Be­yond Ger­man paci­fism

‘Never again’ not­with­stand­ing, seek­ing peace of­ten means con­fronting evil

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Dan Ne­grea Dan Ne­grea is a New York pri­vate eq­uity in­vestor.

“The Ger­mans are ei­ther at your feet or at your throat,” wrote the Ro­man his­to­rian Tac­i­tus 2,000 years ago. Sadly, that ax­iom is not just an­cient history. In the last cen­tury, Ger­many started two world wars, caused the death and suf­fer­ing of tens of mil­lions, and was re­spon­si­ble for the un­speak­able hor­ror of the Holo­caust. Now Ger­many re­fuses to build a mil­i­tary com­men­su­rate with its eco­nomic power and is even re­luc­tant to use the mil­i­tary that it has. Its po­lit­i­cal lead­ers must ad­dress these se­ri­ous short­com­ings and, even more im­por­tantly, lead their coun­try out of its per­va­sive paci­fist cul­ture.

NATO mem­ber coun­tries agreed to spend 2 per­cent of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense. In 2016, Amer­ica spent 3.6 per­cent and the Euro­pean Union 1.4 per­cent. Ger­many’s 1.2 per­cent spend­ing fell be­low the al­ready-low Euro­pean av­er­age. In con­trast, Rus­sia spent 5 per­cent, France 1.8 per­cent, and Poland, the United King­dom and Es­to­nia 2 per­cent each. NATO is now con­fronted by a newly ag­gres­sive Rus­sia. But Ger­many, Europe’s strong­est econ­omy, most pop­u­lous coun­try and its po­lit­i­cal leader, is re­ly­ing on Amer­ica to de­fend its home­land.

Ger­man un­der­spend­ing on de­fense has se­ri­ous con­se­quences. De­fense Min­is­ter Ur­sula von der Leyen ad­mit­ted in 2014 that equip­ment short­ages were so se­ri­ous that her coun­try could not meet all of its NATO com­mit­ments. Lt. Gen. Bruno Kas­dorf, in­spec­tor of the Army, warned in 2015 that the Ger­man armed forces, the Bun­deswehr, are 30 per­cent un­der­equipped. And ac­cord­ing to a con­fi­den­tial re­port leaked in Fe­bru­ary 2015, Ger­many’s NATO task force would have faced se­ri­ous prob­lems if called to in­ter­vene abroad: It was short 40 per­cent of its P8 pis­tols, 30 per­cent of its MG 3 ma­chine guns, and 76 per­cent of its night vi­sion gear.

Equip­ment main­te­nance is also poor and it af­fects pre­pared­ness. Last year, the Bun­deswehr had ready for ac­tion only half of its Leop­ard 2 bat­tle tanks, a fifth of its NH90 trans­port he­li­copters, and a third of its Eurofighter jets.

Ger­many’s paci­fist cul­ture shapes not just mil­i­tary spend­ing but also the use of the armed forces. Ger­many’s post­war con­sti­tu­tion re­stricts the use of the Bun­deswehr to the de­fense of the home­land, but later in­ter­pre­ta­tions per­mit its use abroad as part of a mul­ti­lat­eral force. Since 1992, Ger­many has been in­volved in 60 U.N. and NATO hu­man­i­tar­ian or peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions in Europe, Africa and Asia. But al­most all of these mis­sions in­volved just con­tribut­ing equip­ment and a small num­ber of troops.

The Bun­deswehr’s only com­bat mis­sions have been in Kosovo and Afghanistan. When Ger­many re-estab­lished its mil­i­tary in 1955 af­ter the pro­found national trauma of World War II, it vowed that “never again” will it start wars. But faced with eth­nic cleansing in the for­mer Yu­goslavia, Ger­many ad­justed this doc­trine to “never again Auschwitz,” mean­ing that it can­not re­main un­in­volved when atroc­i­ties are com­mit­ted. In their first com­bat role since World War II, Ger­man troops fought in the 1990s as part of the NATO-led in­ter­ven­tions in Bos­nia and Kosovo. They have also been fight­ing in Afghanistan af­ter Amer­ica in­voked NATO’s Ar­ti­cle 5 on col­lec­tive de­fense fol­low­ing Septem­ber 11.

This is ad­mirable, but not enough. The Ger­man peo­ple have ac­cepted their col­lec­tive guilt for the hor­rors of Nazi Ger­many, have made repa­ra­tions, and have built a thor­oughly demo­cratic state.

As a re­sult, they are no longer feared by their neigh­bors. The feel­ings of those neigh­bors were per­fectly ex­pressed last year by for­mer Pol­ish De­fense Min­is­ter Janusz Onyszkiewicz: “For cen­turies, our main worry in Poland was a very strong Ger­man army. To­day, we’re se­ri­ously wor­ried about Ger­man armed forces that are too weak.”

Seventy years af­ter the end of World War II, Ger­many must not be­come a larger ver­sion of Switzer­land. The Bun­deswehr’s cur­rent in­volve­ment in Afghanistan, while help­ful, in­volves too few troops, is limited to the qui­eter north­ern part of the coun­try, and con­sists mostly of na­tion-build­ing, po­lice work and mil­i­tary train­ing. And its cur­rent in­volve­ment in the fight against ISIS in Syria is re­stricted to pro­vid­ing weapons and train­ing to the Kurds.

Ger­many’s po­lit­i­cal class needs to find the courage to in­crease mil­i­tary spend­ing to at least 2 per­cent. De­fense Min­is­ter von der Leyen, a ris­ing start in the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, is in fa­vor. So is CDU Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, al­beit over time. But her chief elec­toral ri­val in this year’s elec­tions, So­cial Demo­crat Martin Schulz, plans to aban­don the 2 per­cent goal if elected. “I don’t think this spi­ral­ing arms buildup makes sense,” he said.

Ger­many’s politi­cians must also con­vince their fel­low cit­i­zens that love of peace of­ten means con­fronting evil with mil­i­tary force. Ap­pease­ment does not pre­vent wars, only post­pones them, as proved by Neville Cham­ber­lain’s shame­ful Mu­nich agree­ment in 1938 and Barack Obama’s Syria red line dis­grace in 2013.

From across time, Otto von Bis­marck, the “Iron Chan­cel­lor” who uni­fied Ger­many in the 1800s, of­fers wise ad­vice. He warned his coun­try­men to ex­pect “con­flicts that we could not avoid, even though we do not seek them.” And he ad­vo­cated a strong mil­i­tary to face them be­cause “a con­quer­ing army on the bor­der will not be stopped by elo­quence.”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS

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