Troops Must Learn “How to Kill”


Nato is failing in Afghanistan. The nation is experiencing the worst wave of violence since nato troops ousted the Taliban in 2001. Reconstruction progress has stalled. The Taliban is gaining strength and the opium drug trade is reaping more profits today than it did before the United States invaded.

Up against these challenges, nato is looking to Germany to step up and begin shouldering more responsibility.

The southern part of Afghanistan, which sees the fiercest fighting, is patrolled by U.S., Canadian, Dutch and British forces, while the northern, more peaceful region is watched by German troops. German deployment to the north means Germany loses fewer soldiers in combat than other nations. As 2006 wound down, the Afghanistan operation had killed 45 Canadians, 43 Britons and 357 Americans, but only 18 Germans. This gap between German casualties and those of other nations is prompting nato members to call for Germany to beef up its contribution, which so far has been limited to non-combat roles. One U.S. official expressed it this way: “The Germans have to learn how to kill” (Spiegel Online, Nov. 20, 2006).

It’s an ironic statement. It is true that modern Germany has been skittish about exercising military power for fear of resurrecting the ghosts of World Wars i and ii. It is because of that very history, the capstones of an even more voluminous history of German militarism, that “The Germans have to learn how to kill” makes the ears tingle. As in Lebanon, however, the international community is pressuring Germany to increase its military contribution and assume more responsibility in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Germans are showing themselves increasingly eager to break free of the shackles those negative associations have placed upon them. As reluctant as the Germans have been to accept combat roles in Afghanistan, their defense ministry has planned for such an eventuality, analyzing battle plans that would deploy 1,000 German troops from the north to the south to aid Germany’s allies.

“The upshot,” wrote Spiegel, “is that Berlin may be entering the final phase of its return to the international stage, one in which German soldiers could soon embark on combat missions where they will shoot and be shot at. The question now is whether Germany is ready—emotionally, politically and militarily—for war” (ibid.).

As the cloak of pacifism that Germany has shrouded itself in since the last world war gives way, the world will see that this emerging global power is indeed ready for war.