O que é este blog?
Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.
segunda-feira, 9 de maio de 2016
Como sempre, muito barulho por nada, ou melhor, contra a liberalização do comércio e contra a abertura econômica de modo geral. De vez em quando, eles conseguem barrar esses projetos de acordos, não porque conseguiram no grito, mas porque governos de orientação populista-esquerdista, e governos mesmo de centro, mas temerosos de uma opinião pública manipulada, e centrais sindicais corporativas e contrárias a qualquer abertura e concorrência.
A Alca, por exemplo, foi barrada pela ação de três governos: a Venezuela de Chávez, a Argentina de Nestor Kirchner e o Brasil de Lula, todos eles orgulhosos pelo fato de terem conseguido "implodir" a Alca, como reconheceu um desses chanceleres sabujos.
Bem, cada vez que alguém consegue punir liberalização do comércio, o mundo fica mais pobre, e os mais pobres entre os pobres continuam a ser pobres, pois se tem algo que estimula a criação de empregos e de renda é a abertura comercial e econômica.
Mas, sempre teremos os inimigos dos mais pobres.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
THE TTIPING POINT
Protests Threaten Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal
Der Spiegel, May 9, 2016
An unprecedented protest movement of a scope not seen since the Iraq war in Germany has pushed negotiations over the TTIP trans-Atlantic free trade agreement to the brink of collapse. The demonstrations are characterized by a level of professionalism not previously seen.
TTIP is Flawed -- But Necessary
Der Spiegel, May 9, 2016
The planned TTIP free trade agreement between Europe and the United States has generated significant backlash for good reasons. But it's time for Europeans to get on board, or risk being left behind.
quinta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2014
Interview with Henry Kissinger: 'Do We Achieve World Order Through Chaos or Insight?'
Henry Kissinger seems more youthful than his 91 years. He is focused and affable, but also guarded, ready at any time to defend himself or brusquely deflect overly critical questions. That, of course, should come as no surprise. While his intellect is widely respected, his political legacy is controversial. Over the years, repeated attempts have been made to try him for war crimes.
From 1969 to 1977, Kissinger served under President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, first as national security advisor and then as secretary of state. In those roles, he also carried partial responsibility for the napalm bombings in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos the killed or maimed tens of thousands of civilians. Kissinger also backed the putsch against Salvador Allende in Chile and is accused of having had knowledge of CIA murder plots. Documents declassified just a few weeks ago show that Kissinger had drawn up secret plans to launch air strikes against Cuba. The idea got scrapped after Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.
Nevertheless, Kissinger remains a man whose presence is often welcome in the White House, where he continues to advise presidents and secretaries of state to this day.
Little in Kissinger's early years hinted at his future meteoric rise in American politics. Born as Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Germany in 1923, his Jewish family would later flee to the United States in 1938. After World War II, Kissinger went to Germany to assist in finding former members of the Gestapo. He later studied political science and became a professor at Harvard at the age of 40.
Kissinger recently published his 17th book, a work with the not exactly modest title "World Order." When preparing to sit down with us for an interview, he asked that "world order" be the topic. Despite his German roots and the fact that he reads DER SPIEGEL each week on his iPad, Kissinger prefers to speak in English. After 90 minutes together in New York, Kissinger says he's risked his neck with everything he's told us. But of course, a man like Kissinger knows precisely what he does and doesn't want to say.
SPIEGEL: Dr. Kissinger, when we look at the world today, it seems to be messier than ever -- with wars, catastrophes and chaos everywhere. Is the world really in greater disorder than ever before? Kissinger: It seems that it is. There is chaos threatening us, through the spread of weapons of mass destruction and cross-border terrorism. There is now a phenomenon of ungoverned territories, and we have seen in Libya, for example, that an ungoverned territory can have an enormous impact on disorder in the world. The state as a unit is under attack, not in every part of the world, but in many parts of it. But at the same time, and this seems to be a paradox, this is the first time one can talk about a world order at all.
SPIEGEL: What do you mean by that?
Kissinger: For the greatest part of history until really the very recent time, world order was regional order. This is the first time that different parts of the world can interact with every part of the world. This makes a new order for the globalized world necessary. But there are no universally accepted rules. There is the Chinese view, the Islamic view, the Western view and, to some extent, the Russian view. And they really are not always compatible.
