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German NSC Sparks Controversy

This is a guest blog post by our long-time reader and commenter Pat Patterson:

The blog Coming Anarchy has a balanced piece concerning the recent proposal by Chancellor Merkel and the CDU to create a German National Security Council that argues, "It is for these reasons that a seemingly innocuous and in fact logical step like creating a national security council has again sparked debate among citizens and politicians alike." And that, "Over the past few years though with the changes in both the domestic and international security situation, debate has been ongoing about whether Germany needs a National Security Council based more on the American model for example."

Something similar was argued by the SPD in 1998 but very little in the way of change was made to the Bundessicherheitsrat (Federal Security Council) other than advising on the domestic state of affairs of the countries that were purchasing arms from Germany. But the current proposal goes much farther and states:

"In order to guarantee coherent and effective interagency work combining domestic and foreign security, a national security council is necessary as a center for political analysis."

But the immediate opposition came from the SPD's Frank Walter-Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, mainly because the new proposal was similar to the US's National Security Council and thus, "This cannot be the model for us." (Deutsche Welle)

A longer description of the proposal and the introduction of the idea that this new body would also be not only carrying out the instructions of the Chancellory but advising on the ".national interests" of Germany. The International Herald Tribune also mentions that the creation of this body would essentially bypass the Foreign Ministry which obviously would weaken the SPD presence in the government. As well as a quote from Karl-Heinz Kamp of the NATO college,

The fact that the conservatives decided to do without their coalition partners,.is impressive because it would have been watered down. The basic idea is not bad at all.

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Don S on :

"But the immediate opposition came from the SPD's Frank Walter-Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, mainly because the new proposal was similar to the US's National Security Council and thus, "This cannot be the model for us."" What Walter-Steinmeier actually said was that the NSC ha=d (in his opinion) screwed-up in 2003 and thus "This cannot be the model for us.". The NSC has been around since 1947 - surely Herr Walter-Steinmeier is aware of this, and surely an objective assessment of the NSC would seek to make an assessment based upon the entire history of the NSC rather than limiting itself to a single year? Perhaps not. And possibly Herr Walter-Steinmeier may even be wrong about 2003. On the other hand he may be perfectly correct. The US has been entangled in an assymetrical alliance (NATO) since 1948, an alliance in which the US has consistently contributed too much and most of the allies have contributed too little. NSC surely consented to the establishment and maintenance of this state of affairs, so perhpas it HAS underperformed after all! Perhaps the US should bin NATO AND NSC all at one go?

Pat Patterson on :

OK, I understand that he was indeed referring to 2003 but I suspect that if that date wasn't a good enough example he would have merely found some other date to denigrate the whole project. Especially since after reading the proposal points outlined in the IHT the German version seems much more than a research and advisory council as the American version. And i know this might seem conterfactual but the NSC has fulfilled two of its goals asked by several presidents, plus many others, in the eventual destabilization and fall of the USSR and keeping the Iranians off balance and isolated from normalized relations for the better part of almost three decades.

Zyme on :

Really guys, pointing out the NSC as "american" is just the result of a debate for the SPD here. It is to be rejected so to speak. The reason is something totally different: The SPD does not hold the chancellery and it cannot really assume to take it over anytime soon. Instead it is bound to get the foreign ministry at best in a german national government in the forseeable future. Creating a NSC would draw a lot of power from the foreign ministry to the benefit of the chancellery. The SPD just wants to defend its power, that´s it.

Joe Noory on :

Frank Walter-Steinmeier was also the guy who engineered Gerhard Schröder's feeble and servile relationship with Putin. If it weren't for "power sharing" doofiness, he should have been sacked. If the Kanzlerin is to have a foreign policy, she should at least not have a mole for her political opponent's in the position.

