God knows I’ve been snarky about German lefties before. Look, not everyone who disagrees with you is a Nazi. Lectures are not a form of rape. Osama bin Laden is not on the side of eco-feminism. (The last one is a true story, although Austrian rather than German.) But it’s very true that the modern German police gets the hot shivers for new kit.
Was there any reason at all for this? For non-German readers, during the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, the police seem to have obtained the use of a Bundeswehr Tornado reconnaissance plane, and to have sent it to photograph a camp of protestors. That is creepy, but this is inexcusable: the pass was carried out as if the aircraft was doing its 1980s mission, at 150 metres’ altitude and maximum speed.
Naturally, the Greens point out that aircraft of the same type are in use over Afghanistan, and therefore Germany is Iraq and everyone is a nazi, or something. But it’s impossible to see any justification for this except for a pure indulgence in power. If they really had wanted photographs, they could have had better ones with less drama. But someone felt it necessary to drop a sonic boom over the autonomous chaosists, and the pilots are not born yet who would pass up the chance for some very fast low-level flying with an audience. Neither is the Interior Minister yet born who would pass up the chance to impress the Bild Zeitung with a binge on force.
As so often, Germany and Britain are more alike than anyone would care to admit. Not that the RAF was available to buzz demonstrators on the road to Gleneagles in 2005, but there is little in current government practice to support it. I am reminded, though, of Tim Garton-Ash’s description of a huge police deployment to squash a far-left demo on the day of reunification in Berlin. He referred to Hartley Shawcross’s crack that “we are the masters now”. Well, this is over. If there’s anyone who can’t appeal to that glee of first days, it’s the G8.