Four years ago, Jacob Heilbrunn, writing in Foreign Affairs' November/December 1996 issue, advanced the notion that Germany was turning more nationalist with the rise of a "New Right" of young conservative intellectuals. Josef Joffe famously dismissed this diagnosis in a subsequent issue and complained about the fact that American observers simply could not accept a Germany that was ultimately "boring."
Now Mr. Heilbrunn has found something exciting again: German writers are illiberal, anti-American and, to boot, actually have a large influence over the German public ("Germany's Illiberal Fictions", Summer 2000). Alas, much of the argument repeats what conservatives said in Germany ten years ago, when intellectuals like Gunter Grass and JŸrgen Habermas were wrong-footed by unification and, almost by default, resorted to a rather crude anti-nationalism. Grass in particular subscribed to a bizarre historical determinism -- according to Germany's most famous writer, a united German nation-state would automatically lead to "another Auschwitz."