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The Merkel miracle

May 21,2017 - Last updated at May 21,2017

Way back in the deep recesses of history, when I was a graduate student, I asked a German friend whether he thought Germany would ever be reunited.

With a great deal of poignancy in his voice, he said it was the dearest wish of every German, but no one realistically expected it to happen in their lifetime.

One year later, Germans were knocking down the Berlin Wall with sledge hammers to celebrate the reunification of their country.

At the time, that was dubbed the Kohl miracle, after chancellor Helmut Kohl.

It was that year, 1989, when Angela Merkel, a pastor’s daughter of German-Polish descent, raised in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), where she worked as a researcher in quantum chemistry, entered the world of German politics. 

At the time, and for a few years later, analysts agreed that unification would prove disastrous for Germany because East Germans were raised under a totalitarian regime and they lacked the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that made post-war Germany great.

Today, the German economy is the most successful in the West, a feat that is now dubbed the Merkel miracle.

Moreover, Germany has positioned itself as the conscience of the Western world in its handling of the refugee crisis, having taken in more refugees than any other country and having done more to help them build a new life.

In September this year, Germany goes to the polls to decide whether to elect Merkel for a fourth term as chancellor. But the real miracle by today’s standards is that neither of the two leading candidates in Germany gives rise to alarm and dread.

In the US, many people received the election results with weeping and gnashing of teeth, and since then, the new president has gone out of his way to prove these people correct.

In the Netherlands and France, the xenophobes were defeated, but as a French commentator pointed out, the election result was a relief, but only a relative one because over 11 million people voted for the far right.

The country’s steady descent towards nationalist xenophobia has been slowed, but not altogether halted, and certainly not reversed.

By contrast, nobody foresees doom and gloom if Martin Schultz, the Social Democratic candidate, is elected. 

A most interesting analysis I read about this phenomenon is that Germans tend to put their faith in politics by process, not by flashy charismatic leaders.

There is an important lesson here for Arabs who also yearn for unity and for a respectable place among the nations of the world. 

The lesson is not to look for miracle makers.

Great achievements are not realised by flamboyant diatribes but by hard, systematic work.

To be sure, good leadership plays an important role, but ultimately great success is the sum of small results repeated and accumulated day in and day out. 


Upon reflection, this may be what His Majesty King Abdullah means when he advocates that Jordan should be a country of laws and institutions.

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