German Chancellor Angela Merkel should step down. Once Europe's only forthright and decisive leader, she has become a groveling embarrassment and a danger by caving into Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by letting a possible prosecution of a German comic go ahead in German courts.
The comedian read a vulgar poem about Erdogan on ZDF television on March 31. Erdogan sued under an archaic German law which bans insulting foreign representatives. But the case could only go ahead with Merkel's permission.
She gave it, while in the same breath saying how she'd like to overturn the law. How about just not enforcing it.
Only last year, terrorists killed 11 editors and staff and one policeman at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris, over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Merkel has now decided that a foreign autocrat can decide what humor is permissible in her own democratic country. Is this the same Merkel who stood up to Vladimir Putin over his covert invasion of Ukraine?
This action follows numerous blunders by Merkel, who is the leader of European Union's political lynchpin and the continent's biggest economy. First, by dragging out the Greek debt crisis as it stumbles from non-solution to non-solution, she weakened not only the Euro currency but the EU as a whole. Merkel took Greece to task on moral grounds, as if German banks, for instance, had no idea Greece was a bad loan risk. She, along with corrupt Greek leaders, consigned Greeks to a generation of poverty so the bankers would be paid anyway.
Last year, she opened Germany's borders to a million migrants on the grounds that Germany had some sort of moral duty to accept infinite numbers. She expected the rest of Europe, benumbed by economic recession and tensions over terrorism, to go along. It didn't and countries began to throw up border obstacles. Merkel had to backtrack and begin deporting refugees as Germans themselves became horrified at the numbers and began to support Trump-like right wingers.
The immigration misstep led to a deal with Erdogan. To stop the smuggling, the EU came up with three billion Euros for Turkey, eventual visa-free travel for Turks in Europe, and maybe EU membership. All was good. That is, until a crude German satirist named Jan Böhmermann made fun of Erdogan on TV.
Turkey is a polarized country with an ethnic conflict with its Kurdish population, saddled with Erdogan's misadventures in supporting terrorist groups in Syria, and uneasy with Erdogan's efforts to expand his executive power at home. So to ease his own refugee crisis, Erdogan was happy to let smugglers run rampant on Turkey's coast, and shuttle migrants off to Greece unless they drowned when their rickety boats and rafts sank.
Turkey grants either conditional refugee status, humanitarian residence permit, or temporary protection to migrants. That means people who qualify for protection may stay in Turkey for a while but ultimately find a long-term solution somewhere else. They do not have the ability to integrate into Turkish society.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has plenty of experience in oppressing dissidents: raiding media offices, accusing reporters of being spies, seizing an opposition newspaper, expelling foreign correspondents. And this guy wants to get Turkey into the EU!
Of course to offend the easily-offended Erdogan risked blowing up the deal on refugees. Would Barack Obama support Merkel if his once favorite Muslim-world leader decided to evict the US air force from the big Turkish base at Incirlik? Obama (using a century-old anti-espionage law to hammer them) is not shy about persecuting whistleblowers who leak stuff to the press, so who knows?
Europe and the US have more leverage on Turkey than they seem willing to use, even minimally. At the least, they could curb quietly trade and tourism if Erdogan reneged on the refugee deal, and otherwise make it clear that he doesn't run Europe. They could just stop pandering.
Is it worth all this it to defend free speech in Germany? As Merkel herself might have said in one of her self-righteous moods, European values are at stake. Germans should find someone else to defend them.