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A Search for Identity: The “German Question” in Atlantic Alliance Relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

Joyce Marie Mushaben
University of Missouri—St. Louis
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Major changes in the postwar global environment have transformed “the” German question into many German questions that continue to complicate the foreign and domestic policy-making processes in the Federal Republic. Inconsistencies between official policy pronouncements and the accepted political modus operandi are explainable in terms of four “paradoxes”: (1) the nation/state identity paradox; (2) the reunification/integration paradox; (3) the stability/security paradox; and (4) the lessons-of-history/normalcy paradox. West German commitment to the Atlantic Alliance remains unshaken, but the FRG should not be forced to choose between the U.S. and Europe, between integration with the West and further improvement in relations with the GDR. Normalization of those relations will be best served by a mutual adherence to the principles of balance, territorial integrity, confidence building and greater transparency in matters of inter-German decision making.

Review Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1988

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1 Weizsäcker, Von, Die deutsche Geschichte geht weiter [German history goes on] (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1985), 8Google Scholar. Unless noted otherwise, all translations are by the present author.

2 Among those who have long hinted that such a shift in paradigms may be occurring are Puchala, Donald and Fagan, Stuart I., “International Politics in the 1970's: The Search for a Perspective,” International Organization 28 (Spring 1974Google Scholar), reprinted in Maghroori, Ray and Ramberg, Bennett, eds., Globalism versus Realism: International Relations' Third Debate (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982), 3756Google Scholar.

3 Two German scholars attempting to redefine the functions of the nation-state are Alter, Peter, Nationalismus [Nationalism] (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985Google Scholar), and Kühnl, Reinhard, Nation, Nationalismus, Nationale Frage [Nation, nationalism, national question] (Cologne: Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag, 1986Google Scholar). Diverse positions in the American debate over whether or not “interdependence” is on the rise are represented by Katzenstein, Peter, ed., Between Power and Plenty: Foreign Economic Policies of Advanced Industrial States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979Google Scholar); Keohane, Robert O. and Nye, Joseph S. Jr, Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977Google Scholar); and Rosecrance, Richard N. and Stein, Arthur, “Interdependence: Myth or Reality?” World Politics 26 (October 1973), 127CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Though not exactly “mainstream,” one politician who has occasionally been quite vocal in this regard is Bavarian Minister-President Franz-Josef Strauss. The view that Bonn is compelled to play a world-political role but is denied that which would enable it to do so is presented by Ernst-Otto Czempiel, “Die Bundesrepublik—Eine heimliche Grossmacht?” |The Federal Republic—A secret superpower?] in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte B26/79 (June 1979), 3–19.

5 Such sentiments are expressed most directly in the context of major diplomatic gaffes, usually on the part of the United States. One fairly notorious example involved Richard Perle, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security. In an interview with an Osnabriick newspaper in mid-December 1986, Perle unleashed a bevy of protests in conservative as well as in liberal and left circles by suggesting that Bonn curtail its special loans and credits to the G.D.R. in order to increase its financial contributions to NATO. Der Spiegel 52, December 22, 1986, pp. 28–29.

6 Löwenthal, Richard, “The German Question Transformed” Foreign Affairs 63 (Winter 1984–85), 313Google Scholar.

7 Ibid., 302.

8 The German word Volk is a much more holistic or organic concept than its English translation “folk” or “people” would imply; I therefore prefer to use the original. For a further elaboration of the Preamble, see Schulz, Eberhard, Die deutsche Nation in Europa. Internation-ale und histonsche Dimensionen |The German nation in Europe: International and historical dimensions] (Bonn: Europa Union Verlag, 1982Google Scholar), 166ff.

9 The formulation of “two states in Germany” was first used by Brandt in his Inaugural Address (October 28, 1969) and elaborated as the two-states-in-one-nation theme in his Report on the Condition of the Nation to the West German Bundestag (January 14, 1970). Bahr introduced the concept of Wandel durch Annaherung in his Lecture at the Evangelical Academy in Tiitzingen (July 15, 1963). Relevant excerpts from all three addresses are reprinted in Brandt, Peter and Ammon, Herbert, eds., Die Linke und die nationale Frage. Dokumente zur deutschen Einhek seit 1945 [The Left and the national question: Documents on German unity since 1945] (Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1981), 302Google Scholar–5, 235–40.

10 Schulz (fn. 8), 409.

11 Schweigler, Gebhard, National Consciousness in a Divided Germany (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1975Google Scholar).

