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"A Little Bit Pregnant": Germany About to Send Hi-Tech Jets to Afghanistan

Germany's cabinet voted to send Tornado jets to southern Afghanistan to assist the NATO mission with reconnaissance. DW World summarizes the German press editorials, including:
"A Little Bit Pregnant" was the title of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's commentary on the Tornado decision. "Behind all the efforts to limit the Tornados' task and not let it look like a war mission is the hope of being a little bit pregnant in international politics," the FAZ opined. (...)
The Leipziger Volkszeitung took up the issue of Germany's responsibility as a NATO member. "The Tornado decision is a reaction to pressure from Brussels and Washington, but it's also a necessary consequence of solidarity with the alliance."
Spiegel International also has press review and highlights the common concern about a slippery slope for the Bundeswehr.
In her commentary: "Some Regions Can Only Be Secured By Force", DW World's Nina Werkhaeuser describes the government's decision to propose to the Bundestag to send Tornado jets as "the only responsible decision:"
It would have been impossible to refuse. NATO needs reconnaissance planes in Afghanistan and asked Germany for help. German Tornado jets are among the best of their kind, able to take detailed pictures from very high altitudes, and that's essential for identifying enemy positions on the ground. Taliban forces pose a very real danger to NATO in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Last year, Canada alone lost 36 troops. It would have been very difficult for Germany to justify turning its back on its allies after they had requested assistance.
Unfortunately, Canada is often ignored, when transatlantic relations are discussed. In the past Canadian-German relations were smooth. This has changed: "In an interview with Spiegel International, Canada's Ambassador in Kabul, David Sproule, reflects on a difficult time in relations between Ottawa and Berlin and reiterates his country's wish for Germany and other allies to show greater flexibility in their deployment in Afghanistan." In the last few months there has been considerable outrage against Germany in the Canadian Press.

Germany's NATO allies are likely to continue to demand more German military commitment. DW World: "Defense Minister Jung said he would not rule out sending troops to the relatively more violent south."

ENDNOTE: "The German government plans to build a memorial to the servicemen and women and civilians who have died on duty since the army, the Bundeswehr, was created in 1956." More fatalities are likely...

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Zyme on :

You probably donīt like to hear it - but do you think it is a coincidence that France and Germany are both the two industrial countries with the tightest relations to the arabian world and unwilling to take part in combat operations in afghanistan?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What about Japan's relations to the Arab world? How tight are our relations really? How do you measure this tightness? I got the feeling that you are just looking at popularity among the Arab people. Wrong? The US is unpopular among the Arab peoples, but has pretty good relations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, UAE, Egypt etc. Even significant counter-terrorism cooperation with Sudanese thugs: [url]http://coalitionfordarfur.blogspot.com/2006/02/darfur-our-friend-architect-of.html[/url]

Zyme on :

Japan? The last time I heard they didnīt take part in any offensives at all, did they? ;) Of course it is difficult to measure the tightness of relations. The trust many arabian countries have into France and Germany can be seen at the number of projects in infrastructure and energy sector that companies from the respective countries carry out. Arabian interests have often been defended by both countries in the United Nations, so we have become "lawyers" for many of these countries and their interests. To keep such a responsible assignment and the trust involved, both countries have to remain respectful of arabian sentiments. Thatīs my guess why we are so reserved in Afghanistan. Compare this to the picture of Britain and the US in the arabian world - they can behave as disrespectful now as they like to, since they have no more trust to lose. Ist der Ruf erst mal verspielt..

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Arabian interests have often been defended by both countries in the United Nations, so we have become "lawyers" for many of these countries and their interests." For example? I think Germany usually supports Israel.

Zyme on :

"I think Germany usually supports Israel." Germany certainly used to do so until 1998 I guess :)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Please be a bit more specific: What "Arabian interests" has Germany defended at the United Nations after 1998? Germany has not supported the Iraq war, but that was for our own interests. Germany has not become a "lawyer" for many Arab countries as you claim.

