The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties

By Martin Klimke | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
THE OTHER ALLIANCE
AND THE TRANSATLANTIC PARTNERSHIP

ON MAY 21, 1968, George McGhee left his post as U.S. ambassador to the Federal Republic to take on the job of ambassador-at-large in Washington. Throughout his diplomatic career, McGhee had shown interest in the situation of international youth. When the Department of State formed a “Student Unrest Study Group” to come to terms with the events of the “French May” in mid-1968, McGhee was the natural candidate for the chairmanship. In his first report to President Lyndon B. Johnson on “World Student Unrest,” McGhee wrote that across the globe students had “toppled prime ministers, changed governments, ruined universities and in some cases harmed the economy of the country.” More important, their protest transcended traditional notions of patriotism and nationalism. For McGhee, these students were not “interested in their country” anymore but would “basically feel a camaraderie with other students around the world who are doing the same thing.”1 Instead of a formal, hierarchical organization, mutual visits and the opportunities of international communication had enabled them to spur each other through mutual emulation. Much to the disadvantage of the American image abroad, the opposition to the war in Vietnam was unifying them internationally: “They see us with all of our wealth and military bases around the world as a relic of imperialism. They know, whether we like it or not, that we have… influence everywhere in the world, and are inclined to view us as imperialists along with the old European models.”2

In this scenario, McGhee attributed a particular role to student protest in West Germany, his former country of duty: “I first encountered the problem of student unrest while serving as United States Ambassador to Germany—in connection with the Free University of Berlin. The three allies are responsible for Berlin. We are the government so we could not ignore it. The Free University became, perhaps, the most troublesome university in the world for a year or two, as a direct result of what happened at Berkeley.”3 Other American officials assigned to the Federal Republic shared McGhee’s assessment. Witnessing dramatic changes in the prevailing images of the United States, they confronted a growing antiwar movement in West Germany, particularly in Berlin. As a former U.S. Information Services (USIS) lecturer recalled his experience of trying to give a

-143-

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The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1- SDS Meets SDS 10
  • Chapter 2- Between Berkeley and Berlin, Frankfurt and San Francisco the Networks and Nexus of Transnational Protest 40
  • Chapter 3- Building the Second Front the Transatlantic Antiwar Alliance 75
  • Chapter 4- Black and Red Panthers 108
  • Chapter 5- The Other Alliance and the Transatlantic Partnership 143
  • Chapter 6- Student Protest and International Relations 194
  • Conclusion 236
  • Notes 247
  • Sources 325
  • Index 329
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