A Force for the Future

Post-World War II guilt is history. Germany has unveiled a new “white paper” on defense that will unshackle its military.
From the January 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

Germany finally threw away all semblance of post-World War ii remorse with the release of its latest “white paper” on defense. The new policy document removes restrictions on the German military’s foreign and domestic deployment.

“We have gone from a defense army to the army of unity to an army in action,” said Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung when he presented the document on Oct. 25, 2006.

The policy paper outlines the future of the Bundeswehr and defines the foundation of German security policy domestically and internationally.

It is the first of its kind since the federal government released a similar document in 1994. That paper allowed for the German military to be used in foreign theaters. The German government wasted no time implementing it: Within a few years, the world saw the Bundeswehr deploy in the Balkans, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and the Congo.

The new white paper takes the recent history of the Bundeswehr into account and delineates a new robust international role for the German military. It calls for an expansion of the “constitutional framework for the deployment of the armed forces.”

“The national level of ambition is to deploy up to 14,000 service men and women at any one time, distributed over as many as five areas of operations,” the paper states.

This restructuring will facilitate the international peacekeeping role Germany has assumed. Clearly the government expects to keep receiving requests to help resolve international crises—especially as anti-American nations grow more cautious of perceived U.S. imperialism and as the overstretched United States encourages Europe to grow its military.

The white paper opens the opportunity for German troops to deploy virtually anywhere in the world by defining vital German “interests.” These interests include free, unhindered access to world markets and raw materials, and control of any regional crises that could negatively affect Germany’s national security. The paper allows Germany to defend these interests not only through diplomatic and economic means, but also “policing measures as well as military means and, where called for, also armed operations.”

As one of the world’s largest exporters in an economically intertwined world, it wouldn’t be hard for Germany to feel threatened in any of its many markets that span the globe. And as it proved in Africa during World War ii, it is quite willing to use armed deployments to safeguard its markets.

Just as it expands the German military’s role internationally, the paper also calls for removing the last shackle of post-war guilt: amending the constitution to allow for Germany’s military to deploy domestically. This constitutional safeguard was created to prevent a politician from using the military to force the government into submission, as Hitler managed to do.

However, faced with the growing terrorist threat, Germany’s “foreign and domestic security can no longer be separated,” said Mr. Jung. In the words of the white paper, “[T]he need for protection of the population and of the infrastructure has increased in importance ….”

If the grand coalition that encompasses all sides of Germany’s political spectrum can adopt a changed constitution, a German government of any composition could amend the constitution in the future, especially with the threat of terrorism bearing down.

The terrorism threat provides a perfect pretext for amending the constitution: The revision would not only satisfy government and military desires, but also salve public fears of Islamist extremism, which have continued to be stoked by the Catholic Church.

It is inevitable that Germany will amend its constitution. The adoption of the white paper shows Germany is quickly moving in that direction.

German leadership is known for taking advantage of crises to further its goals. The timing of this new military policy is an example.

Germany will chair both the European Union and the Group of Eight in 2007, giving the government tremendous international prestige. Mr. Jung said the white paper’s emphasis on sending troops around the world had added significance as Germany prepares to enter its new roles.

The world can expect a similar result with this white paper as did the 1994 paper: a dramatic increase in Germany’s military deployment around the world.