SPIEGEL: In your new book, you frequently point to the Westphalian Peace Treaty of 1648 as a reference system for world order, as a result of the Thirty Years' War. Why should a treaty dating back more than 350 years still be relevant today?
Kissinger: The Westphalian Peace was made after almost a quarter of the Central European population perished because of wars, disease and hunger. The treaty was based on the necessity to come to an arrangement with each other, not on some sort of superior morality. Independent nations decided not to interfere in the affairs of other states. They created a balance of power which we are missing today.
SPIEGEL: Do we need another Thirty Years' War to create a new world order?
Kissinger: Well, that's a very good question. Do we achieve a world order through chaos or through insight? One would think that the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the dangers of climate change and terrorism should create enough of a common agenda. So I would hope that we can be wise enough not to have a Thirty Years' War.
SPIEGEL: So let's talk about a concrete example: How should the West react to the Russian annexation of Crimea? Do you fear this might mean that borders in the future are no longer incontrovertible?
Kissinger: Crimea is a symptom, not a cause. Furthermore, Crimea is a special case. Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time. You can't accept the principle that any country can just change the borders and take a province of another country. But if the West is honest with itself, it has to admit that there were mistakes on its side. The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia.
SPIEGEL: What was it then?
Kissinger: One has to ask one's self this question: Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn't make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine. So one has to ask one's self why did it happen?
SPIEGEL: What you're saying is that the West has at least a kind of responsibility for the escalation?
Kissinger: Yes, I am saying that. Europe and America did not understand the impact of these events, starting with the negotiations about Ukraine's economic relations with the European Union and culminating in the demonstrations in Kiev. All these, and their impact, should have been the subject of a dialogue with Russia. This does not mean the Russian response was appropriate.
SPIEGEL: It seems you have a lot of understanding for Putin. But isn't he doing exactly what you are warning of -- creating chaos in eastern Ukraine and threatening sovereignty?
Kissinger: Certainly. But Ukraine has always had a special significance for Russia. It was a mistake not to realize that.
SPIEGEL: Relations between the West and Russia are tenser now than they have been in decades. Should we be concerned about the prospects of a new Cold War?
Kissinger: There clearly is this danger, and we must not ignore it. I think a resumption of the Cold War would be a historic tragedy. If a conflict is avoidable, on a basis reflecting morality and security, one should try to avoid it.
SPIEGEL: But didn't the annexation of Crimea by Russia force the EU and US to react by imposing sanctions?
Kissinger: One, the West could not accept the annexation; some countermeasures were necessary. But nobody in the West has offered a concrete program to restore Crimea. Nobody is willing to fight over eastern Ukraine. That's a fact of life. So one could say we don't have to accept it, and we do not treat Crimea as a Russian territory under international law -- just as we continued to treat the Baltic states as independent throughout Soviet rule.
SPIEGEL: Would it be better to stop sanctions even without any concessions from the Russians?
Kissinger: No. But I do have a number of problems with the sanctions. When we talk about a global economy and then use sanctions within the global economy, then the temptation will be that big countries thinking of their future will try to protect themselves against potential dangers, and as they do, they will create a mercantilist global economy. And I have a particular problem with this idea of personal sanctions. And I'll tell you why. We publish a list of people who are sanctioned. So then, when the time comes to lift the sanctions, what are we going to say? "The following four people are now free of sanctions, and the other four are not." Why those four? I think one should always, when one starts something, think what one wants to achieve and how it should end. How does it end?
SPIEGEL: Doesn't that also apply to Putin, who has maneuvered himself into a corner? Does he act out of weakness or out of strength?
Kissinger: I think out of strategic weakness masked as tactical strength.
SPIEGEL: What does that mean for any interaction with him?
Kissinger: Why not?
SPIEGEL: You're speaking like a superpower that is used to getting its way.
Kissinger: No, the United States cannot dictate, and the US should not try to dictate. It would be a mistake even to think it could. But in regards to NATO, the US will have one vote in a decision based on unanimity. The German chancellor has expressed herself in the same sense.
SPIEGEL: America is very polarized. The level of aggression in the political debate is extremely high. Is the superpower still even able to act at all?
Kissinger: I am worried about this domestic split. When I worked in Washington, political combat was tough. But there was much more cooperation and contact between opponents of the two big parties.
SPIEGEL: In last week's elections, President Obama lost his majority in the Senate as well.
