A Special German Responsibility : The Nazi past and the foreign policy of the German Greens, 1980-2004

Humphreys, Andrea Mara (2007). A Special German Responsibility : The Nazi past and the foreign policy of the German Greens, 1980-2004 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, University of Queensland.

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Author Humphreys, Andrea Mara
Thesis Title A Special German Responsibility : The Nazi past and the foreign policy of the German Greens, 1980-2004
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Andrew Bonnell
Abstract/Summary This thesis discusses the German Greens’ debates over the lessons of National Socialism, the Second World War and the Holocaust with regard to five foreign policy issues: the euromissile dispute in the early 1980s, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 1980-2004, the 1991 Gulf War, the Yugoslav Wars from 1991-1995, and the 1999 Kosovo War. Published and unpublished contributions to the Green debate on each issue are interpreted in terms of the claims they make concerning the lessons of history, and the pressures influencing these. The prominence of the Nazi past in these debates is shown to be at once a reflection of history’s normative value for German foreign policy, its instrumental use in intra- and inter-party disputes, and its central role in Green identity, particularly for the 1968 cohort. This is a history of profound change in the political implications of the Nazi past. Chapter 2 traces the Greens’ changing perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: from a primary duty towards the Palestinian victims of oppression, stemming from an interpretation of the Holocaust as a by-product of generic fascism, to an understanding of the Holocaust legacy as entailing, above all, German responsibility for Israel. Chapter 1 shows the Greens rejecting violence in the name of German history during the euromissile dispute, while Chapters 3-5 chart ever-increasing challenges to pacifism and the growing belief during debates over Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo that military force could, at times, be morally correct. It is argued that these studies reveal growing agreement between the German left and right on the lessons of history for German foreign policy, a pattern of change in Green attitudes to the Holocaust in which universal characteristics were first privileged, then de-emphasised, then reestablished in a different version, and the emergence of an argument for humanitarian military intervention grounded in the particular way the New Left and their political successors in the Greens engaged with the Holocaust. The process of confluence between left and right began with the euromissile dispute, when conservatives articulated policy goals in terms of the Holocaust legacy. This process continued throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, as increasing numbers of (mostly realist) Greens accepted conservative conclusions regarding: the undesirability of a pacifist German Sonderweg (if not a desirable normality); responsibility (as opposed to foreign policy guided by an ethic of conscience); the legitimacy of some uses of force based on the lesson of Munich, as well as the Allies’ war against Hitler and the need to prevent another Auschwitz; and the occasional moral irresponsibility of pacifism. The analysis highlights the tension between particularity and universality in Green interpretations of the Holocaust, and the associated questions of singularity and comparability. The Holocaust featured in Green anti-nuclear arguments as an example of modernity’s destructive rationality and one of many horrors of the 20th century; its victims, alongside victims of these other horrors – including the bombing war on German cities – served to promote anti-militarism. At the same time, the influence of fascism theory and anti-imperialism on the new Green party ensured that Israel was not initially viewed as a haven for Jews persecuted by Germans, but primarily as a persecutor itself. From the mid-1980s, in response to nationalist universalising claims, Greens focused more on the German particularities of Nazism and the Holocaust. The narrative underscores the importance of acrimonious historical disputes of the 1980s: Heiner Geißler’s assertion that the “pacifism of the 1930s first made Auschwitz possible,” Helmut Kohl’s notion of the “grace of late birth,” Bitburg and the Historikerstreit resonated throughout Green debates after the Cold War. In the face of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s, the Holocaust was universalised again as a source of transnational political morality in Green – and international – debates on genocide. Elements of universality and particularity came to the fore in debates over humanitarian military intervention, as Greens reexamined the antifascist imperative. These struggles over the correct lessons of the past are set against fundamental change in the international system and Green in-fighting, as they wrestled with questions of compromise then with the realities of power as part of the red-green coalition from 1998. Particular attention is paid to the realist faction’s pursuit of Green acceptance of the core of West German foreign policy: integration into the Western community of nations, including NATO.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:41:14 EST