But the consequences of Merkelâ€™s madness will be felt Europe-wide
Germany paid a heavy price for the world wars. Only during Angela Merkelâ€™s chancellorship were the loans for WWI reparations finally paid off. That cost, however, pales into insignificance compared with the legacy of the second War. The human and material losses were of course disastrous but perhaps the most lasting legacy was psychological: the national shame of the past and the consequent and reflexive determination â€“ craving, even â€“ to be a good global citizen and atone for the sins of the grandfathers.
That impulse is the only rational explanation for Angela Merkelâ€™s mad decision to invite a million unscreened asylum seekers and migrants into the country last year (mostly in the last six months). Itâ€™s also presumably the reason why thereâ€™s been so little heated debate within the country about it â€“ not something that would have happened in just about any other European country.
The lack of debate can be put down to an extreme sensitivity about the mix of politics and race or culture; again, a consequence of the post-war consensus. Hence the comment from Cologneâ€™s mayor in the wake of what appears to have been mass criminality that any suggestions that the perpetrators might have been refugees were â€œabsolutely impermissibleâ€. Not inappropriate, not ugly, not wrong (in either sense), not misguided: impermissible; forbidden. Or, put another way, not breaking the taboo on commenting on race is seen by her as more important than freedom of speech, even if the comment is true.
Were it just a single overly sensitive local politician, one could write it off but the comments and actions or inactions of too many others involved, apparently including police and media cover-ups, suggests that the mind-set extends well across Germanyâ€™s ruling classes.
One cannot, however, accept a million immigrants, whether refugees or migrants, in a year without expecting consequences. Tensions will arise from simple pressures on local services at one end, to the kind of culture-related problems seen across various European cities on New Yearâ€™s Eve, at the other. There will be a backlash; all the more so if establishment figures pretend it isnâ€™t happening or blame the victims, as Cologneâ€™s hapless mayor also did. Itâ€™s all very well to argue, rightly, that those involved were a small minority of Germanyâ€™s refugees; the fact that the disturbances and assaults happened and are directly related to the migrant policy is all that matters.
And therein lie the political consequences. The Schengen Area, one of the EUâ€™s greatest achievements, is practically comatose. The potential consequences for Britain and the referendum debate were discussed on politicalbetting last week (after the events in Cologne and elsewhere but before the news had broken), and the analysis there remains valid. On the wider question of how to deal with the migrant crisis, Cameron has a strong case to argue that in demanding more support for the refugees in the neighbouring Middle East countries, he called it right. All the same, the question now has to be whether the consequences will be more widespread.
The answer to that is contained within a whole series of known unknowns. Will there be more episodes of disorder, particularly criminal disorder, from migrant communities? Will there be any terrorism from individuals who entered as migrants (how easy would it have been for Daesh to have sent a couple of hundred fighters into Europe awaiting orders?). From Munich to Belgium, scares and warnings have come thick and fast these last few weeks. Less dramatically, but not necessarily less significantly, how many migrants from Africa and the Middle East will 2016 bring?
And then thereâ€™s France with its presidential election next year, where National Front leader Marine Le Pen was already generally leading the first-round polling with only veteran ex-PM Alain JuppÃ© (who may or may not beat Sarkozy to the Republicansâ€™ nomination) giving her a run for her money. Could she go one better than her father and actually win? To even ask the question is a measure of how far the new Europe has moved, as is the fact that sheâ€™s no better than 5/1 (Ladbrokes) to win outright with the bookies. The answer ought to be â€˜noâ€™, although itâ€™s notable that in the head-to-head against the Socialist candidates she regularly polls 40%+: she is not a wholly marmite candidate and can attract transfer support from the centre-right. But the centre-right ought to have a candidate of their own in the second round and if so, as things stand, he will win.
To state that though is to ignore the 16 months of uncertainties between now and the election; uncertainties both political and economic. I certainly wouldnâ€™t write off the chances of a National Front president of France. And that could be the bitterly ironic legacy of Merkelâ€™s madness.
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