Kissinger: Technically correct. At the same time, the president is freed to stand for what is right -- just as President Harry Truman did between 1946 and 1948, when he advanced the Marshall Plan after losing Congress.
SPIEGEL: The next presidential race will soon begin. Would Hillary Clinton make a good candidate?
Kissinger: I consider Hillary a friend, and I think she's a strong person. So, yes, I think she can do the job. Generally, I think it would be better for the country if there were a change in administration. And I think we Republicans have to get a good candidate.
SPIEGEL: In your book, you write that international order "must be cultivated, not imposed." What do you mean by that?
Kissinger: What it means is we that we Americans will be a major factor by virtue of our strengths and values. You become a superpower by being strong but also by being wise and by being farsighted. But no state is strong or wise enough to create a world order alone.
SPIEGEL: Is American foreign policy wise and determined at the moment?
Kissinger: We have the belief in America that we can change the world by not just soft power, but by actual military power. Europe doesn't have that belief.
SPIEGEL: The American public is very reluctant to be engaged and would like to focus on domestic affairs. Obama himself talks about "nation building at home."
Kissinger: If you look at the five wars America has fought since World War II, they all had large public support. The present war against the terror organization Islamic State has large public support. The question is what happens as the war continues. Clarity about the outcome of the war is essential.
SPIEGEL: Shouldn't the most important objective be the protection of suffering civilians in Iraq and Syria.
Kissinger: First of all, I don't agree that the Syrian crisis can be interpreted as a ruthless dictator against a helpless population and that the population will become democratic if you remove the dictator.
SPIEGEL: But the civilians are suffering, however you define it.
Kissinger: Yes, they are, and they deserve sympathy and humanitarian assistance. Let me just say what I think is happening. It is partly a multiethnic conflict. It is partly a rebellion against the old structure of the Middle East. And it is partly a sort of rebellion against the government. Now, if one is willing to fix all these problems and if one is willing to pay the sacrifices for fixing all these problems and if one thinks one can create something that will bring this about, then one can say, "We will apply the right to interfere," but that means military measures and willingness to face the consequences. Look at Libya. There's no question that it was morally justified to overthrow Muammar Gadhafi, but we were not willing to fill the vacuum afterwards. Therefore we have militias fighting against each other today. You get an ungoverned territory and an arms depot for Africa.
SPIEGEL: But we are seeing a similarly unbearable situation in Syria. The state is falling apart and terror organizations are ruling large parts of the country. Wasn't it perhaps wrong not to intervene in order to avoid chaos that now represents a threat to us as well?
Kissinger: In my life, I have almost always been on the side of active foreign policy. But you need to know with whom you are cooperating. You need reliable partners -- and I don't see any in this conflict.
SPIEGEL: As in the Vietnam War. Do you sometimes regret your aggressive policy there?
Kissinger: You'd love me to say that.
SPIEGEL: Of course. You haven't spoken much about it all your life.
Kissinger: I've spent all my life studying these things, and written a book about Vietnam called "Ending the Vietnam War" and many chapters in my memoirs on Vietnam. You have to remember that the administration in which I served inherited the war in Vietnam. Five hundred thousand Americans were deployed there by the Johnson Administration. The Nixon Administration withdrew these troops gradually, with ground combat troops being withdrawn in 1971. I can only say that I and my colleagues acted on the basis of careful thought. On the strategic directions, that was my best thinking, and I acted to the best of my convictions.
SPIEGEL: There is a sentence in your book, on the last page, that can be understood as a kind of self-criticism. You write that you once thought you could explain history, but that today you are more modest when it comes to judging historical events.
Kissinger: I have learned, as I wrote, that history must be discovered, not declared. It's an admission that one grows in life. It's not necessarily a self-criticism. What I was trying to say is you should not think that you can shape history only by your will. This is also why I'm against the concept of intervention when you don't know its ultimate implications.
SPIEGEL: In 2003, you were in favor of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. At that time, too, the consequences of that intervention were uncertain.
Kissinger: I'll tell you what I thought at the time. I thought that after the attack on the United States, it was important that the US vindicate its position. The UN had certified major violations. So I thought that overthrowing Saddam was a legitimate objective. I thought it was unrealistic to attempt to bring about democracy by military occupation.
SPIEGEL: Why are you so sure that it is unrealistic?
