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A Pacifist’s Hammer

   Posted by: Pat   in Uncategorized

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail’. It is almost always stated in reference to the use of military force to solve a problem. And to be even more precise, the referenced military is almost always the American armed forces. Well, after reading this piece about modern German foreign policy by Anne Applebaum, I think we need a new phrase to describe the opposite. Here’s Applebaum:
By declaring that Germany is a large country with a large export sector and economic interests around the world, Koehler [Germany's ex-President] broke the even more powerful taboo forbidding German politicians to speak of any use of the military in any foreign engagement. Germany’s passivity is a matter of national pride, German pacifism is written into its constitution, and Germans don’t talk about themselves as “a country of our size.” In polite company, Germans never, ever talk about using the military “in an emergency to protect our interests.”
In other words, according to Applebaum, Germans never see (or want to see, as in denial) a problem that can’t be solved by only economic or diplomatic means. The thought of using military force to protect its vital interests seems wrong seems not just outside of their comfort zone, but morally wrong. Germany, in other words, in many ways believes itself to be a post-modern state.
I think this type of foreign policy stance deserves it’s own ‘hammer and nail’ catch phrase. Here’s one: ‘If all you have is a hose, everything looks like a garden.’ Terrible? Please provide yours in the comments!

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22 comments so far


Interesting take!

I’d go with something more in the line of “love can’t seduce the bottomline” or “for a hippie all gun barrels require a flower”.

June 17th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Very interesting note! Indeed, I live and work with a couple of Germans and would say that the reasoning is absolutely right. It is astonishing how strongly they deny reality sometimes. Nonetheless – no ideas from my side for how to name the phenomenon. cheers

June 18th, 2010 at 9:04 am

How about, “If all you have is a history of failed aggression, everything looks like an opportunity for pacifism.”? Not very metaphorical but it’s the best I can come up with on a moments notice. lol

June 18th, 2010 at 4:15 pm

The Applebaum comment is based on several inaccurate assumptions.

1. Almost none of the leading German media and political elites believes that Koehlers comments (and the following criticism) are the true reasons for the resignment.

2. Germany as a society does not have “a pride of pacifism” but rather a decades long tradition of economic rebuilding diplomatic/political negotiations.

Think of the Marshal plan of the US. Basically Germany has done this to Eastern Germany and to all of EU/Europe. As a result of a successfully re-integrated Europe the value of reconstruction in international negotiations is very high.

3. As a matter of fact Germany has actively adjusted in military terms on a global scale. Neither the society nor the politics deny national interests and international security responsibilities.

The analysis of Apelbaum comes around 15 years too late, like the opinions of this website.

June 19th, 2010 at 5:23 am

It is typical of Lear’s style to not only state his opinion, but to take a swipe at the web site as well. If this site is so out of date Lear, why not create your own site and go away? Then you will see if you can get the kind of readership that GPP has. My guess is not.

June 19th, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Here are “my” websites:

I´m the main author and chief layout designer from all of these.

Together and singularly, these are some of the most read documents of engl. Wikipedia and on an annual basis some of the most read documents on the internet.

I have my audience ….;)

June 19th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Funny, you don’t seem to be credited on your “website.”

June 19th, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Content is king. It is my fate that by now millions of readers and watchers know my “work” (opinion) but not the editor in person.

Number of edits from a single account (in this case Berlin @ engl.Wikipedia) :

It is Lear 21! And that is me.

June 20th, 2010 at 1:51 am

I don’t think Wikipedia is supposed to be a medium for propogating your own opinion.

I have also found the presence of such opinion incredibly annoying on the EU Wiki Page in the past, so much so that I have had o disregard it completely as a resource. At least now I know who to blame for that..

In any case, I think a lot of this German pacifism is due to the role that she played in both World Wars. I don’t think that much of Europe would take to kindly to seeing a German display of military strength, she would be too powerful for the rest of Europe to accept. I think Germany know this and that this causes them to rule out military diplomacy.

It is also worth noting how “under fire” Germany seems to be in the US Press at the moment.

Paul Krugman has taken a dig at their economics too:

June 20th, 2010 at 9:33 am

Germany has done much to influence the current international system, much of it beneficial. I do not mean to discount that. What I mean to highlight is a foreign policy stance that has gone way too far in one direction. As the events in Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Turkey, Korea, Afghanistan, Congo, etc have shown that if the world’s great powers all took on a German type of pacifism, the likely outcome would be outright scary. The EU/Germany is at long last living in peace. This is a wonderful happening. But the rest of the globe is still riddled with conflict and this takes both hammers and hoses to tend to.

