It’s not easy being the leader of the free world. You get no respect. Even the countries that benefit from your leadership begrudge you your position and think you need to be taken down a peg or two. When you suffer an embarrassment, they smirk. You had it coming, they think.
The United States was in this position until Barack Obama became president. Then the world gave us all the love it had previously withheld. So great a leader was Obama perceived to be, ab initio, that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months into his presidency. Like the prevenient grace of which some early Puritan sects believed they were the recipients, this honor didn’t depend on anything he actually did.
These Puritans believed they were the elect, and they called each other “saints” while they were still alive. Keep this in mind when you read Milton’s Sonnet 23: “Methought I saw my late espoused saint/Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave.”
Obama was cast in the role of a saint, and people bought it. Remember all those photos where he seemed to have a halo? An editorial in Denmark’s largest publication even opined that Obama was greater than Jesus. You get the point.
Obama’s idea of leadership was to lead from behind. This policy put him in a position where his face ran smack dab into Putin’s ass, and there it stayed. Nothing could dislodge it. Neither Putin’s annexation of Crimea, nor his interference in Ukraine. Not his deployment of advanced missile systems to his bases in Syria. He didn’t move a muscle even when Obama’s intelligence agencies told him that Putin was planning to interfere in our 2016 elections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now experiencing some of the hatred that can be heaped upon a world leader. She was awarded this mantle when Trump assumed the presidency of the United States. The world perceived a power vacuum was created, and Mutti Merkel was anointed to fill it.
Merkel is finding out how crummy a position that is. Europeans are starting to grumble against her. Britain is picking up its toys and exiting the European Union.
When Merkel opened Germany’s borders to anyone who had a mind to make it there and the wherewithal to hire the human smugglers needed to help, a flood of third world “children,”—some in their 40s, who were unacquainted with the strictures of legal systems, or respect for private property and unshrouded women—came pouring in. Merkel was, in effect, opening the doors to all of the 26 countries that had abolished their internal borders under the Schengen Agreement.
Some countries are not amused by the prospect of supporting the newcomers while neglecting their own citizens. This is especially true in the eastern European countries that only recently have gained their independence from the Soviet Union. Having begun to rediscover their respective national identities, they can’t understand why they’re being asked to give them up again by taking in people who don’t share their culture, language, traditions, or religion. Their brand of blood and soil nationalism was never conducive to welcoming strangers, and they’re especially upset by strangers who see themselves as replacing the native population rather than integrating into it.
Then there are the countries that, having enjoyed the years of liquidity that came with the Euro, now feel put upon by Merkel’s austerity program. The Euro allowed them to run up enormous debts, which they’re not accustomed to repaying. Why, they wonder, can’t the EU simply print more money? That’s the way these folks have dealt with debt in the past, right?
Finally, there’s the problem of who gets to make the important decisions that affect all of them. If every country in the United Nations, even the shitholes and hellholes among them, has an equal vote, why not every country in the EU? Why shouldn’t Poland, for example, who is the greatest beneficiary of EU aid, have as much say in running things as Germany, the largest contributor?
It’s things like this that niggle at one, and that stir up old grievances. And when grievances of any kind are stirred up, Europeans do what they always have done. They blame the Jews. It will help them now as little as it has in the past. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Under Merkel’s leadership, Germany has become the most powerful country in Europe, maybe even the world. As a tourist, you can’t go anywhere in Europe and not hear people speaking German. Some say that she’s achieved peacefully that which Hitler was unable to achieve with military might—control of Europe. At the same time, by opening Germany’s borders to self-styled refugees, she may well be the catalyst that destroys the EU.
And that’s the infinite jest. Obama wasn’t a leader, and Merkel has turned out not to be a savior. The rise of populism in Europe and America wasn’t created by Donald Trump. His presidency is an effect rather than its cause. The cause is the rise of a class of global elites whose policies have benefitted only themselves and eroded the trust of the people they rule.