German tanks, Costa Rica and Panama

As you fly from heavily militarised Latin American countries into Costa Rica at night something immediately stands out from a few thousand feet altitude. You notice more rural street lighting stringing through an otherwise blind, unseen landscape. Costa Rica dismantled its army in 1948 after the last of its conflicts with Nicaragua to the North. The savings go into a physical and social infrastructure that make this a supremely humanistic society. To the south, Panama dismantled its own army in 1998 following the debacle that saw the collapse of General Noriega – though its social pay-off is somewhat muted by financial (banking and canal) distortions. But both countries are immune from military coups, neighbouring invasions and armed masculinities.

I don’t agree with NATO pressures on Germany to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. I don’t agree with having allowed the German armaments industry to have persisted after WW2. The citizens of that country have had devastating wars inflicted on them too often and too recently to drag them into another military conflict. Its now almost front-line engagement with a volatile and unpredictable battleground is simply unfair. A more intelligent, democratic response would have been to neutralise Germany, to persuade it – as Costa Rica and Panama were persuaded – to divest itself of all things military.

I don’t at all say this out of some jingoistic belief in the innate aggression of German people – much to the contrary, German education in the post-war period was sophisticated and successful in separating the new generation from the gullibilities, the culpabilities and the guilt of the previous, wartime generations. I have found little but generosity and gentleness from my interactions with that culture. I say it out of a sense of justice for the people of Germany. Its working classes, with those of its neighbours, Poland, Czech Republic and so on, have endured so much more violence inflicted by nationalists and aristocrats than have the British or the French and those countries protected since the Middle Ages by that string of border countries buffering numerous encroaching military empires. We still see Eastern Europe as varying grades of NATO buffering and Germany is now drawn into that class. It’s not fair. We should leave them be.

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