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Tamed Power: Germany in Europe.

Beverly Crawford, University of California at Berkeley

Since the Berlin Wall's collapse, the "German Question" has dominated debate about the future of Europe. Few need to be reminded that the growth of German power provoked two bloody wars in this century. The current question is framed this way: Will accelerated European integration subjugate German power to a united Europe? Or does it provide a veil behind which Germany exercises self-interested dominance, both in Europe and on the international stage?

These books will reshape the terms of that debate. Indeed, both point to the limitations of the question itself. Since 1949, Germany has accepted constraints on its sovereignty and military capability in ways unique in world history for an important European power. And contrary to many expectations, there is little evidence of pernicious German nationalism in current foreign policy. Indeed, Germany appears to have broken radically with the traditional practices of national sovereignty so common in large European democracies. Thus, both books address the more interesting puzzle: Why has the growth of German power not been accompanied by a return to the "normal" practices of great powers and sovereign states? What explains the "taming" of German power? They provide answers whose significance reaches far beyond these questions themselves.

In rejecting both realist claims, which suggest that Germany will maximize its power in Europe, and institutionalist arguments, which claim that Germany is constrained only by its commitment to multilateral institutions, these books offer new approaches to the study of foreign policy and international relations. They argue that culture and identity are primary forces driving the current policies of Germany as a rising power, offering pioneering perspectives that can greatly advance our understanding of the missing analytic link between international relations theory and foreign policy analysis.

Markovits and Reich stress cultural factors within Germany that limited the exercise of power, even as Germany's economic might has grown. Before unification, they argue, three forces constrained Germany's growing power: neighbors who feared resurgent German aggression; Germany's inability to export its culture abroad; and Germany's unwillingness to use power, a reticence driven by an "ideology of reluctance." After unification the first two constraints were partially lifted. Others' acceptance of German unification suggests that old fears are buried. And Germany's ability to export its culture still remains limited. The decisive factor explaining German reluctance to maximize power is the ideology of reticence.

That ideology is explained by "collective memory," a potent ingredient in any nation's political culture and foreign policy tradition. While Germany's memories are multiple and clustered - memories of Weimar and the Bundesrepublik also mark public debate - the defining memory remains that of the Nazis' fatal exercise of power, the memory of Auschwitz. That memory now shapes a fear of foreign engagement. And as long as it defines political discourse, Germany, despite its predominance of regional power, will assume neither a position of malevolent dominance nor hegemonic leadership in Europe. The book's careful discussion of German reluctance to commit troops abroad despite vast military potential clearly supports the argument.

But although the memory of Auschwitz currently guides a reticent policy, Markovits and Reich argue, the future is uncertain. Identity rooted in collective memory can change as postwar elites die out and as competing memories rise to dominance. And lurking alternative memories open the door to a new German nationalism. Indeed, in the current period, they warn, "Germans are trading a European identity for a German one (p. 205)." We cannot be sanguine about the future of "tamed" German power.

Katzenstein and his collaborators disagree. More important than domestic collective memory, they argue, are external institutional forces shaping German behavior. Participation in European institutions defines German identity as explicitly international and particularly European. And that identity leads Germany to consistent pursuit of policies that support European integration even if they reduce German power or undermine its narrow interests. Because Germany's European identity is taking root in stable external institutions, its foreign policy preferences are increasingly multilateral. This process of identity and interest transformation tames German power now and will continue to do so.

For Katzenstein and his collaborators, deepening European institutionalization ensures that future. Multilateral institutions do more than constrain state behavior. They mold the identities of their participants. And identities do not change easily. This does not mean that all is rosy: A European identity includes heavy doses of xenophobia and exclusion. Recall that Germany buttressed its controversial push for Croatia's recognition with claims that Croatia was committed to "European" values; Serbs, according to the influential German press, were "hardly European at all." Katzenstein's point, however, is not that Germany's European identity will ensure regional peace but that a "nationalistic" identity is unlikely to reemerge in Germany as long as European integration continues.

This view contrasts with the uncertain future that Markovits and Reich envision. And that contrast goes to the heart of the debate between these two volumes. Tamed Power sees a constitutive role for institutions in the transformation of German identity and behavior. The German Predicament argues that institutions fine-tune the values and memories of dominant classes, but those values and memories lie at the root of ideologies shaping identity and policy.

This debate marks other disagreements, such as the issue of regional hegemony. The exact threshold of material capability necessary to achieve a hegemonic position - even a regional one - remains unspecified in the literature; how much power it takes to be a hegemon is now a matter of judgment. Tamed Power argues that because of its European identity, Germany sacrifices self-interest for multilateral cooperation in the absence of sufficient hegemonic capability. And because European institutions stabilize the region, hegemonic leadership is unnecessary. Markovits and Reich argue that Germany's material capabilities suffice for it to become a European hegemon, but due to its ideology of reluctance, it cannot make sacrifices required of a hegemonic leader. And Europe does need a leader.