Zyme on :

Hmm I couldnīt find an article by a quick search. One would probably find more about Franceīs role, as we still donīt have a seat in the UN Security Coucil.... But here is something I found in this context about the german sentiments of the conflict in Palestina: http://zeus.zeit.de/text/2006/44/Biermann written in a typically jewish style, highly entertaining :D

2020 on :

NATO has declared Central Asia a sphere of strategic interest and Germany has to contribute to that decision. Not only politically but also militarily and that means deployment of reconnaissance/EW units in the embedded sphere of responsibility. These capabilities don't stop at Afghanistan's borders, they go beyond by nature. That's the reason why all of Afghanistan's neighbors demand a complete withdrawal of NATO forces. Any deployment of state-of-the-art Electronic Warfare capabilities in Central Asia automatically touches our relations with China and Russia. Imagine we had the Chinese Army in central Europe eaves-dropping on our communications?

Fuchur on :

The FAZ commentary exactly sums up my feelings. This whole debate seems absurd to me. Why these desperate attempts to pretend that this is not a fighting mission? I'm aware that that's not a simple issue - there are even people who consider a fighting mission unconstitutional. Fine, so let's have a debate, and address those issues head-on. But - and that's a general problem - that's not what this grand coalition is doing. Instead of addressing the real issues, we get an endless debate about absurd details: In what circumstances these planes might be allowed to shoot, if they should be allowed to shoot at all (bombs are of course totally out of the question), ... and complicated moral questions, like: When a German jet transmits the target information to some, say, British jet, and then this jet drops a bomb on the target - isn't this just the same thing as if the German jet had dropped the bomb right away...? Honestly, some of our representatives have a serious problem with reality...

Don S on :

Yes, Fuchur. I expect a deployment at the end of this debate - governed by an unwieldy set of rules which will likely make the effective deployment of the Tornado's virtually useless. Just like the rules governing the German ground forces now. Nevertheless it will have it's intended effect; Germans like Joerg will be able to claim that Germany is supporting their allies. Well - at least the deserving ones like Nederlands and Canada. Let's maintain a discreet silence about the undeserving allies - the US and UK....

2020 on :

Once the Tornados are in Afghanistan, they could also have a look at Iran. Hehehe...

Don S on :

Some comments from the Canadian press (linked to by Joerg). ""If France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other European powers do not step up to the challenge, then NATO's first 'hot war' will be its last." -- National Post, Dec. 2, 2006" Couldn't have said it better myself. No, wait - I could. If france, Germany, Spain, & Italy don't pony up to meet the challenge this time NATO is dead as anything other than an empty facade. They will still hold meetings in Bruxelles but everyone will know that the continental Europeans do not meet their part of the obligations of the alliance - they do not keep their word. Not that there is much doubt on that front any more. I can think of one exception - Nederlands. Right now the balance of labor is that Brits, Canucks, Aussies, and Yanks fight and die - Germans, French, Italians, and Spanish jabber a lot and take the less dangerous missions. ""Will other NATO countries - Germany, Italy, Spain, France and others - help? Or will the United States and Britain be obliged once again to do more heavy lifting? Or will these countries, their forces already stretched and their politicians frustrated at other NATO countries' passing the buck, conclude they can do nothing more?" -- Globe and Mail, Jan. 19, 2007" And the real question, which is how long the US, Britain, and Canada will put up with shirking by our 'allies'. Or is that 'allies?'. How long SHOULD we put up with it - before cutting bait?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Many Germans believe that the war in Southern Afghanistan is not winable. The Brits lost some 100 years ago. The Russians lost more recently. Several NATO countries have fought there for some five years. Don, if you want Germany to send combat troops, you would need to convince the German public that it is necessary and in our interest to send troops in harms way. So far "solidarity with NATO" has been only argument you and others have expressed for sending German troops to fight in Southern Afghanistan. That is an important argument, but it is not enough. Please, tell me a few more reasons: Why is it necessary and in our interest to fight in Southern Afghanistan? You would need to convince the German public that the Bundeswehr can make a real difference, i.e. that this war is winnable and that their sacrificies are not in vain. All these points are not just important for Germany, but important for every country. I imagine that Canadians and Dutch are asking themselves the same questions. Why don't you provide some answers to these questions rather than just criticizing the lack of solidarity? Solidarity is good, but everybody wants to be convinced that is worth it. If a friend of yours asks for your solidarity for investing in some new start-up, but you are not convinced that the start-up provides a great service/product and has a sound business plan, then your friend has to convince you rather than just talking about his previous support for you. What do you want to achieve in Afghanistan anyway? Are your goals realistic? How long do you want us to fight in Southern Afghanistan? What is the exit strategy? Fighting against various groups in Southern Afghanistan does not significantly reduce the risk of terrorism. Right now, it seems as if the fighting and the massive airstrikes increase alienate many Afghans and increase support for the Taliban and for terrorism. Terrorism is a global. Terrorists live everywhere. Most 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, some of the 9/11 leaders were living in Germany and they got their pilot training in the US rather than in Afghanistan. Please be constructive, and tell me why Germany should send combat troops to southern Afghanistan.

