CHAPTER FOUR: THE MAKING OF EMPIRES
ETHNIC IMPERIALISM AS ETHICAL IMPERIALISM?
Johnstone summarizes the development of German foreign policy towards Eastern Europe (and specifically the Balkans) in this section. She begins in the closing months of World War I, when Prince Max von Baden submitted a paper suggesting that Germany should couch its imperialist ambitions in idealistic language. "Ethical" is the word used.
I did not adequately discuss the end of the previous sections: Johnstone argues that the ideal of the folk-state is incompatible with the modern nation-state, because the folk-state is not only ethnically homogenous but also predicated on the notion that a people fixed into a certain kind of social (and, by implication, political) development. On this point I absolutely agree with her. Apparently, this is bad when Germans believe it, but not when Radovan Karadzic does.
What von Baden was getting at was this--Germany should present its eastern imperialism as an enlightened liberation of small peoples. This would create a new monolithic political entity out of fragmentation, to counter other non-German powers in the region.
Ignoring that she is merely discussing a paper submitted by a member of the nobility in the twilight of the German Empire, Johnstone plunges ahead with her contention that she has exposed a constant--and fundamental--theme in German foreign policy towards the Balkans. Berlin and Vienna were already engaged in such a policy, she avers--ignoring that all the Great Powers were meddling in the Balkans at the time.
The Weimer Republic was committed to continuing this policy after the redrawing of Europe's map at Versailles, according to Johnstone. I am no expert on German history; she might very well be correct, but what of it? Besides the loss of territory, there were large German populations across Eastern Europe, and the the long-term stability and legitimacy of the new nations of Eastern Europe could hardly be considered a settled matter to all German citizens. In light of Nazi aggression and atrocities, it is of course difficult to empathize with German grievances in the inter-war period, but just because Johnstone insists on casting the Nazi shadow over all of German history does not mean the rest of us must follow suit.
Still, it must be conceded that she is correct when she asserts that those estranged German minorities did indeed provide the pretext for Nazi expansion in the period leading up to World War II. It's instructive to note that she even uses the word 'pretext' as I just did, even as she simplistically asserts that this 'pretext' was, in fact, the substance of German foreign policy predating the rise of the Third Reich.
She closes with the observation that the Nazis sought to break up the countries they occupied or conquered by selectively 'liberating' certain aggrieved national minorities. This policy would be most effective in the east, where nationalism had come late and state-building was on shaky ground. While cynical--and utilized for loathsome ends--this policy was certainly rational, from the Nazi point of view. What are the implications of this policy in practice?
Johnstone--remarkably--says absolutely nothing about this. Nothing. This section ends with the above observation; the next section picks up after World War II ended. As always, she implies without elaboration or sustained analysis. She has the reader thinking that the horrors of Nazi policy in the east were actually merely the manifestation of ongoing German policy towards the region; to dwell too long on the point might weaken the vague impression she has managed to create. Time to move on.