To this day there are voices stating that politics had nothing to do with ethics and that it could not be measured with ethical standards. Politics, these voices say, was an instrument to enforce interests. And in this game, the end might justify the means – occasionally or generally.
In all times, there have been people who have not shared this view. From the ancient Greek tragedy to Friedrich Schiller to our times people have warned where amorality is leading: into disaster.
In ancient times, writers of tragedies thought that the representation of amorality and the subsequent tragedy on stage alone, the presented deep fall of the amoral ruler, was causing catharsis, purification and return to the path of morality. This may have been true for the ordinary people but generally not for the rulers who also visited the theatre. Even from the times before the French Revolution it is reported that the nobility was applauding loudly when their wrongdoings were shown on stage. This did not change their way of life, however. Today we know: Denouncing amorality alone will not improve politics.
But reason suggests that no country can live with a political lie for good. The 9th commandment in the Old Testament already stated: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” This was far from being just a commandment for a godly life securing a place in heaven but a foundation for a conduct for living together in this life – the US at the time, however, only within one’s own group, not towards the “enemy”.
But the thought has become universal: If I can no longer trust what others are saying and doing and if the others no longer say and do what answers truth – at least the truth he is convinced of, with good reason – then cooperation is undermined and human dignity no longer respected. This principle of “bona fide” has become part of law since the Roman Republic. Those who neglect this principle do not have the consequences in mind – neither in ancient times, neither before the French Revolution … nor in our times.
But there are many examples for political lies in our times. Here just a few from the past months.
Political lies today:
On 26 September 2017, two days after the German elections to the Bundestag, the French President Emmanuel Macron gave a much-noticed speech. As a location for the speech he had chosen the Sorbonne University in Paris, a place for science and the search for truth. His topic was the state and the future of the European Union. His lies started with his first sentence when he spoke of Europe, actually meaning the EU. Then he imputed that there were only two alternatives: A supranational entity which has had many different names before it became the EU – for Macron a place for “brotherly cooperation” and “peaceful rivalry” which from the beginning served only one purpose: the “promise of peace, prosperity and freedom”. But this achievement was heavily pressed by the second alternative, by “nationalism, identitarianism, protectionism, sovereignism through isolation.”
Macron and his audience were not disturbed by the fact that this Manichean image of Europe has little to do with reality. And we wonder: When will it be noticed that there are many EU critics and proponents of sovereign peoples for whom “peace, prosperity and freedom” has highest priority and who have no relation to the distorted pictures drawn incessantly? That the project of a supranational Europe was only to a limited extent related with peace, prosperity and freedom? It was related at least just as much with the Cold War and the US as promotor of a supranational Europe. A 1948 quotation from George F. Kennan, renowned consultant on foreign politics for the US administration at the time, gives food for thought:
“Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. […] Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. […] We should cease to talk about vague […] and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratisation. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
Emmanuel Macron is no fool. He will know what his speech was aimed at. What was the purpose?
A second example: Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the “Munich Security Conference” (MSC), has given an extended interview to the journal Internationale Politik (IP) published in its January/February 2018 issue. IP is the journal of the semi-official Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP). Echoing its US paragon, the DGAP is also called German Council on Foreign Relations. Contrary to the truth Mr Ischinger stated in this interview that since the end of the Cold War until 2014 the West and particularly Germany had done everything possible to get on well with Russia, but, starting 2007 with the Russian President Putin’s speech at the MSC, then in the Georgia War in 2008 and finally in Ukraine in 2014, Russia had shown a different face. But still German foreign politics was searching for an understanding. This is why “repair measures” had started in 2014 but “had not been successful yet”. This was “one of the great challenges for Germany because the goal to create a relationship with Russia as free of conflicts as possible was part of German raison d’état”. But it was also true that “it takes two sides to find an accord and currently the other side is not interested.”
It is tiring to list what once again Mr Ischinger does not say: from the dismantling of Russia in the 90s, controlled by the West, and the Eastern expansion of NATO to the coup d’état in Ukraine, purposefully supported also by Germany. Why is Mr Ischinger not talking about this? Where should this lead?
This brings us to the 3rd example: the sounding agreement between CDU, CSU and SPD of 12 January 2018. On page 25 the first sentence under the topic of “Foreign affairs, development and Bundeswehr” states: “German foreign politics is committed to peace.” And: “We focus on a sustainably peaceful, stable and just global order.” One might become cynical in face of the facts. Or simply marvel that the new German government should bring about a complete change with respect to the foreign politics of the past years – if one could trust the words. But why the silence about what had been part of German foreign politics since the late 80s: at the forefront during the liquidation of Yugoslavia, since the mid-90s actively involved in setting up the terror organisation KLA, in early 1999 a leading role in imposing the “treaty” of Rambouillet, from March to June 1999 participation of the Luftwaffe in the aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, violating international law, since 2001 active participation in the US aggression against Afghanistan, logistic support for the aggression against Iraq, violating international law etc. etc. – to the present day. Why all these lies? Do the authors of these sentences expect people to take them at face value?
What is the price of the political lie?
These three examples shall suffice. The reader will be able to add more. Should we settle for this? And which price will we have to pay for this settlement? A glance at history should clarify about the price.
The truth is demanding. The search for it and the strive for it is an intellectual and also mental challenge. Many truths can only be approximated; much is (still) unknown. Searching the truth is a joint effort. To study, to compile, check, discuss, correct, supplement, extend etc. etc. Lying, on the other hand, is simple: I just claim something I have invented. There are many purposes. In politics the purpose is mostly power and rule – and interests.
A moral verdict about political lies does not help. But it is worthwhile to think about the consequences. And then to counteract – we all can contribute.
The consequences of political lies can be observed in Cottbus in Brandenburg. Aside from the war-brings-peace lie, the globalisation-is-good lie and the nation-states-are-a-problem lie, the German migration lie is more and more showing its fatal consequences. Cottbus is something like a microcosm for the emptiness of the promises of the German migration proponents. In Cottbus there have been openly violent conflicts between migrants and other inhabitants of the city; authorities are unable to cope; there can hardly be any talk of “integration”; for weeks the city has been the source of negative headlines. The political migration lie has divided the German population and brought enormous problems for the country, brought about by a negligent “welcome culture”. •
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