Kissinger: Unless you are willing to do it for decades and you are certain your people will follow you. But it is probably beyond the resources of any one country.
SPIEGEL: For this reason, President Obama is fighting the war against terror from the air using drones and warplanes in Pakistan and Yemen and now in Syria and Iraq as well. What do you think about that?
Kissinger: I support attacks on territories from which terrorist attacks are launched. I have never expressed a public view on drones. It threatens more civilians than the equivalent one did in the Vietnam War, but it's the same principle.
SPIEGEL: In your book you argue that America has to make its decisions about war on the basis of what achieves the "best combination of security and morality." Can you explain what you mean by that?
Kissinger: No. It depends on the situation. What is our precise interest in Syria? Is it humanitarian alone? Is it strategic? Of course, you would always want to achieve the most moral possible outcome, but in the middle of a civil war you cannot avoid looking at the realities, and then you have to make the judgments.
SPIEGEL: Meaning that for a certain amount of time, for realistic reasons, we could be on the side of Bashar Assad fighting Islamic State?
Kissinger: Well, no. We could never fight with Assad. That would be a denial of years of what we have done and asserted. But frankly, I think we should have had a dialogue with Russia and asked what outcome we want in Syria, and formulate a strategy together. It was wrong to say from the beginning that Assad must go -- although it is a desirable ultimate goal. Now that we are locked into that conflict with Russia, a deal regarding the Iranian nuclear program becomes more difficult.
SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of a more assertive role for Europe, especially for Germany?
Kissinger: Yes, certainly. A century ago, Europe almost had a monopoly in creating world order. Today, there is a danger it is just busy with itself. Today, Germany is the most significant European country and, yes, it should be much more active. I do have very high regard of Ms. Merkel, and I think she is the right person for leading Germany into this role. By the way, I've met and been sort of friendly with every German chancellor.
SPIEGEL: Oh, including Willy Brandt?
Kissinger: I have very high regard for Willy Brandt.
SPIEGEL: We're a bit surprised here because a few months ago, a conversation between you and Nixon was released in which you call Brandt a "dangerous idiot".
Kissinger: You know, these phrases out of context confuse the reality. Here are people at the end of an exhausting day saying things to each other, reflecting the mood of a moment, and it probably was during some difference of opinion which I don't even remember. We had some doubts about Brandt's Ostpolitik at the beginning, but later, we worked very closely with him. Ask Egon Bahr, he will tell you: Without the Nixon Administration, Brandt's Ostpolitik would not have achieved its objective, especially on the issue of Berlin.
SPIEGEL: In Germany, you are a very controversial politician. When the University of Bonn wanted to name a chair after you, the students protested. Were you disappointed, or at least irritated?
Kissinger: I appreciate the honor. I didn't ask for the chair, and I only became aware of the chair after it was established. I don't want to be part of the discussion, it's entirely up to German agencies. I think Germany should do it for itself or not do it for its own reasons.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Kissinger, we thank you for this interview.
terça-feira, 30 de setembro de 2014
INTERVIEW WITH EBOLA DISCOVERER PETER PIOT
'It Is What People Call a Perfect Storm'
Almost four decades ago, Peter Piot was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus. In a SPIEGEL interview, he describes how the disease was isolated and explains why the current outbreak is different than any that have come before.
Photo Gallery: A Growing Epidemic
A VOICE FOR THE DEAD
Recovering the Lost History of Sobibór
Henchman with the Nazi SS sought to cover up the mass murder that occurred at the Sobibór concentration camp in eastern Poland. Archeologists recently uncovered the site's hidden gas chambers and important artifacts that shed light on the victims.
segunda-feira, 28 de julho de 2014
|THE WAKE-UP CALL|
Europe Toughens Stance against Putin
It took the shooting down of a Boeing jet carrying almost 300 people before the EU agreed on the first true economic sanctions against Russia. The Americans want further action, but it is impossible to know if punitive measures can sway Vladimir Putin.
The Time Has Come for Europe to Act
Vladimir Putin has ignored Western demands that he cease arming and supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. As such, he shares responsibility for the shooting down of MH17. It is now time for Europe to take tough action.
quarta-feira, 11 de junho de 2014
No Brasil, os fraudadores querem reescrever a história do passado, para controlar a do presente e moldar a do futuro. Vão falhar, como todos os outros.
George Orwell já descreveu as técnicas.
