Perhaps I’m overdoing it, but I’m not a fan of the way Mark Leonard’s recent ECFR column is titled. “The revenge of the German elite” he writes, documenting concerted efforts by Bundespräsident Gauck, and ministers Steinmeier and von der Leyen. The basic gist of the piece is that the German ‘elite’ is ready for Germany to be more active in world affairs, while the population is reticent. The idea that German should somehow intervene more is in reaction to outgoing Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s perceived inaction.
Maybe the title was simply designed to provoke, but for me it’s over the top. Gauck, and any other German politician for that matter, is perfectly entitled to set out their point of view. It’s when it comes to actual action, and whether the German public supports whatever action might eventually be taken, that we will know if the elite has its “revenge”. And the people of course may well get their revenge at the next election if the wrong call was made.
What Gauck therefore has said is – in my view – actual leadership. It is what the political leaders of our society should do. For someone like Leonard, in the political class himself, to criticise fellow politicians for actually trying to lead strikes me as rather odd.