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Germany plays catch-up after being on sidelines of NATO's Libya campaign

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Even former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who presided over German unification in the 1990s, weighed in today with a strikingly critical assessment of a German drift from its former “dependable” role.

“Germany’s hasn’t been a reliable power for several years – neither domestically nor abroad,” Mr. Kohl told the prestigious journal Internationale Politik, “I have to ask myself, where does Germany actually stand today and where does it want to go?”

The remarks were a sizable rebuke to Chancellor Angela Merkel, described this week by Forbes as the world’s most powerful woman.

German misstep?

The March 11 UN Security Council vote on Libya was an 11th-hour initiative by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose moves are considered by the studious Ms. Merkel to be too often erratic and cavalier.

In New York, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle argued a classic German pacifist line, that the no-fly zone was a bad idea, messy, an over-step with unforeseen consequences that would harm civilians.

Still, many in the German foreign policy establishment rebelled: "The decision is a serious mistake of historic dimensions, with inevitable repercussions," said former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe.

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