Sempre existe um espírito rebelde que rompe o silêncio, a mentira, a fraude...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Fahrenheit 1989: China Erases Memories of Tiananmen
terça-feira, 27 de maio de 2014
Opinion: A Victory for European Democracy
The aim of creating the leading candidates was to establish a central feature in what are essentially national elections and also the personalization of the campaign and the intensification of the election on television. The hope had been that voter participation would increase enough on Sunday to hold the right-wing populists at bay in most countries.
domingo, 11 de maio de 2014
Morte e Jogo: o Brasil antes da Copa do Mundo de Futebol
sexta-feira, 2 de maio de 2014
Opinion: Putin's Not Post-Communist, He's Post-Fascist
There remains a tendency to view the Kremlin's foreign policy primarily from a geopolitical perspective -- namely that the country is seeking to recover some of the territory it lost when the Soviet Union dissolved. But when Putin speaks of the enemy of the Russian people, he is speaking about something deeper and more basic. The forces against which he has declared war are not only seeking to expand their influence further and further into the East -- they are also going after the Russian soul. That's what he means when he says that Russia must put up a fight against the West.
But what's at the heart of this soul? Putin has provided some insights here as well. "It seems to me that the Russian person or, on a broader scale, a person of the Russian world, primarily thinks about his or her highest moral designation, some highest moral truths," he said in the interview. In contrast to this is a West that is fixated on personal success and prosperity or, as Putin states, the "inner self." In the view of its president, the battle Russia is waging is ideological in nature. It is a fight against the superficiality of materialism, against the decline in values, against the feminization and effeminacy of society -- and against the dissolution of all traditional bonds that are part of that development. In short, against everything "un-Russian."
Even today, many are having trouble recognizing the true nature of a man who is currently in the process of turning the European peace order on its head. Perhaps we don't have the courage to make the right comparisons because they remind us of an era that we thought we had put behind us. Within Germany's Left Party and parts of the center-left Social Democrats, Putin is still viewed as a man molded in the tradition of the Soviet party leader, who stood for an idealized version of Socialism. The old knee-jerk sense of solidarity is still there. It is based on a misunderstanding, though, because Putin isn't post-communist. He's post-fascist.
A search for the right historical analogy should focus on the events of Rome in 1919 rather than Sarajevo in 1914. It won't take long for those who step inside the world of echo chambers and metaphors that color Putin's thinking to identify traits that were also present at the birth of fascism. There's Putin's cult of the body, the lofty rhetoric of self-assertion, the denigration of his opponents as degenerates, his contempt for democracy and Western parliamentarianism, his exaggerated nationalism.
Enemies of freedom on the far right in Europe sensed the changing political climate early on. They immediately understood that, in Putin, someone is speaking who shares their obsessions and aversions. Putin reciprocates by acknowledging these like-minded individuals. "As for the rethinking of values in European countries, yes, I agree that we are witnessing this process," he told his television interviewer last Thursday, pointing to Victor Orban's victory in Hungary and the success of Marine Le Pen in France. It was the only positive thing he had to say in the entirety of a four-hour interview.
An Historic Mission for the Russian People
When they were first introduced one year ago, people also failed to recognize the true meaning of Russia's new anti-gay laws. But today it is clear that it marked the emergence of the new Russia. What began with an anti-gay law is now continuing at another level: The logical progression of the belief that certain groups are inferior is the belief in the superiority of one's own people.And when Putin evokes the myth of Moscow as a "Third Rome," it is clear he is assigning the Russian people with an historic mission. Responsibility is falling to Russia not only to stop Western decadence at its borders, but also to provide a last bastion for those who had already given up hope in this struggle. But he is also saying that Russia can never yield.
"Death is horrible, isn't it?" Putin asked viewers at the end of his television appearance. "But no, it appears it may be beautiful if it serves the people: Death for one's friends, one's people or for the homeland, to use the modern word." That's as fascist as it gets.
sábado, 15 de fevereiro de 2014
Primeira Guerra Mundial e o debate de historiadores: quao culpado foi o Imperio Alemao? - Der Spiegel
O genocídio, a despeito de já existir implicitamente antes e sob variadas circunstâncias, tomou uma forma definitiva no século 20, com os massacres nazistas sobre populações indefesas e com o terrível holocausto, que pretendeu eliminar todo um povo, conseguindo matar 5 ou 6 milhões de judeus em várias partes da Europa.
