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Global issue 20

the Soviet Union that ended in utter decimation of both land and people. It is barely necessary to point out just how untrue and contemptible a view this is. Notwithstanding the justification for any of the aforementioned campaigns in the Balkans or the Hindu Kush, Gauck’s sentiment certainly has, to coin a phrase, fallen victim to the soundbite press. In reality, the President had already clarified that “in the fight for human rights, or the survival of innocent peoples, it is sometimes necessary to reach for weapons… as a last resort, it is also important not to dismiss military means on principle”. There is a recognition, in other words, that the foreign-policy conversation does not need to be solely carried out between pacifists and warmongers. Equally, and crucially, there is no argument for a universal or blanket military policy. Rather, it is preferable to decide such matters on a case-by-case basis, all the more because it necessitates a fresh reappraisal of ethical and moral convictions. Such a debate must include the possibility of refusing participation both on the grounds of such convictions and in opposition to an international political consensus. To take the most salient of these cases: the nature of the fight against Taliban insurgency in Kunduz and Feyzabad – the provinces in which the German component of the International Security Assistance Force campaign is focused – has been by far the most difficult mission and added further complexities to the discussion. The initial force sent to Afghanistan was in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington. And while the term ‘solidarity commitment’ is not euphemistic, it was, as Kosovo had been, an opportunity to aid an oppressed society as well as a defence of shared values (not just European and American) in the face of fanaticism. After the lengthy debate over legitimacy informed by the weight of a historical context, the questions over what right there is for Germany to defend these values on foreign soil against forces such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda are very much the same as they are for the USA or the UK. In addition to moral and ethical choices, it presented a legal challenge as the German constitution generally prohibits anything other than purely defensive action. What was finally settled upon as ‘mutual defence’ was a distinction that almost cost then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder his job. The German constitution generally prohibits anything other than purely defensive action Today, many countries have ended their combat operations in Afghanistan and the major proponents – the USA, UK and Germany – are following suit, yet it has long been clear that the task is not complete. Indeed, the task may never, as such, be complete, but the attrition inflicted by the Taliban has been worse, and certainly more long term, than any Western political mandate is willing to sustain. The nature of combat itself has changed, as radically perhaps as World War I changed it, with increased reliance on intelligence, technology and special operations, while the need for conventional troops is becoming less and less. Economic support and redevelopment aid has to be provided concurrently to the societies affected, or any military gains will soon be lost. This is likely to be as great a challenge into the future – if and where humanitarian or military intervention and aid can be agreed upon, the exertion of influence Arena Politics It is sometimes necessary to reach for weapons: Joachim Gauck must be backed by a sincere pledge to lift societies from destruction and poverty. It is clear that modern Germany is well able to rise above any historical precedent attached to it, both economically and militarily. The ending of guilt and shame over Nazi crimes is not to exonerate without consequence, let alone to forget. It is precisely the opposite – an appreciation of the past to ensure such terrible events do not occur again. German troops abroad Numbers of German troops on major missions abroad, totalling 2,891 soldiers: ■■ Afghanistan (ISAF) – 2,384 troops fighting Taliban insurrgency. Troop numbers have already been massively reduced from the 2010 mandate maximum of 5,350 ■■ Kosovo (KFOR) – 690 strong, NATO-led, peacekeeping force, reduced from 8,500 at the outset of the mission in 1998 ■■ Horn of Africa (Atalanta) – 296 naval troops providing protection for shipping lanes and anti-piracy measures in the waters off Somalia ■■ Turkey (Active Fence) – 249 troops as part of NATO’s patriot missile defence system designed to protect Turkey against Syrian missiles ■■ Lebanon (UNIFIL) – Following the 2006 hostilities, 128 troops in a naval operation in support of the UN’s peacekeeping mission Source: Bundeswehr, 1 December 2014 www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 45 © Press and Information Office of the Federal Government


Global issue 20
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