Wednesday, September 21, 2005
The Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) Berlin is having a fare-well do for its director Christopher Bertram (formerly also at the IISS). He served the outfit which is an independent, though publicly funded, academic think-tank quite well, easily making it one, if not the most influential body to advise on German foreign and security affairs. Bertram himself caught my attention back in 1990/1991 at the beginning of the Iraq war when he argued for a full-scale German military involvement, not exactly a popular position to take back then. That said, he opposed taking up arms again in 2003, hardly unpopular(!), but he has by and large been a quite fair commentator on broader global affairs and is quite a nice guy, which sort of helps overlook his excessive enthusiasm for the EU. As I was saying,it's his leaving do today and he is soon to be replaced with the Middle East expert Volker Perthes. There are several points to make about the nomination. The first and most obvious one is the shift from Bertram's Anglohpile background and emphasis on security, to the Orientalism of Perthes, which clearly shows a greater interest in the Middle East. I don't think there is anything wrong about that shift in emphasis, it simply goes to show that the problems German foreign policy faces have changed.
The problem I see with Perthes is his ideology and the often irritating, snide anti-Americanism he often shows in interviews, if not always in his written work. I will write some more on this one day, but it is a disappointing development for an Atlanticist like me who would like to see stronger British-German cooperation.