I've previously expressed the moral ambiguity I'm feeling about the way the US killed–or should we say executed? or even murdered–Osama bin laden. Yet, I find myself becoming increasingly annoyed by some of the bleaters, especially the Germans. When Chancellor Merkel expressed modest enthusiasm that bin Laden was dead, she started taking flak from all sides of the German political system, including her own party: Siegfried Kauder, of the CDU, and the chairman of the legal committee of the Bundestag, told the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse: "I would not have formulated it in that way. Those are thoughts of revenge that one should not harbor. That is from the Middle Ages." And then there's the nattering nabobs of negativity (a phrase readers of a certain age will recall with amsement) of the effete German intellegensia: For European observers, these kinds of public gatherings [i.e., at the WTC after bin laden's death was announced] are indeed somewhat embarrassing, because they demonstrate a kind of unthinking naïveté, and also because there is something provocative about them. … the photos of the revelers at Ground Zero have now become the definitive symbol of the entire nation's mood. That is something that cannot be changed, unfortunately. And then there was that insufferable Der Speigel lecture on the alleged illegality of the Osama killing, which Kevin Anderson powerfully and persuasively critiqued. At th every least, as Anderson put it, the article had "a certain superciliousness and condescension." As I thought about it, there are two reasons why the German reaction is annoying me more than that of most. First, few nations contributed more to human misery in the last century than did Germany. My grandfather, my father, and several uncles all fought in world wars started by Germany. The world would have been a much better and happier place if Germany had remained a disunited collection of petty states rather than the militaristic behemoth it became in the period 1870-1945. To be lectured on just war and international law by the descendants of the SS stormtroopers my uncle fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the U-boat captains my Dad fought in the North Atlantic is galling. Yes, I know the Germans have supposedly learned their lesson and all become pacifists, but that just takes me to my second point, which is that the Germans are united, safe, and prosperous today in large part because they have been free riding on the United States on security for decades. We paid billions to defend Western Germany, leaving them free to tend to business and their generous welfare state. Don't believe me? Consider what former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer said a few years ago about German politicians who refused to send troops into the combat areas in Afghanistan: I cannot tell you how much this mentality annoys me. This form of cheap criticism of the US by Europeans, only to later jump on the footboard and let Americans give them a ride in security-political matters. (…) We keep criticizing the US but we do little if anything to develop European power, we are not willing to take on more responsibility and accept more risks in order to do that. We criticize 'from the armchair' while we know that if things get serious the big brother on the other side of the Atlantic will help us. It really sticks in my craw. So I understand American criticism and I am impressed that it doesn't make more of them despise the Europeans. To be lectured on military proprieties by a people who are free to do so because they've been able to hide behind our security skirts for decades takes the proverbial cake.
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