Iain Dale has been quick to denounce the German abstention as "shameful" and an act of "cowardice".
The Spectator's Alex Massie has countered that:
Having doubts is not shameful and I don't see why we are supposed to think that Germany should have supported the resolution simply because Britain, France and other countries were doing so.Germany's aloofness when it comes to matters of foreign policy and military action can be extremely frustrating. Take its unwillingness to get fully involved in Afghanistan, despite providing the third largest contingent of NATO troops, as an example. The legacy of the Second World War still looms large in the German psyche and that is somewhat understandable.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but if sovereignty means anything it must permit sovereign, friendly nations to disagree on matters of major international importance. (And if the Germans are bad europeans for preventing a common EU approach doesn't that just mean they're fulfilling the traditional British role? Which in turn means they must, from the eurosceptic position, be the Good Guys in this instance.)
But, whatever one's views about the merits of Germany's perceived pacifism, Massie makes surely the most important point: that countries should be free to make up their own minds and, if they disagree with each other, so be it.
The real problems arise when you try to force these different views through the funnel/sausage machine that is the EU in the hope of a single common position.
At last week's summit, we should remember, it was Germany that blocked EU endorsement of a no-fly zone. This, in the words of the Independent, left France and the UK "isolated" in their call for intervention. This was, of course, nonsense because, as we have seen, it was never going to be the EU that decided on the use of force. The Franco-British defence pact, agreed last year outside the auspices of the EU, was an admission - however small - on the part of France that to get things done militarily, the EU is just too slow, indecisive and unwieldy.
And it was the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that today noted "the tensions in foreign policy between France and Germany are remarkable," adding that the lack of Franco-German consensus was "paralysing the EU".
The Franco-German relationship will always be the most important in the EU (they share a border, a turbulent history and the same currency), but on more and more issues, be it defence or the future of the euro, as France and Germany get up close and personal, the more they start to grate with each other. The FAZ article started by noting that newly appointed French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's first visit to Berlin was cancelled, albeit with the "plausible excuse" that he had to fly to the UN in New York.
Alright, it's only in one area, and hopefully it won't come to the use of force, but if France begins to see the benefits of a flexible approach to European cooperation, sometimes outside the EU, this could prove to be important in breaking down the EU's monolithic approach to many other issues.