Back to Index

The US of Bush and the Germany of Bismarck



I have frequently compared the US with Bismarck's Germany, and now Josef Joffe, editor of Die Zeit, makes that comparison in an op.ed in the New York Times (5/29/ 02): "What is the critical strategic problem for the United States, a nation that dwarfs all others in terms of "hard" (military) and "soft" (cultural-economic) power? It is how to prevent the rest of the world from unifying against No. 1. After unification in 1871, Bismarck's Germany found itself in a similar position in Europe: more powerful than any other country, yet threatened by the resentments of all. The United States is Bismarck's Germany on a global scale. Its power is more overwhelming than that of any previous hegemon since the Roman Empire. For example, the entire world spends about $800 billion on defense; the United States accounts for about $380 billion of the total, more than the spending of the next 14 nations combined. Its "soft" power is also unmatched; in industries as diverse as movies and airplanes, its products dominate the world, as do its universities".

Joffe and I disagree in that I was warning the US against making the mistakes which led to the tragedy of World War I. Joffe on the contrary praises Bush for imitating Bismarck's strategy of preventing other countries from forming a coalition against it. The sad record shows that the strategy did not work, although Joffe might argue that it was because Germany's pilot, Bismarck, was forced to abandon ths ship of state. Is Joffe saying that the US should deal with the envious European countries one by one to prevent their ganging up on the US? Divide and conquer? The European countries are depicted as resentful that Bush had dealt with Russia over their heads. Joffe could tell us more about the German reaction. A more constructive approach was that shown at the Rome NATO meeting at which the US, Western Europe and Russia cooperated happily.

Ronald Hilton - 5/30/02


Webmaster