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Pentagon Courts a New Partner -- Germany

New America Media, Commentary, Franz Schurmann Posted: Apr 20, 2006

Editor's Note: Germany is on a roll and the Pentagon is taking advantage of its restless energy to court a new partner. Franz Schurmann, professor emeritus of history and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, says there are historic reasons that make Germany an ideal partner but then again, there are reasons why it would do well to heed the model of its ancestors in China.

The Pentagon is courting a new partner: Germany.

Ever since the Soviet Union detonated an atomic device in August 1949, the Pentagon has felt alone. The British Empire was rapidly unraveling and could no longer give direction to its former colony, the USA. While British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried hard to reinvent the partnership, he wound up being little more than an echo of President Bush.

Now Bush and the Pentagon appear to have set their sights on Angela Merkel, new Chancellor of a unified Germany. That Merkel grew up in Germany's impoverished backwater, East Germany, and speaks fluent Russian, may help solidify ties with Condoleezza Rice, who was raised in the segregated black district of Birmingham, Ala., and also speaks fluent Russian.

Germans have unique historic attributes for fulfilling the partner role. German-Americans have been the largest single ethnic group in the country since the signing of the American Constitution. They are also the biggest national group in the European Union. Perhaps most important, Germans, far from being a single settled people, are made up of multiple tribes who swept back and forth across what was then more a crossroads than a single state. During the 18th century Germanic peoples migrated deep into Russia, and earlier many went to the new Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. They called themselves "Schwaben" -- meaning tribe.

The first mention of Germanic tribes that we know of is a reference in "Rites of the Zhou, Spring and Autumn Annals," written by Confucius (c551-479 BCE) to "Guan Zhong" who is described as having played a "big role in China in avoiding the demise of the Zhou dynasty." Zhong's task was to recruit troops to defend the dynasty. He refers to blond-haired, blue-eyed "monkey people" who joined him. A recently unearthed mummy buried at least a millennia ago in China shows a Germanic/Caucasian face -- possibly an associate of Guan Zhong.


MummyA Tarim Basin mummy photographed by Aurel Stein circa 1910

The Romans feared the German tribes so much they built big walls all over Europe and Britain to contain them. When Attila the Hun ravaged much of Western Europe, the Germanic Goths were on their side. (In WWI the Allies called the Germans "Huns.")

Today, with 16 percent unemployment, Germans are once again on the move, eager to find new roles that can absorb the talents of their young people. Germany will host the International Soccer Cup this coming June. No matter which team wins, Germany has already set its sights on the bigger game of world power. Its military forces are stationed in Afghanistan, the Congo and possibly Kazakhstan, where there are large Germanic minorities.

American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is of German descent, has encouraged high German officials to send armed forces overseas. No German soldiers have been stationed in Iraq so far, but German soldiers replaced Canadian troops after American strategists realized the Taliban were not defeated but had only retreated into the countless hills of Afghanistan.

U.S. strategists stationed the German forces in the northern town of Kunduz in a region populated mostly by Pashtuns. The Germans have a language advantage over the Americans and Canadians: German as a language has many symmetries with Farsi, the language spoken by virtually all Afghanis, including Pashtuns. The great poet Goethe learned Farsi in the early 19th century. Today, much like the Irish now speak perfect English, all Pashtuns speak Farsi.

Today, Pentagon strategists keep reminding us that Germany's frontiers are a range of mountains separating Afghanistan from the former British Empire. In Farsi the range is called Hindu Kush, which means "Kill Hindus."

If the German forces become the Pentagon's partner s they should be less like a modern day Attila the Hun and more like their forebears in Guan Zhong's China who helped defend the Zhou dynasty, winning wars without fighting battles.


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