By Moritz Koch
Philosopher Jürgen Habermas, widely seen as the conscience of Germany, talked with Handelsblatt about the refugee crisis, the dangers of right wing populism – and his new enthusiasm for Angela Merkel.
Jürgen Habermas: I’m as surprised as I am delighted. For years, I haven’t been thought as highly of our government as I have since late August. Now, here in America, I keep referring to something she said which also keeps being mentioned in the German press.
You mean when she said, “we can manage?”
No, I mean her statement, “If we also have to apologize for showing a friendly face in emergency situations, then this is not my country.” That’s a very strong sentence. Who would have expected that from Ms. Merkel, who has stuck to pragmatic, hesitant statements, oriented towards popular opinion for years? That was a decisive, normative sentence. I was so happy when I read that. And it wasn’t only Ms. Merkel, it was the whole government, and supported by different statements, visits to Heidenau and so on.
People are also talking about what’s leading people to flee their countries. Has negligence from the West partly contributed to mass migration, through intervening in Iraq and not intervening in Syria?
That’s a very complicated question. A more general answer, if you’ll allow: I was asked about my support for the intervention in Kosovo in 1999. Since then we have had a string of experiences, not only those you named, also in Libya, Afghanistan, and in Mali, that showed how devastating interventions can be even if they’re humanitarian, and agreed by the United Nations, if the powers that intervene are not prepared to subsequently put in decades of work that follows, to build a functioning state. Without this preparedness, it will rather be worse than better. We had to learn from our mistakes. What that means for now in Syria is a complicated question which needs further thought.