Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Angela Merkel, the Baader-Meinhof Group, and Obama


Good piece by George Packer on Angela Merkel (The Quiet German) in the New Yorker. What I found interesting is Merkel's opinion of the radical left in West Germany:

West German politicians of Merkel’s generation were shaped by the culture wars that followed the upheavals of 1968, which didn’t touch her at all. Over dinner one night in the mid-nineties, Merkel asked Schlöndorff, a former radical, to explain the violence perpetrated by the Baader-Meinhof Group. He told her that young people had needed to break with the authoritarian culture that had never been repudiated in West Germany after the defeat of the Nazis. 

The more he explained, the less Merkel seemed to sympathize—she wasn’t against authority, just the East German kind. What did kids in the West have to protest about? She didn’t always hide a feeling that West Germans were like spoiled children...

And her relationship with President Obama:


As she got to know Obama better, though, she came to appreciate more the ways in which they were alike—analytical, cautious, dry-humored, remote. Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, told me that “the President thinks there’s not another leader he’s worked closer with than her.” He added, “They’re so different publicly, but they’re actually quite similar.” (Ulrich joked, “Obama is Merkel in a better suit.”) During the Ukraine crisis, the two have consulted frequently on the timing of announcements and been careful to keep the American and the European positions close.

Obama is the antithesis of the swaggering leaders whom Merkel specializes in eating for breakfast. On a trip to Washington, she met with a number of senators, including the Republicans John McCain, of Arizona, and Jeff Sessions, of Alabama. She found them more preoccupied with the need to display toughness against America’s former Cold War adversary than with events in Ukraine themselves. (McCain called Merkel’s approach “milquetoast.”) To Merkel, Ukraine was a practical problem to be solved. This mirrored Obama’s view...

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