O fato é que os alemães continuam a ser angustiados e torturados por sua terrível história, não de todo o povo alemão, mas de alguns líderes nefastos, nacionalistas e racistas ao extremo, a ponto de provocar catástrofes inacreditáveis, no que foram seguidos sempre pela massa inerme de cidadãos pouco educados, que são sempre em maior número que o pequeno número de ilustrados que tentam se opor aos desastres.
Essa responsabilidade o povo alemão carrega consigo, e seus historiadores deveriam trabalhar sobre ela. Mas parece que alguns pretendem, na verdade, descarregar tamanha responsabilidade, e se eximir de tantas culpas.
O debate continua, como se pode ver pela longa matéria abaixo, que continua nos links finais, não transcritos neste post, mas que valeria conferir.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Culpability Question Divides Historians Today
In his book "The Blood Intoxication of the Bolsheviks," published in the early 1920s, a certain R. Nilostonsky described a particularly horrific form of torture used in the Russian civil war. A rat was placed into an iron pipe, which was then pressed against the body of a prisoner. When the torturers placed the other end of the pipe against a fire, the panic-stricken rat had only one choice: to eat its way through the prisoner
When Hitler met with his officers on Feb. 1, 1943, after the defeat at Stalingrad, he told them that he suspected some German prisoners were likely to commit treason. "You have to imagine a prisoner being brought to Moscow, and then imagine the 'rat cage.' That prisoner will sign anything."
In 1988, historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler published a book in which he devoted an entire chapter to the "rat cage," in an effort to prove that Nolte's theory was wrong.
As much as their debate seemed to revolve around rats, the real issue was culpability. How much guilt has Germany acquired throughout its history? And does the anecdote about Hitler and the Russian rat torture somehow diminish German guilt?
This year will be a historic one, marking three important anniversaries: the 100th anniversary of the eruption of World War I, the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first two dates have been the source of heated debates among German intellectuals. The Fischer controversy in the early 1960s had to do with assigning blame for the eruption of World War I, while the dispute between historians in the mid-1980s revolved around culpability for the Holocaust. Both debates were informed by the positions in what was then a divided nation, including views on German unification.
History is not just history, but also a part of the present. This is especially true of Germany. The overwhelming history of the 20th century engulfed the country and shaped the consciousness of politically active citizens.
Both debates ended in victory for those who advocated Germany accepting the greatest possible culpability and therefore sought to exclude the possibility of German reunification, fearing that a unified Germany could lead to fatal consequences, perhaps even a third world war. As a result, German consciousness was strongly influenced by this acceptance of guilt for decades to come.
A New Identity for Germans?
In the meantime, new information has come to light on the issues in both debates, which tends to support the losing side. Could this lead to a new national identity for Germans?
The importance of this question underscores the need to revisit the Fischer controversy and the dispute among historians in this historic year. It also focuses our attention, once again, on a controversial concept of the day: revisionism. It was once anathema to one side of the debate, and subsequently to the other. But it's a necessary debate.
A device that has already been relegated to history stands on the desk of Hans-Ulrich Wehler: a typewriter. In a sense, Wehler lives between the Netherlands and Italy, in a white house on the outskirts of the northwestern German city of Bielefeld, near the underground Dutch-Italian natural gas pipeline. For Wehler, living so close to the pipeline means that nothing can be built to spoil his view. When he sits in his office, he looks out at trees and meadows. Behind him are enough books to take an ordinary person an entire life to read, but for Wehler they represent only a small portion of his reading material.
He was a professor at the University of Bielefeld for 25 years. His most important work is a book called "Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte" (German Social History). Wehler, 82, is a slim, cheerful man with a hint of the singsong accent typical of the Rhineland region.
When he was an assistant professor at the University of Cologne in the early 1960s, Wehler attended a colloquium led by Hamburg historian Fritz Fischer. But he was disappointed. He had expected something wild and exciting, but Fischer was a conservative man who "engaged in the conventional history of diplomacy."
Destroying a Comfortable Relationship with the Past
In 1961, Fischer published a book called "Germany's Aims in the First World War." A sentence in Fischer's book led to many changes. For Fischer, the German Reich bore "a substantial share of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of the general war."
The young Wehler was speechless. He had been waiting for a sentence like that.
