Enhance Patriotism and Overcome "Provocative Weakness" in Europe Now!
The contribution of General (Ret.) Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff German Federal Armed Forces and Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee to the presentation of the book Fritz Kraemer on Excellence in Berlin
First of all, let me congratulate Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann on his splendid, well-done book "Fritz Kraemer On Excellence"
With it, he has created a monument to a man for whom values—a moral/ethical system of coordinates and convictions—comprised the hallmark of his life, values that Fritz Kraemer would not surrender under any circumstances. People of this caliber are the exception in all ages, but today among our superficial, value-free, “me” generation they ought to be a protected species.
To think about values anew seems particularly necessary in light of recent events. The greatest power on the planet has just decided to turn to values for orientation in an election more moving than ever before. That is the true message of the U.S. election, that Fritz Kraemer is more up-to-date than ever. It is worth reflecting on this transformation, if one takes the effort, so as not to widen the gap between Europe and the U.S.A. In this respect, the book " Fritz Kraemer On Excellence" is appearing on the market at just the right time.
One of Fritz Kraemer’s values was patriotism. I never had the chance to speak at length with him about this, but after reading this book I am convinced that it was patriotism which drove Fritz Kraemer from Germany. And moreover, that as a German patriot who could not accept an unjust German regime pulling his nation into the abyss, he took up arms in order to fight against the Germans who had devoted themselves to the Nazi regime. I can appreciate what an enormous weight this decision carried, as in my own life I too was confronted by it in my mind. Being a soldier in a divided Germany ultimately meant having to fight against the soldiers of the former GDR—the unjust German regime of the second half of the 20th century. I am thankful that a fortuitous turn of historical events that began with the fall of the Berlin wall fifteen years ago today, combined with a diplomatic policy that relied on strength and dialog, spared me of having to honor my fundamental commitment.
It is patriotism and standing for inalienable values that makes people ready to put their life on the line. Patriotism means more than the love of a country and its people, patriotism develops through the knowledge of the achievements of a country seen in the entirety of its history. Further, patriotism is based on respect for human beings and their rights. Patriotism can develop only where there is law and order and where the citizens of a country are protected against the power of the state by the power of law. Patriotism never places itself over others, and patriots never allow themselves to be misused in the suppression of the free will of other people by violence.
Fritz Kraemer recognized this was no longer possible in the Germany of the thirties, and therefore he went to America. He became an American patriot that never asked what the state could do for him but always and only what he could do for his state—another distinguishing mark of patriots, who always place serving before earning.
Fritz Kraemer saw with great clarity that a weak state and a disoriented society do not stand a chance of survival in a world where power is used to impose one’s will upon others. From this arose his theory of “provocative weakness”. Fritz Kraemer’s central argument in this regard is as follows: “If our state becomes so weak that its enemies no longer fear retaliation, then its enemies will become aggressive and our friends will no longer believe in our guarantee of protection.”
His conclusion was clear and simple: One must stay strong and powerful if one wants to protect oneself and wants to pursue one’s goals.
"Power is not a privilege", he once said, "but an obligation". I would like to add that power is not an “evil” as some in Europe would make it out to be—provided it is grounded in law and order. Power without law and order becomes arbitrary; preventing this is the duty of the powerful.
Fritz Kraemer’s advice to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, “No provocative weakness, please! ” was perhaps not all that necessary with respect to Rumsfeld himself, but instead towards we Europeans—and first and foremost towards the Germans.
Provocative weakness, like a coin, has two sides. One side is the will of a state to sustain its position and to protect its values and convictions; the other side is the practical capability to do so. Europe lacks both.
The willingness to avoid conflicts at any price is large, perhaps because the instruments necessary for the exercise of power are missing.
The U.S.A. does not lack either military power or the will to use it; however, it does lack the insight that none of the problems of this world can be solved by military power alone, and that problems cannot be solved by giving priority to the protection of America over the protection of individual rights and freedoms.
