Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NSA, Merkel's Phone, And Hypocrisy

According to Spiegel, Angela Merkel's private phone "might have been tapped" "for years" by US intelligence. Of course, the Bundesregierung "unequivocally disapproves". When the revelations were still about the German citizens her Minister of the Interior Friedrich called the critics "anti-American", and "naive".

Friedrich's words are coming back to haunt him. It is quite clear that the naive side were those who trusted the US to not use their tools against friendly governments.
Why shouldn't the US be interested in what Merkel thinks? Germany is the most powerful country in an economically equally strong union as the US. It seems absolutely naive to assume that CIA and NSA would not be working towards gathering as much intelligence as possible in Germany. Not only is the country important economically and politically, Germany also produces state of the art weapon systems. For example, German cold war era submarines managed time and time again to sneak up on US aircraft carrier groups in exercises, today Germany produces fuel cell U-Boats - made from unmagnetic materials like austenitic steel. German tanks dominate - together with Russian ones - the export market. Even the US M1 Abrams uses a license produced German cannon. It would therefore in fact be irresponsible if the intelligence agencies weren't spying on the German arms industry.

One also has to assume that Merkel was aware that she might be a target, event though she claimed that she did not know back in July. She is neither stupid nor naive and was probably well informed about US programs. Why did the German government try to pretend otherwise, repeatedly? The best explanation of what is currently happening - that I have read to this point - comes from Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, who wrote:
As a result [of the Snowden and Manning leaks], Washington faces what can be described as an accelerating hypocrisy collapse — a dramatic narrowing of the country’s room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interest. The U.S. government, its friends, and its foes can no longer plausibly deny the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and will have to address it head-on.
Merkel, just like the Brazilian president, was forced to phone Obama and call the likely eavesdropping operation "totally unacceptable". I agree, but that was clear from the very start of the revelations, still Mr. Friedrich and other members of the government felt the need to offer soundbites that make them look like very, very naive persons, now. Merkel also wasn't too keen to confront the US during the electoral campaign, but now the fact that it has become impossible to ignore the dark side of US policy is starting to sink in.

In the US that might still take a while. A spokesperson said that: "The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel." A statement which might have made sense before the hypocrisy collapse, but today it not just rings hollow it has become laughable and cringe worthy. [Or perhaps the President did not have time yet to "go back and find out what’s going on with respect to these particular allegations".]

The US made the rational decision to spy on anybody they could. It wasn't a wise or moral decision, but one that the German government should have been and most likely was well aware of. Snowdens revelation show everybody that the US is not exceptional. The country is like all others pursuing its own self-interest, what seems to be changing is that the other countries cannot turn a blind eye on this anymore.[Or perhaps this is just me desperately trying to rationalize the nonsense coming out of the German government, because I don't want the country to be run by complete idiots.]

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