Monday, September 17, 2007

Nein, Danke

A rather jaw-dropping story from the great German newsweekly Der Speigel. It seems French President Nicolas "Speedy" Sarkozy is getting, well, odder as the weeks go by. He recently met with German Chanceller Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (a recent speaker at The Commonwealth Club of California, BTW) and offered nuclear weapons. In Der Spiegel's priceless reporting, "Both the chancellor and her foreign minister were speechless. The idea of possessing nuclear weapons is taboo in Germany. Sarzoky's predecessor Jacques Chirac cautiously brought up the issue 12 years ago, but he quickly realized it was pointless to pursue it."

Sort of a faux pax of Bushish levels, isn't it? As the above quote indicates, the offer itself is not unique; it was made "cautiously" 12 years ago by Chirac. But it strikes me that it's important because it shows Sarkozy doesn't really understand his neighbors – and his most important neighbor, at that.

Put me in the camp that thinks Germany needs to reasses its defense and security needs and procedures, and adapt itself to a new world in which the country's heartfelt revulsion toward the crimes of the Nazi regime have left it admirably restrained. But that restraint has also arguably left it vulnerable to foreign and domestic threats.

But even with that said, Sarkozy seems to display a tone-deafness when trying to figure out how to treat his neighbors. High hopes for Sarkozy's self-defined role as a reformer could be dashed if he doesn't ascend a steep learning curve.

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