present
these conditions are mainly to be found in the Middle East,
this has nothing to do with the inherent features of the Islamic
religion. Kitschelt uncovers
a complex chain of causes which begins with “predatory rule”.
Political regimes of this kind principally aim at securing short-term
enrichment for their elites, block socio-economic development
and economic openness, and thereby cause social deprivation
and discontent in large segments of society.
This link in the chain is analysed from a different angle by Wolfgang Merkel and Mirko Krück. Is it true that such social injustice is likely to be
avoided under democratic rule? A statistical analysis of 124
states suggests the answer is yes. Countries and regions that
respect political rights and civil liberties generally demonstrate
a more just distribution of opportunities and life chances.
The specific development prospects of two countries that at
present frequently hit the headlines in world politics, are
at the centre of the contributions by Peter
Gey and Sergei Medvedev. North Korea, chiefly known
as part of the “Axis of Evil”, as a land where atomic weapons
are defiantly produced while children are starving, has recently
introduced Soviet-style economic reforms. However, as Gey
shows, the chances of success are rather bleak. Erosion
of the state economy is barely being slowed down. Rather, the
measures introduced will cause further misery for the country’s
population. Nor are there alternative reforms within the socialist
model in sight.
Sergei Medvedev also sees little
reason for optimism in his comparison of various scenarios for
Russia’s future. With the arrest of the oil millionaire Michail
Chodorkowski in autumn 2003, a new round was started in the
power struggle between the state bureaucracy, old security elites
and the oligarchs of Russia’s private economy. It is unlikely,
either in the short or medium term, that this struggle will
lead towards democratic modernization. Russia’s president faces
the options, either of combining the “managed democracy” with
bureaucratic capitalism – not that far away from “predatory
rule” described by Kitschelt
– or to use centralized power for modernization and economic
liberalization. Given favourable conditions, the latter scenario
could at some time set a course for political liberalization.
For this Russia also needs – according to Medvedev
– international institutions and norms which support a liberal
path. For, just as in Germany, and probably for the good, debates
about identity and normality in the age of globalization are
not conducted in national isolation.