Don S on :

"Don, if you want Germany to send combat troops, you would need to convince the German public that it is necessary and in our interest to send troops in harms way. So far "solidarity with NATO" has been only argument you and others have expressed for sending German troops to fight in Southern Afghanistan. That is an important argument, but it is not enough." Solidarity with NATO is enough of an argument standing by itself. Germany is in an alliance which has lasted 50 years. It has benefitted from that alliance arguably more than any other country has. The fact that most Germans apparently do not believe solidarity with NATO is enough is a clear indication (to me at least) that Germans no longer wish to be part of NATO. If that is shown to be true don't expect NATO to last another decade as a 'real' alliance. It may drag on for years as the modern equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire, which was a hollow facade for the two centuries between the Thirty Years War and the time when Napoleon gave it it's final burial. "Please, tell me a few more reasons: Why is it necessary and in our interest to fight in Southern Afghanistan?|" Please, tell me why Germans in particular need endless explanations of what is obvious to most Yanks, Canadians, and Brits. It is because Germans apparently don't wish to be allied - or at least to bear any of the burdens of alliance. They can (and will be) accomodated in the fullness of time. After both Bush and Merkel are gone of course....

JW-Atlantic Review on :

NATO protected Germany against an existential threat during the Cold War. Is Afghanistan such an existential threat as well? The US has benefited and still does benefit from having huge military bases in Germany. The new US Africa command is going to be in Germany for the first few years. Most of your wounded soldiers from Iraq fly to Germany etc. Thus, the US presence in Europe during the Cold War was [b]not altruistic[/b]. Yes, you protected us, and we are grateful, but it was also in your interest to have troops in Germany during the Cold War with the Soviets. You did not want the Soviets to conquer Europe, because that would have reduced your influence. What crucial national interest do you have in Afghanistan now? What is the common transatlantic interest there? How important is Afghanistan in the war on terrorism? Are we (US, EU) capable of turning Afghanistan in some stable sort-of democratic country that will not provide a safe haven to terrorists? Terrorist groups do not need Afghanistan as a save haven, as I wrote in my last comment. "Please, tell me why Germans in particular need endless explanations of what is obvious to most Yanks, Canadians, and Brits." It is not obvious to all of them. There are doubts in those countries about the wisdom to fight a war, which the Russians and the British have lost in the past. If you think it is obvious, then it should be easy for you to answer the questions in my last comment.

