Page 46

Global issue 20

Arena Politics deployment of German troops, even on peacekeeping missions. Ian Farr, a retired history lecturer from the UK’s University of East Anglia, says: “It remains to Germany’s credit that – its economic prominence vis-à-vis other major European nations notwithstanding – it still adopts a cautious stance when it comes to questions of intervention in foreign arenas.” He continues: “This confounds the exaggerated fears of those who, at the time of unification, were inclined to think that a stronger and larger Germany would inevitably be a source of instability in Europe.” Most recently, the discussion over the international uses of the Bundeswehr (the German armed forces) has been ignited by Germany’s incumbent President, Joachim Gauck. As President, he occupies a ceremonial role, but Gauck’s political engagement has been more active and direct, and also more ideologically focused, than most. This places him very much in opposition to chancellor Angela Merkel, who opposed his appointment, and whose politics increasingly confuse sombre and rational calculation with inaction and hesitation. In particular, an interview he gave to Deutschlandfunk Radio, advocating a greater role of military responsibility among the international community, has caused quite a stir – on the one hand, he called for a more open and public discussion about the place of the Bundeswehr in society, on the other, a more concerted confrontation and engagement with human rights violators. In this regard, Germany should consider leaving the hesitation of past decades behind. His central point – “it is sometimes necessary to reach for weapons” – has been as often quoted as criticised. Many seized on Gauck’s weapons quote in particular, as the herald of a new era of militarised capitalism for the country. German troops are currently deployed with NATO in Kosovo (having arrived in 1999 – Germany’s first peacekeeping mission), in Afghanistan (since 2001) and with Operation Atalanta, the international effort against piracy at the Horn of Africa, as well as a number of smaller commitments. The potential for future interventionist action in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or Central and West Africa is often looked upon as expansionist or as an easy extension of American interests. By the same token, successive German governments chose to exclude Germany from the 2003 liberation of Iraq and the NATO-led airstrikes against the Gaddafi regime in Libya in 2011, both earning counter-criticism of political dithering and breaking ranks. Ian Farr says: “In some respects, German policy-makers are in a no-win situation: intervene more openly and militarily, and reminders of past German transgressions are all too easily levelled; but to stand back and exercise due reticence leads to accusations that Germany should do more.” It remains to Germany’s credit that it still adopts a cautious stance when it comes to questions of intervention in foreign arenas There are certainly those elements of international criticism that refuse to move beyond the maxims of the past – or actively seek a return to them – and where, for every policy adopted, the analogy nearest to hand remains National Socialism. This is often built on the insinuation, sometimes even the assertion, that any act of German foreign policy must, in fact, be one of resurgent imperialism, reminiscent of the Second or Third Reich. Interestingly, the comparison is heard from both left and right – on the one hand, from voices like the UK’s conservative Daily Mail; on the other, from the Trotskyist far left and publications associated with the International Committee of the Fourth International. Both reported that even the consideration of a German peacekeeping mission in Ukraine (which still remains no more than a proposal) was somehow a repeat of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi campaign against A German Soldier stands guard in Kundus, Afghanistan © IPetty Officer First Class Ryan Tabios, ISAF HQ Public Affairs 44 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
To see the actual publication please follow the link above