Germany, Greenpeace and the Jennifer Morgan Saga
The reaction to the appointment of Jennifer Morgan as a German deputy foreign minister betrays a lot of provincialism in Germany’s political culture.
- From outside Germany, it is hard to imagine the uproar which the planned appointment of Jennifer Morgan to fill the position of Deputy German Foreign Minister for Climate Negotiations is currently making.
- Right-of-center politicians in Germany fear that Jennifer Morgan, the outgoing head of Greenpeace, who has lived in Berlin for a long time, might use her new job to hijack the German government for activist causes.
- In these global times, an appointment such as that of Jennifer Morgan is long overdue. Appointments that transcend national borders should occur more frequently.
- Why exactly is the word "activist" so frowned upon in some circles in Germany, even associated with the cloak of illegitimacy? In view of the passive mindset of many civil servants, a little activism can't hurt.
- Can we trust an American woman to be a policymaker loyal to German interests? Or should we fear that Ms. Morgan is secretly making U.S. policy?
- In American bureaucratic theory and political practice, there is a very appropriate phrase: "Where you stand depends on where you sit."
- In view of the prospect of another Republican becoming U.S. President in 2024, the option of taking a senior job in the German government – a government that is dedicated to the climate issue – is a very appealing and rational choice made by Jennifer Morgan.
From outside Germany, it is hard to imagine the uproar which the planned appointment of an American woman to fill the position of Deputy German Foreign Minister for Climate Negotiations is currently making in Berlin and around the country.
Hijacking the German government for activist causes?
The woman at the center of all that attention – and, predictably enough, envy – is Jennifer Morgan, the outgoing head of Greenpeace.
Right-of-center politicians in Germany are incensed. They fear that the American climate change expert, who has lived in Berlin for a long time, might use her new job to hijack the German government for her own activist causes.
These voices conveniently overlook the fact that, before Jennifer Morgan took the helm of Greenpeace in 2016, she had already spent 20 years as a senior manager at the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute.
Those prestigious U.S. think tanks are not exactly known as leftist rabble-rousers. They represent the top-of-the-line establishment in their field.
Global integration at work
In these global times, an appointment such as that of Jennifer Morgan is long overdue. If anything, appointments that transcend national borders should occur more frequently.
After all, we cannot always talk diligently about multilateralism – and then always insist only on collecting perspectives from around our own kitchen table.
Similarly, a broadening of perspectives inside well-entrenched government bureaucracies through the infusion of top representatives of NGOs can only be beneficial.
Are activists bad?
And why exactly is the word “activist” so frowned upon in some circles, even associated with the cloak of illegitimacy? This is true not only for the former government party, the CDU/CSU, but also far into the FDP.
In view of the passive spirit of many civil servants, a little activism cannot hurt.
At the heart of the protests against the appointment of Jennifer Morgan is a double question of loyalty.
First, can an American woman who speaks German very well, has lived in Berlin for a long time and will soon take on German citizenship be trusted to execute her new job in the German and, by extension, global interest? Or should we fear that Ms. Morgan is secretly making U.S. policy?
Guilt by implication
The second question about Morgan’s loyalty concerns Greenpeace. Can a woman who headed the certainly very activist NGO Greenpeace for almost six years change her colors?
That’s an important question, but one that would never be asked in American political culture.
The logic of “where you stand depends on where you sit”
Why would it never be asked? Because the implicit thesis of latent disloyalty fundamentally calls into question the professionalism of the person in question.
In American political practice, there is a very appropriate phrase: “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”
In other words, to be effective in whatever your current role is, you should always carefully consider the functional contexts of your respective office.
In view of the prospect of another Republican becoming U.S. President in 2024, the option of taking a senior job in the German government – a government that is dedicated to the climate issue – is a very appealing and rational choice made by Jennifer Morgan.
An outside observer
To make one thing clear: I do not know Ms. Morgan and have no iron in the (lobbying) fire on either side of the saga about Jennifer Morgan and Germany.
However, I think we should all be mature enough to give her the benefit of the doubt – in other words, to wait and see what she actually does in office before the merry-go-round of dismissive prejudgments continues.
Conclusion: Provincialism should not rule
In the end, what is so bad about the appointment of Jennifer Morgan?
In view of the growing complexity of the world’s major problems, it does no harm if actors from the NGO world, who have dedicated their entire professional lives to the issues that move them, switch sides.
What we have seen so far is a study in German provincialism. Isn’t it better to avail oneself of an internationally experienced negotiator on climate issues, so that the German government better understands the motivations of various key actors on the world stage? Of course, in the interest of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The answer to these two questions should be an unequivocal “yes”.