Don S on :

Joerg, you present your side of the case admirably. Lately I have been thinking upon the connections between the foreign [policy of most of the continental European powers and the philosophy of the late Jacques Derrida - aka Deconstructionism. This is the idea that texts have no fixed meaning. Looking at the set of arguments that I regularly see trotted out to justify the lack of action by the German state to support it's allies, the influence of the deconstrictionalists seems obvious. In it's essence the argument is that the motives were wrong, the strategy flawed, and the commitment of the 'fighting powers' (ie the US, UK, Nederlands, Canada) insufficient. Therefore Germany is justified in doing nothing (or as close to nothing as it possibly can). When these arguments are refuted Germans merely ignore the refutation and repeat the litany. They are 'running out the clock' so to speak. I think Germans spend too much time with the French, who have beemn doing this for much longer than you have. They are much smoother - to the point that France has a longstanding reputation for not keeping it's word. A decade ago Germany had a reputation for keeping it's word - but that is gone now and I have no idea how you can retrieve it. Zyme has a fantasy that Germany and Russia can get together and strongarm the nations of Eastern Europe. The major obstacle seems to be Russina mistruct of Germany. The Russians have good reason: [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov-Ribbentrop_Pact]The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1941[/url]. Trusting the Germans almost cost Russia it's existance as a nation. Does anyone really believe that watching the Germans wriggle out of the NATO alliance increases that trust?!!!!

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"When these arguments are refuted Germans merely ignore the refutation and repeat the litany." You have not answered my questions. These questions need to be answered to convince the German public to send more soldiers in harms way, I believe. [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/589-A-Little-Bit-Pregnant-Germany-About-to-Send-Hi-Tech-Jets-to-Afghanistan.html#c6702[/url] Your only answer was "Solidarity with NATO is enough of an argument standing by itself." So, basically your argument is that Germany has to jump whenever the US and other NATO allies say "Jump!" You want a loyal vassal, not an ally. Allies help each other when they are convinced that a strategy can work. A vassal just does what the master says. Having said all that, I do acknowledge that Germany needs to change its policy on Afghanistan and suggest alternatives, if Germany does not want to send troops to the South. Germany needs to explain itself within NATO and prevent the disagreements from getting bigger etc. I have the suspicion that NATO allies want German troops in Southern Afghanistan because they are having a lot of casualties and they want burden-sharing. Fair enough. Though, do they really think that they can win that war in South Afghanistan? Perhaps they don't want to admit that the strategy has failed? Perhaps they want German troops to fight an unwinnable war? Then they can share the blame with Germany once they realize that they have to withdraw. Am I unfair? Perhaps. I just want to understand why they (and you, Don) think that we can prevail in Afghanistan, but I only hear rhetoric rather than a plan. If Germany does not send troops to Southern Afghanistan, then Germany cannot be accused of cutting and running. Germany should not cut and run. That is bad for reputation and deterrence. Therefore Germany has to think twice before committing troops. And this brings us back to the questions that I asked in my previous comment, which you did not answer: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/589-A-Little-Bit-Pregnant-Germany-About-to-Send-Hi-Tech-Jets-to-Afghanistan.html#c6702[/url]

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Don, What would you tell the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan? For me, this "parents' test" determines whether I am in favor of against sending soldiers in harms way.

Don S on :

