To which one might reply that it’s a good thing Franklin Roosevelt took a different view of Britain’s military chances during the Lend-Lease debate of 1941. Or that Harry Truman didn’t give up on West Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948.

How Germany chooses to remember its past has always been crucial to Europe’s future. Modern Germany is the product of not one but two wars: World War II, in which defeat gave the Germans their democracy; and the Cold War, in which victory gave the Germans their unity. Yet Berlin’s foreign policy is now ruled by the cliché that force is neither the answer nor even part of the answer, whatever the question. This, from a country that is still defended by 50,000 American troops stationed in Germany at an annual cost of some $8 billion.

So it’s dismaying, to say the least, to watch Ms. Merkel demonstrate how little she understands of her own history. “Look, I grew up in [East Germany],” she said during a question-and-answer session after her speech. “As a 7-year-old child I saw the Wall being erected.” She went on to explain that it was reasonable for the West not to respond militarily to the building of the Berlin Wall, even as it consigned her and millions of Germans to another 28 years of tyranny. “And I don’t actually mind,” she added. “Things take long but I’m 100% convinced that our principles will in the end prevail.”