June 20th, 2010 at 10:29 am


Don´t worry, the work on the Wikipedia articles is basically the condensed result of several thousands of articles published in the the last ten years. Articles originated from all continents in several languages from high brow to low brow quality.

Almost all information in the Wiki entries is based on high profile sources.. The Germany article is even regarded as one of finest in the Wikipedia reputation system (best 3000 out of 3 million).

@Frost: Stop this pacifism nonsense. Germany is an active driver of all EU security issues and military project. It secures the coast of Libanon, is the third largest troop in Afghanistan and one of the largest financier (3rd, I think) of UN missions. Although it is not politics, it should be not noted that Germany is even the 3rd largest arms exporter by now.

The only truth is its relatively small military budget (in % to the GDP) compared to France, UK. But because of its close alliances in Europe and Nato it hasn´t yet been challenged to do otherwise.

June 20th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I believe that EO is absolutely correct concerning the role of Germany in WWI and WWII and the fears that other European countries would have if Germany were to become more militaristic. Fortunately, the US has been around to handle some of the heavy lifting and that has allowed the EU to concentrate on their economic interests. If indeed Lear was the primary contributor to “Wiki” that explains a lot. Wiki entries are “supposed” to be free of opinion but it is apparent that is not the case. And I’m not talking about just the articles for which Lear takes credit. One of the inherent dangers of a Wiki type of resource is that it is open to mis-statements, confused “facts”, and shoddy input. Never-the-less Wiki is still a good tool for quick reference in a lot of cases if one is careful about accepting everything at face value.

The third largest arms exporter? hmm, now there’s something to be proud of.

June 21st, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Most of the Germans I have met (and they have all been over the age of 55) all still have deep psychological scars from the guilt of WWII and the genocides. I think this guilt has been driving their policy’s for quite a few years.

I offer this:
“If all you have is a Dove, than everything looks like bird seed.”

and this:
“If all you have is an olive branch, than everything looks like fertilizer.”

Combine the two and you get:
“If all you have is a Dove and an olive branch, than everything looks like bird seed and fertilizer.”

June 27th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I believe that you are correct about residual guilt. Good metaphors. lol

June 27th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

If all you have is a (US) sledgehammer than even standard hammers look like matches.

If the “only” thing you have is a sledgehammer you tend to repair your computer by hitting it.

June 28th, 2010 at 2:45 am


What I find very irritating is that this blog is supposed to be written by an academic (I still guess its fake).

Most of the entries here are based on outdated believes, clichees, or fantasies and rarely are based on facts and realities in the 21st century.

June 28th, 2010 at 2:53 am

I find it irritating that you are still here Lear. I would have thought, with all of your negative feelings, that you would have fled to an environment that is actually receptive to your unyielding intolerance of any opinion that you didn’t create. I can assure you, because I researched it, that Professor Frost is an academic; whereas I found it difficult to believe that you are not a teenager pretending to be knowledgeable in IR. Are you sure that Locke, and The Hive Queen and the Hegemon are not your primary sources? (That is a literary reference in case you missed it.)

June 28th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I am curious to know which posts on this blog (not including comments, since I was under the impression that comments are intended to be an outlet for the expression of opinions) you consider to be outdated, cliches, and fantasy’s not based on the facts available to us in the 21st century.
1 or 2 examples will suffice.

June 29th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Is intolerance a tool for a Dictatorial/Totalitarian state or is tolerance a vice for the Pacifist to slowly drown in?
I liked your Enders Game reference. One of my favorite series.

June 29th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

@Hellraiser: Those are very difficult questions. I am going to have to think about my answers before attempting to reply. Enders Game may be one of the best SF/FAN novels ever written. I currently listening to Speaker for the Dead on CD (for about the 4th time) and am discovering again why it also won the Hugo award.

June 29th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

@Hellraiser: In a nutshell, I would posit that intolerance is more and outcome than a tool for the totalitarian state. For the pacifist, tolerance is more of an overriding goal, which sometimes interferes with perception of reality in a less than perfect world, than a vice in which to slowly drown.

July 3rd, 2010 at 9:56 am

You made some respectable factors there. I appeared on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will associate with together with your website.

July 8th, 2011 at 9:35 pm