At the time, West Germany was a country that felt relatively at ease with its past. The "national master narrative," the account of Germany's good past, still existed. The 12 Nazi years were certainly viewed as horrific, but they were also largely repressed at the time. German history prior to the Nazi era was viewed as anything from tolerable to heroic, including the history of World War I. German historians of the early postwar period clung to a word that had been used by former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George: "slid." In George's view, the major powers had slid into the war, which meant that everyone was equally culpable or innocent.
Fischer's theories destroyed this comfortable relationship with the past. He saw a continuity between the war objectives and 1914 and 1939: great conquests with the goal achieving global power. The German Empire became a precursor to the Nazi regime and World War I an overture to World War II. "A mine has been placed against the good conscience of the Germans," SPIEGEL, which agreed with Fischer's ideas, wrote in its review of his book.
For Gerhard Ritter, an important historian at the time, Fischer's book was intolerable. He had served the German Kaiser as a soldier in World War I, and he believed that Fischer's theories were a "national disaster." He was uninterested in revisionist history. The Fischer controversy had begun, a debate that was carried out in newspapers and magazine, and at the 1964 "Historikertag" (Conference of German Historians) in Berlin.
Wehler says he defended Fischer "as much as possible." But he was still too young at the time to be taken seriously as a historian.
The dispute soon became political. In 1964, the German Foreign Ministry tried to prevent Fischer from traveling to the United States to give a series of lectures. In 1965, Franz Josef Strauss, the deputy chairman of the conservative faction in the German parliament, the Bundestag, called upon the government to do everything in its power "to combat and eradicate the habitual, negligent and deliberate distortions of German history and Germany's image today, distortions that are sometimes made with the intention of dissolving the Western community."
Strauss was troubled by the idea of "sole moral responsibility," which was not something Fischer had mentioned but had become a central concept in the dispute. This is often the case in debates, when they become condensed into individual words and sentences, making do with less than complete accuracy in the interest of strengthening an argument.
Carving History into Stone
Fischer's view prevailed. Whether the term being used was "sole responsibility" or a "significant share of the historic responsibility," the national master narrative had been destroyed -- an agreeable outcome for those who dominated the public dialogue starting in the late 1960s, the student revolutionaries who came to be known as the 1968 generation.
In 1972 historian Immanuel Geiss, one of Fischer's students, said: "The overwhelming role played by the German Reich in the outbreak of World War I and the offensive character of Germany's war objectives is no longer a point of controversy, nor is it disputable." It was as if he were carving history into stone.
Geiss knew how to make this final state of the history of World War I politically useful. In his view, the Fischer controversy had produced a new kind of person, "the German who had become insightful." From the 1972 perspective, Geiss had developed instructions for this person. The first and second world wars, he said, had resulted in "the need to make do with the status of lesser powers in Europe," as well as the "final liquidation of all patriotic dreams of a German Reich." He was referring to the possibility of German reunification. "Any attempt to circumvent these political consequences, to squeeze past them, would inevitably lead to a third phase of German power politics, hence leading to a third world war initiated, once again, by Germany."
Four decades later, over lunch at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Herfried Münkler, 62, shoots that notion down. A third world war? Nowhere in sight. Power politics? Difficult question. Germany is a power in Europe once again, but primarily an economic one. Münkler is critical of Germany, which, as "the strongest player at the center is keeping itself out of the political fray."
Münkler, who teaches political science at Berlin's Humboldt University, has just written a book about World War I, "Der Grosse Krieg" (The Great War). He refers to Fritz Fischer's research as "outrageous, in principle," noting that the historian limited his research to German archives, ignoring Russian, English and French material. This, says Münkler, meant that Fischer couldn't have discovered that the other major powers also had reasons to go to war.Confusing Scenarios and Political Plans
Besides, says Münkler, Fischer "confused scenarios and political plans." The German military leaders had in fact developed war plans, just as everyone else had, he explains. They were determined to be prepared. But the political leadership did not embrace these plans, says Münkler. Australian historian Christopher Clark reaches similar conclusions in his book "The Sleepwalkers." There are similarities between sleepwalking and sliding into war. Both involve uncontrolled movements.
Nevertheless, Münkler finds the Fischer controversy "helpful in terms of political history" and sees "a positive effect of mistakes." It was necessary, says Münkler, for the Germans to turn to their history once again, for something to break open and for the national master narrative to give way to a critical consciousness.