Zyme on :

Governing in a coalition means power sharing, making compromises. Schroeder pushed his luck and in the end left national politics for a price - being succeeded by Steinmeier was part of it. Personally I don´t mind Steinmeier at all, most of his politics seem quite reasonable to me. It is the dubious wave-in-the-air and soft-populist Merkel that I would not want to continue beyond 2009. Why is it that you always get upset about our relationship with Russia? Really is there nothing more important for you to be angry about?

franchie on :

Why is it that you always get upset about our relationship with Russia? Really is there nothing more important for you to be angry about? they don't want us as united states of Europe, less battlefields to sell arms and jobs for the middleclasseds of America though, they should look at what's going on in South America and on the Pacifics coasts aiuto, who's big arms are coming and smash me again :lol:

Joe Noory on :

But the EU IS becoming a United States of Europe, and the approach to Russia is one of giving tacit license to a genuiniely cretinous form of expansion with not even the usual "concerned" press releases. They sense it, and understand it. They see a pushover that can't define it's actual interests and policies, and realize how easy it it to take advantage of it. Even as a energy seller-buyer relationship, the buyers are barely exerting any of their leverage to create equal dependency or even convince the Russians that creating instability on their borders won't have an economic impact. 450 million people are stuck with their fate hitched to a confused creampuff, and that's more likely to invite conflict rather than prevent it. 8% of the world's population, the richest single entity on earth, deciding that it has little or no real responsibility for stability in the world, except as an occasional mediator, and an entity made to appear friendly and benign to it's own population... This isn't a case of anyone stepping up to a role in the world, it's an entity putting a fence around it to recuse itself of any role in keeping the world stable. It's "lifestyle Europe" not wanting to know what's going down on the otherside of the fence around Club Med. The population inside wanting a nirvanna of world peace and bliss, with no interest in the means by which anything positive in the world is advanced. It's comedy that could lead to tragedy.

Zyme on :

" 8% of the world's population, the richest single entity on earth, deciding that it has little or no real responsibility for stability in the world, except as an occasional mediator, and an entity made to appear friendly and benign to it's own population... " Well it won´t remain that way. Currently it certainly looks like this - mainly because the EU integration is demanding our attention. We are occupied with interior affairs so to speak. For the EU´s role in the 21st century you will have to wait until the Treaty of Lisbon is in effect for 5 years at least. Generally one will have to wait till Brussels has taken over more critical parts of sovereignty. Since our eurocrats are not accountable towards the electorate they will surely be tempted to behave more risky than our current leaders do. What happens then is totally unpredictable and depends heavily on the individual leaders. Given the direction of the Lisbon-Treaty it isn´t entirely unrealistic to assume that we will pursue our interests more strictly then (probably not against our partner to the East, rather against our former patron to the West). The efforts towards a common army point out the same. And while London and Paris have not been very hestitant to using the military for purposes in the last decades, Germany was (for obvious reasons). Covered by the european flag and freed of historical burdens we no longer are. So I would not count on the EU remaining the peaceful advisor on the world stage.

Joe Noory on :

What do you want to bet that one form of limbo or another such as we've seen for the past 8 years will be the seemingly acceptable and comfortable preferred option? Public sentiment has effectively brough integration to a halt for far less mortally risky and frightening reasons, so one possibility is that at best we might have a strategic union within a union formed by the EU-3, and will have to deal with a need to constantly form coalitions within and with the other 24 states to do anything. It will resemble the middle ages where monarchs had to play off dukes and regional tribe-like leaders off on one another to execute policy or assemble an army. It will hardly be a national arrangement, and will test the notion that transnational model will somehow make serious bileteralism history. It would also make forming a coalition with the EU impossible. That should give them a convenient way to opt-out of any sort of commitment, but also put them in a position of passivity. Talk about being "unmarriageable."

Zyme on :

It indeed has similarities with a medieval empire. You have a political leadership in every member country, struggling for influence and positions at the central court. Maybe we cannot fully escape our history in this regard :) Only time will tell - as I said, it is totally unpredictable. France around the Mediterranean and Germany in Eastern Europe will be able to project their ideas in Europe. Former colonial powers will use the EU to project their politics in their former empires. So the furthering of the EU will probably be a grand bargain for them.

Zyme on :

"Public sentiment has effectively brough integration to a halt for far less mortally risky and frightening reasons" Far from it. Public sentiment in some countries brought referendums on the European Constitution down. The lesson our leadership learned is not to ask the people anymore. So these sentiments will play little role.

Joe Noory on :

Then the question will be: "what makes THEM so special?"

Zyme on :

Them? Our politicians?

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