Summary of The New German Question

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The post-World War II liberal international order that helped maintain European peace and prosperity arose from “unique,” “abnormal” and “ahistorical” circumstances, argues American historian Robert Kagan. In an essay published in Foreign Affairs, he warns that unwinding that order could unleash dangerous geopolitical dynamics that plunged Europe into darkness twice before. His sobering analysis will help everyone interested in international politics put daily headline news – from Brexit to the rise of nationalism in Europe – into historical context.

About the Author

Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World.



German unification in 1871 altered Europe’s geopolitical dynamics forever. Economically powerful but surrounded by established European powers suspicious of its rise, Germany dealt with its geopolitical vulnerability by building up its military, culminating in two world wars. The post-World War II liberal international order that the United States helped build put an end to the “German Question,” transforming the populous state into a peaceful stabilizing force in Europe. Four factors contributed to the German success story:

  • US security guarantee – Western European...

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