A second disagreement concerns the international reaction to postunification Germany and the role of institutions in shaping that reaction. Markovits and Reich measure the neighborhood climate by examining responses to German unification. Others' initial reactions indicate long-term perceptions of German power and provide a basis for evaluating the claim that external forces - neighbors' fears - could trigger external constraints that explain Germany's reticence.

The authors found widespread acceptance of German unification, suggesting little apprehension of a resurgent Germany. These findings should silence those who argue that Germany's neighbors feared a new Sonderweg and therefore chained Germany more tightly to European institutions. Ironically, however, the fears others did express were defined less by memory of past German atrocities than by present realities of German economic power, their own economic dependence on Germany, and even German neglect of its old partners as it now looks eastward for economic opportunities.

Using different indicators, Katzenstein's collaborators found more varied responses to postunification Germany. Ironically, too, they found a greater role for the memory of Nazi atrocities in defining others' fear of Germany than did Markovits and Reich. But they found that those memories were activated only under particular institutional conditions. The extent of participation in EU institutions and domestic institutional compatibility with Germany greatly influence others' perceptions of German power. Without these institutional buffers, German relations with smaller European states are strained and World War II memories remain alive. Where buffers exist, relations are cordial, and institutional constraints are experienced as "soft." These constraints are also "soft" because German participation in European institutions defines German interests and identity. These claims are buttressed by exhaustive case studies that present new and important empirical material, particularly on Europe's smaller states.

How can we assess the relative strength of these competing arguments? Markovits and Reich present a pluralistic palate of competing German memories which may all vie for dominance when a new political generation takes the helm. We have no way of telling which collective memory will come to dominate or why a new political elite may pursue more nationalistic policies. And because almost any future policy trend can be traced to a particular memory, the argument is difficult to falsify.

Similarly, although the argument of Tamed Power rests on comparative case studies, permitting some factors to remain constant while others are examined, the institution/identity explanation is marred by the supposition that the European identity of France and Britain is weaker than that of Germany. No explanation for this variance is offered that is consistent with the argument. Why does institutional participation shape Germany's identity more than that of other large European powers? Although Katzenstein hints that institutional compatibility explains the variation (but does not explain why Germany's institutions are more compatible with EU institutions than those of France or Britain), he ultimately relies on realist notions of self-interest and power balancing: France calculates that it can relinquish regional control from Paris to gain control in Brussels, and Britain's geographical location leads it to continue the role of power balancer in Europe, undercutting the power of European institutions to shape British identity. What prevents Germany from falling prey to similar forces? Perhaps it is because current German identity and European institutions were mutually constitutive. France and Britain helped reconstruct German identity through those institutions, while their own national identities remained intact; thus their more self-interested behavior. Postwar legacies, therefore, may explain more about identity formation than institutional participation.

Neither book claims that it will scientifically "test" its argument. Each admits that its evidence is illustrative, not conclusive. The strength of each is the construction of an analytic framework to explain the puzzle of German power. A complete test of the argument is neither book's aim and is rightly left to future researchers. Nonetheless, the empirical material presented suggests that Germany's behavior is subject to equally valid alternative interpretations.

Some of that material even supports neorealist or neoliberal institutionalist claims. Markovits and Reich caution that Germany exercises its preponderant power inadvertently, occasionally triggering crises like the 1992-93 ERM breakdown or the bitter dispute over Croatia's recognition: Germany seemed to behave like a "normal" power, even exercising dominance. This behavior, though now the exception, is subject to realist interpretations. Jeffrey Anderson argues in Tamed Power that Germany's attention to relative gains since unification is increasingly evident, a finding that could support some realist predictions.

Katzenstein argues, however, that what escapes realists is that Germany's "self-interest" is no longer a national self-interest. The "self" has become the idea and the region of Europe, and much of Germany's behavior is consistent with this broader view of identity and interest. But it is also consistent with a liberal institutionalist version of hegemonic stability theory, which suggests that dominant liberal states identify their self-interest with the stability of the system in which they operate; they sacrifice narrow self-interest to achieve it. If Germany's European identity is stronger than that of other powerful EU members, then why is Germany's structural position of European dominance not the key factor shaping its European behavior?

Neither approach specifies the conditions under which Germany acts in narrow self-interested ways and the conditions under which it is reluctant to do so. And the conditions that are specified are not consistent with the arguments. Concurring with other analysts, Katzenstein agrees that narrow self-interest is expressed more frequently when EU institutions are weaker and less frequently when institutions are stronger. But if European identity is to have independent explanatory status, it must be a more powerful force than the particular institutions that give birth to it. Otherwise the argument comes dangerously close to liberal institutionalism. Similarly, Markovits and Reich's explanation of Germany's "bull in the china shop" behavior is not consistent with the collective memory argument. Why the memory lapse?

These issues, however, do not weaken the significance of these important books. Both contribute major analytical statements and compelling challenges to the conventional wisdom. As Markovits and Reich note, "the debate about German power will be lively and unfettered" (p. 204). These two intriguing arguments provide the opening salvos and set the terms for that debate. They will long be crucial sources for any attempt to comprehend Germany's European role in the twenty-first century.
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Author:Crawford, Beverly
Publication:American Political Science Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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