Letter from Germany
So if Germans aren’t obsessing over the Irish bailout, what are the main topics of conversation ?
Well, obviously there is always the old stalwart of the Battle of Stuttgart Station. All they are trying to do is make this rather inconvenient old terminus into a through route. But the greens have taken against it, and the ensuing conflict makes Swampy and his struggle against the Newbury bypass look like a toddler’s tantrum.
These Teutonic nimbys, who in truth seem as much nihilists as environmentalists, are really looking forward to the Big Event – the comeback tour of the Atomkraft? Nein Danke movement. Aroused from dormancy by Merkel’s temerity in extending the life of Germany’s nukes by fiat, they are already swarming all over the railway tracks in front of the nuclear waste trains in their tens of thousands, and lighting up Berlin with torchlight demos on a very big scale indeed. What japes! Don’t these frivolous people realize they are in charge of the whole of Europe ? On a bad day they seem pretty ungovernable to me.
Which brings us to the other great topic of conversation: they may be about to scrap military conscription. Yup, it’s still compulsory around these parts, although at call-up time very large numbers conveniently remember they are conscientious objectors. They need to make their case to be let off to do community service instead; but you can download a well-drafted letter from the web to assist in your application. Tens of thousands do just that – and work for a pittance in hospitals etc - a rather handy source of cheap labour: so scrapping this system is not uncontroversial.
In any event, it’s likely to be only a de facto scrapping: compulsory citizen-soldiership is written into the postwar constitution on the basis it makes the army one with the people, and neutralizes it as a civil threat.
Trouble is, with the passing of the Cold War as a source of motivation, it somewhat neutralizes it as an effective army. Germans still make good soldiers: but the conscripts often work with kit that is 30 or more years old, and are in no shape to deploy for action. As with most conscript armies in peacetime, the serious soldiers yearn to go 100% professional. It’s probably what they will do.
Something else to take the mind off boring old bailouts.