Trump as Nero Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

The United States president is becoming a danger to the world. It is time for Germany and Europe to prepare their political and economic defenses.

Is the United States turning its back on liberty?

Is the United States turning its back on liberty?

A DER SPIEGEL Editorial By

There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person's character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes. With some, this can be tragic, and the moment comes too soon in their youth at a time when they aren't mature enough yet to foresee all the potential consequences. They make the decisions cheerfully and they lead to either luck or bad luck. But countries and governments are seldom as innocent when it comes to their decisions.

That's the kind of situation now approaching. The people who will soon have to decide are already grown up. They now have to start preparing, even if it will be painful.

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That's difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners -- and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU -- doesn't make the situation any easier.

So far, Germany has viewed its leadership role -- at least the leadership understanding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble -- as one that is by all means in opposition to the interests of other European countries. Whether Schäuble's austerity policies or Merkel's migration policies, it all happened without much co-coordination and with considerable force. It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America's withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as "Pax Americana." At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won't take shape. It is, however, absolutely necessary.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar. The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this). He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power. He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of "betrayal." This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome. It is the way tyrants think.

A Serious Threat

Donald Trump and his fire-starter Stephen Bannon discriminate against certain people by decree, but not against those from countries in which Trump does business. The contempt the president of the United States and his most important adviser have for science and education is so blatant that it's almost difficult to write. But their disdain for climate and environmental policies has to be stated, because four or eight years of it could become a serious threat.

Among the things that counted as true progress during the 20th century were multilateralism and free trade. The world has become so complex that no single country can solve the major problems on its own -- that was our recognition. Organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NATO and the EU were all created for this reason. None of these organizations is perfect, but they are what we launched -- and we do need them. Bannon now wants to wipe them away, and either Trump is executing Bannon's intentions or he shares them.

That's why under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization -- and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That's how demagogues work and it is how they become effective. The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for "America first" and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world's most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him.

This is not a threat that will somehow resolve itself. The German economy has become the target of American trade policy and German democracy is ideologically antithetical to Trump's vision. But even here, in the middle of Germany, right-wing extremists are trying to give him a helping hand. It is high time that we stand up for what is important: democracy, freedom, the West and its alliances.

This does not mean escalation or that we must abandon our contacts with America and all the working groups between our governments. What is does mean, though, is that Europe must grow stronger and start planning its political and economic defenses. Against America's dangerous president.

Klaus Brinkbäumer is the editor-in-chief of DER SPIEGEL.


Discuss this issue with other readers!
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afhack62 02/06/2017
1. Is Der Spiegel losing it?
After reading the article about Trump, I have one question to ask first off the bat (as we say here): Is Der Spiegel really slang for "The Onion?" The fears expressed are so over-the-top it has to be a parody. Just take heart, my German friends, in the fact that Trump is being smeared in Europe primarily because of NATO member country fears that he will bring big changes to this organization. These fears are not unfounded. For the US to still be the mainstay/bulwark of NATO more than a quarter century after the demise of the Soviet Union is unacceptable to most Americans and we now have a president who believes this as well. Only a handful of NATO members have contributed their fair share, making the organization a 'collective defense' in name only. In many ways Europeans brought them on themselves. But doesn't say something about the four presidents after Reagan that they didn't prepare NATO members for this inevitable change any better than they did? Try turning some of your 'analytical' gaze on them. It might be enlightening.
daniel7744 02/06/2017
2. Mr. Edel Rodriguez — illustration that depicts President Trump as an ISIS executioner If Mr. Edel Rodriguez is so concerned with Freedom, why did he not fight for his freedom in his country instead of migrating to the U.S. as a refugee claimant? Is it because he is a coward?
jaredrforce 02/06/2017
3. Heute Europa! Morgen der Welt!
I agree completely. It's time for Germany to stop pretending. We must unite as a nation and accept that it is our genetic responsibility to control our sphere of influence. We can do this by uniting with Islam, Iran, and the Chinese Communists to overthrow the unjust world order we have today! Down! Down! USA!
jaredrforce 02/06/2017
4. Germans have been on the wrong side of history ever since they showed upon Rome's doorstep
It's funny you bring up Rome, because from my perspective, the Germans have been on the wrong side of history ever since they showed up on Rome's doorstep and destroyed the greatest civilization ever known to man. Every time Germany has sought to recast the world in its own image, it has ended in disaster. They cast the Western world into 1,000 years of dark ages, destroyed Catholic hegemony causing Europe to descend into near endless wars, destroyed the relatively benign Pax Britannia, invented Communism and Nazism, and perpetrated industrial scale genocide on innocent people. I don't want German political "leadership", or ideas. I've lived in Germany on and off for over 30 years. Scratch the skin of even your most liberal, enlightened German, and underneath you'll find a Nazi, Communist, or Islamic Extremist sympathizer. Which one are you, Mr. Brinkbäumer? I can't really tell.
1cjcarpenter 02/06/2017
5. Also an Opportunity
I certainly agree that Donald Trump and (more dangerously) Steve Bannon pose a clear and present danger -- particularly to my own country. But while the United States suffers this pair, it could open opportunities for Europe to take a more assertive and self-confident role in world affairs. We will know by the end of this year if our friends in Europe will seize this opportunity to lead, or reject it in favor of emulating the bankrupt neo-nationalist and "Great Powers" political views of Donald Trump (shared, sadly, by several already-established leaders in the EU). Our hope -- and maybe the only hope left for the idea of "The West" and it's liberal democratic values -- is that France and Germany will make the right choices. We live in dangerous times.
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