The transatlantic balance has been lost in the debate over the question of the balance between hard and soft politics. America’s problem is the provocative use of one-dimensional power, but Europe’s problem is provocative weakness and this at a time in which the dangers and risks are greater and more unpredictable than they were at any moment of the Cold War. We stand, as do our American allies, in a conflict with an enemy who wants no more and no less than to force us to give up our social and legal order. In such a situation, one can not allow oneself to succumb to provocative weakness as it produces vulnerability—it downright attracts terrorism—it forces the U.S.A. to unilateralism, and it makes us at the same time powerless but dependent on the U.S.A. Admittedly, there is the one or the other showoff in world politics who drivels about a multi-polar world in which America’s power is supposed to be hemmed in. But they overlook in this instance that a multi-polar world can hardly ever be a stable one.
The book "Fritz Kraemer On Excellence" should prompt we Germans to contemplation. Nevertheless, we are the ones who are ready to throw values over board. Here, it has become the trend to first ask what the prevailing opinion of the moment is and then to make decisions accordingly.
Even those who vaguely remember that the founding fathers of this state wanted to create and protect a foundation of values because they had firsthand experience of where things lead to when all values disappear.
Where are the voices in the public sphere who dare to hold up a value like “pride” in the incredible reconstruction and reconciliation efforts of the Germans as a basis for a new German patriotism, or that have the courage to mention a completely different subject, to refer to marriage as an institution worthy of protection?
Where are the politicians who meet the fundamental requirement of our parties to find majorities for the solution to problems instead of satisfying the masses with comfortable but increasingly unaffordable promises?
Is it not a sign of an alarming provocative weakness that we accept all this? We stick our heads in the sand, and this at a moment in which the powers of persistence and of earlier times want to bomb our postmodern world into a global conflict.
Fritz Kraemer was right when he says: “When he fears for his existence, the bourgeois has only one wish: acquiescence to the power that threatens him.”
We must remember that giving in to violence and injustice never produces calm and peace, but rather more injustice and more violence. Which day in German history illustrates this better than 9 November, particularly if I think of 9 November 1938?
We must develop the political will to overcome provocative weakness in Europe, and we must realize in this respect that the real problem of Europe is Germany’s powerlessness.
However, in this case, will alone does not move mountains; we also have to do something regarding the other side of the coin, namely the instruments. Let’s think of Fritz Kraemer’s assertion: “Nothing is possible without power.” That is not an appeal for a one-sided orientation towards military power; rather, it is a stimulus to think whether we can meet our political demands in Europe and in the world if we continue to disregard the military power of Germany as seen since1992. If we do so and do not help the Defense Minister in the realization of his reforms, then we will consciously produce provocative weakness. If we manage in a condition of such strategic weakness to offend the only power able to help us in our time of need, then if things should ever again become unpleasant, we should not be surprised if Germany is initially without political influence and perhaps suddenly finds itself standing alone in the rain.
I think it is high time to remember Fritz Kraemer and to take this book to heart. We have to consider how one can repair the transatlantic relationship not by simply and unconditionally agreeing to everything that is concluded in Washington, but by finding ways where one can or must act together for the protection of common interests.
I think Europe should try to use America’s power in order to balance its provocative weakness. In this way, Europe could gain time to take long overdue steps in pursuing the elimination of the most urgent weaknesses, thereby gaining time to consider how one could restore the balance between hard and soft politics in the thinking of the transatlantic partners. Once these steps have been taken, we would then be able to and indeed would have to consider how to defy the tempests of the restless years ahead of us together with the U.S.A.
Fritz Kraemer knew the situation: “To fanatics, heroism means a fight they know they will lose.” But he also had the answer, an answer that he formulated following 9/11: “May we develop the spirit, the will, the courage, and the lasting tenacity to make it obvious to the destructionists that we are no paper tigers.”
It is well worth it to read "Fritz Kraemer On Excellence", which I hope will find broad circulation. Hubertus, you have brought an important book to the market at the right time and for that again, congratulations !