Jakob Augstein writes: On Tuesday, Barack Obama is coming to Germany. But who, really, will be visiting? He is the 44th president of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. He is an intelligent lawyer. And he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
But is he a friend? The revelations brought to us by IT expert Edward Snowden have made certain what paranoid computer geeks and left-wing conspiracy theorists have long claimed: that we are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching.
On Tuesday, the head of the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented is coming for a visit. If Barack Obama is our friend, then we really don’t need to be terribly worried about our enemies.
It is embarrassing: Barack Obama will be arriving in Berlin for only the second time, but his visit is coming just as we are learning that the US president is a snoop on a colossal scale. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she will speak to the president about the surveillance program run by the National Security Agency, and the Berlin Interior Ministry has sent a set of 16 questions to the US Embassy. But Obama need not be afraid. German Interior Minister Hans Peter Friedrich, to be sure, did say: “That’s not how you treat friends.” But he wasn’t referring to the fact that our trans-Atlantic friends were spying on us. Rather, he meant the criticism of that spying.
Friedrich’s reaction is only paradoxical on the surface and can be explained by looking at geopolitical realities. The US is, for the time being, the only global power — and as such it is the only truly sovereign state in existence. All others are dependent — either as enemies or allies. And because most prefer to be allies, politicians — Germany’s included — prefer to grin and bear it. [Continue reading…]