12 Schulz (fn. 8), 186. More recent survey results show a striking majority in favor of maintaining the Preamble in its present form. Noelle-Neumann found 79% for, 7% against in October-November, 1983. See Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, “Im Wartesaal tier Geschichte. Bleibt das Bewusstsein der deutschen Einheit lebendig?” fin the waiting room of history: Does the consciousness of German unity still live?], in Weidenfeld, Werner, ed., Nachdenken iiber Deutschland. Materialien zur politischen Kultur der deutschen Frage [Reflections on Germany: Materials on the political culture of the German question| (Cologne: Verlag Wissen-schaft und Politik, 1985), 137Google Scholar.

13 Schulz (fn. 8), 175.

14 Ibid.

15 See, inter alia, von Weizsäcker (fn. 1), and Schulz (fn. 8).

16 von Weizsäcker, Richard, “Gedenkstunde des Deutschen Bundestages zum 40. Jahrestag der Beendigung des zweiten Weltkrieges” [Commemoration by the German Parliament on the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II], Europa Archiv 40 (No. 10, May 1985), 265Google Scholar.

17 Schulz (fn. 8), 159.

18 Ibid., III.

19 For an early appraisal, see Schossler, Dietmar and Weede, Erich, West German Elite Views on National Security and Foreign Policy Issues (Konigstein/Ts: Athenaum Verlag, 1978Google Scholar)

20 See esp., Karl-Heinz Reuband, “Demoskopische Verwirrungen in der Nachrustungs-frage: Was halten die Bundesbiirger vom Nachrüstungsbeschluss?” [Misinterpretations of survey data regarding the deployment question: What do FRG citizens think about the NATO deployment resolution?] Vorgänge 66 (1983), 64–80; Reuband, “Die Friedensbewegung vor und nach den 'Aktionswochen' im Herbst 1983” [The Peace Movement before and after the action weeks of fall 1983] Vorgänge 67 (1984), 12–25; Reuband, “Die Friedensbewegung nach Stationierungsbeginn: Soziale Unterstiitzung in der Bevolkerung als Handlungs-potential” [The Peace Movement since the beginning of deployment: Social support in the population as a basis for action potential], Vierteljahresschrift für Sicherheit und Frieden 3 (No. 3, 1985), 147–56; Reuband, “Antiamerikanismus—ein deutsches Problem?” [Anti-Americanism—A German problem?], Vierteljahresschrift für Sicherheit und Frieden 3 (No. 1, 1985), 46–52.

21 These interviews, of about 60–90 minutes each, were conducted in German, June through December, 1986, under a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, for a forthcoming book, Security Conceptions and Successor Generations: Changing Attitudes towards the National Question and Changing Perceptions of the Atlantic Alliance in Postwar Germany.

22 Löwenthal, “Stabilität ohne Sicherheit—Vom Selbstverständnis der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [Stability without security—On the self-conception of the Federal Republic of Germany”|, Der Monat (1978), 75.

23 Stephen F. Szabo's earlier work in this area looks primarily at the postwar generation that began to make its political influence felt in the 1970s. I have attempted elsewhere to distinguish analytically among three successor generations; the last two of these have contributed significantly to the “alternative politics” and new social movements of the 1980s. Szabo, Compare, ed., The Successor Generation: International Perspectives of Postwar Europeans (London and Boston: Butterworths, 1983Google Scholar), and Mushaben, Joyce Marie, “Anti-Politics and Successor Generations: The Role of Youth in the West and East German Peace Movements,” Journal of Political and Military Sociology 12 (Spring 1984), 171Google Scholar–90.

24 Schulz and Danylow (pp. 112–13) borrow from Holmes on this point: cf. Holmes, Kim R., The West German Peace Movement and the National Question (Cambridge, MA: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, 1984Google Scholar), 7 off. I have found much food for thought along these lines in a working paper by Wilhelm Bruns, “Der Beitrag der beiden deutschen Staaten zur Sicher-heits- und Entspannungspolitik” [The contribution of the two German states to a policy of security and reduction of tension] (Bonn: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, January 1986).

25 Pond, Elizabeth, “Europe Does Want Arms Deal Despite Unease,” Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 1987, p. 1Google Scholar.

26 Alfred Grosser is casually cited by von Weizsäcker (fn. i). For an elaboration of Grosser's position, see P.-J. Franceschini, “Sept regards sur l'Allemagne” [Seven observations on Germany], review of Gerard Sandoz, ed., Les Allemands sans miracle [The Germans without a miracle], in Le Monde, October 2, 1983. The American quote derives from an interview conducted by this author at the U.S. Mission in West Berlin on January 3, 1986; my source prefers t o remain anonymous.

27 Von Weizsäcker, “Die deutsche Frage aus der Sicht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [The German question from the perspective of the German Federal Republic”] speech (June 8, 1985), reprinted in Europa Archiv 40 (July 1985), 398.