Photo by Simon Q (simononly; Flickr CC)
Obviously western governments are more moral than eastern ones. Or at least the German one is. Germany doesn't torture kids like Syria, and doesn't throw spanners in climate negotiations like China, and doesn't rig elections and intimidate its own people like Russia. And obviously, taking the long view – i.e. the 2000-year view, when Europeans used to get enslaved and raped or sawn in half down the middle starting from the bum – this is a very happy time and place we live in.
But really, that's about it. Germany, which is progressive about all of the above, especially the death by saw, has honed the art of delivering statements condemning human rights abuses in other places. But it also doesn't mind making quite a lot of cash in those places. A shit load of cash, to be exact – €10 billion for 800 state-of-the-art "protester kill" tanks to Saudi Arabia.
I only mention it because this week both of Germany's moral faces showed themselves on one day: Monday. That was the first day of a UN conference on a new Arms Trade Treaty in New York, which has been set up to create some standards for the international arms trade. Standards like: don't sell guns to countries where there is an actual war going on, or where they torture kids. Pretty basic standards. Germany happily joined in this back-slapping human rights party in New York and signed a joint statement with France, Britain, and Sweden about what a great, ground-breaking idea this is. And it is a great, ground-breaking idea.
But also on Monday, a Bundeswehr field officer landed 6500 miles away in Riyadh to begin teaching the Saudi Arabian army all about those tanks they bought. Okay, this officer's time is not being paid by the German government – the tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann is covering his tab. But if Saudi Arabia is not technically a warzone, like Syria, then that's only because its royal family is better at stopping protests getting out of hand. Also the Saudis are doing their best to help out their cousins in Bahrain, where a few protesters are being tortured now.
So while I'm happy and all, living in a country where I'm allowed to write a blog like this, and I won't be boiled in a brazen bull for calling the German government a bunch of hypocritical, avaricious bastards, I don't think I should feel grateful. I just think the UN should come up with some higher standards.