Joerg, You mistake me. I am extremely skeptical of the value of the German armed forces whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else for this reason: German public opinion and political process will never allow their army the freedom to operate independently enough to be effective. They are tied to 'mothers' apron strings. Despite their lack of effective contribution Germans seem to believe they have a godgiven right to set policy for the entire alliance. For a contribution of 3000 nonfighting troops Germany demands that policy be set in Berlin. Your list of questions and compalints (which must all be met to your personal satisfaction before you can support your allies) - is simly ludicrous. No, I am not looking for a ['vassal' - I am looking for an ally who will accept the risks and rewards of the alliance more or less equally without endless complaining, moaning, kvetching, and insults - without contributing anything liek a fair share of the burden. Germans have no problem with NATO as long as it only protects Germany - the moment any other ally is attacked Germans try to hop off the wagon.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Germans have no problem with NATO as long as it only protects Germany - the moment any other ally is..." Does fighting in Southern Afghanistan protect the US? You talk all the time about burden sharing, but you don't seem to be interested whether this policy actually increaes US security. You don't answer some simple and common sense questions about sending troops in harms way. Those questions of mine are not some special questions for Germany. I believe, those questions are crucial for any nation that has to decide whether it wants to send soldiers in harms way. I have explained that in this comment: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/589-A-Little-Bit-Pregnant-Germany-About-to-Send-Hi-Tech-Jets-to-Afghanistan.html#c6702[/url] "Your list of questions and compalints (which must all be met to your personal satisfaction before you can support your allies) - is simly ludicrous." Why are these questions ludicrous? Human lives have a high value. Therefore I want to know what to tell parents who lost their son or daughter in Afghanistan. Why is that a ludicrous question? If you think you don't owe parents an answer, that is your personal opinon. If you are casual about sending soldiers in harms way, that is your opinion. If the US, Canadians, Dutch expect Germany to fight in Southern Afghanistan, because they believe that this makes sense, then it should be easy for these countries to tell Germany why it makes sense and what they tell the parents of their soldiers. If it is convincing, I will support sending German troops to Southern Afghanistan. I am repeating myself, because you still have not answered all this several comments above and prefer to talk endlessly about lack of sharing the burden.

Don S on :

"Does fighting in Southern Afghanistan protect the US?" Fighting in southern Afghanistan is not optional, Joerg. No matter what Germans say or think. The US was attacked from Afhgahistan and the situation in South Afghanistan proceeds from that. Germany (and France, Italy, Spain, etc) voted to invoke the NATO alliance and support the US. But these countries are not supporting their allies even in Afghanistan. I personally don't give a damn what Germany does or doesn't do at this point, Joerg. Nor what Germans think of don't think. I simply want out of an alliance with several countries whose craven actions do not match their fine words. Do you remember the thread you started about how Afghanistan was slippin into crisis and how every NATO country must commit more now? The US with it's 21,000 and Germay with it's 3000, France's 1000, etc? Well, the US is sending more toorps - sent them a month ago. What is Germany doing? Having an enormous rancorous debate about the terms of engagement of a few recon jets which might be sent - as a sop. Not sending troops to wyhere the actual fighting is occuring. Heaven forbid - that might be dangerous! When you talk of 'human lives' Joerg, what you really mean are German ilves, eh? The lives of Canadians, Yanks, Brits - those are not of concern, really. Are they?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"When you talk of 'human lives' Joerg, what you really mean are German ilves, eh? The lives of Canadians, Yanks, Brits - those are not of concern, really. Are they?" I am concerned about them as well, but you don't seem to care. You don't consider it necessary to have a good rationale to tell the parents of soldiers, who were killed in Afghanistan. Apparently you want revenge for 9/11. And you believe that fighting in Southern Afghanistan will make the US safer, but you don't care to explain why. "Do you remember the thread you started about how Afghanistan was slippin into crisis and how every NATO country must commit more now? The US with it's 21,000 and Germay with it's 3000, France's 1000, etc?" a) I did not limit this to troop numbers and I argued why. You continue to think only in military terms. b) 21,000 US troops is not enough. Compare that to Iraq! 21,000 is what the surge in Iraq is. You are about to have some 170,000 troops in Iraq. If the US would have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, then I would be convinced that the US is serious about winning in Afghanistan. THAT would be a reason to send German troops to Afghanistan.

Don S on :

Joerg, this is a laod of reeking bollocks. The situation in Afghanistan is what it is. Action is what is needed - concrete action. Not bootless debate on whether fighting in southern Afghanistan 'protects' the US or anyone else. If the US (and every other power actually fighting in Afghanistan) were to do what Germany, France, Italy, and are doing? That is endlessly debating whether it;s the right moral thing, the perfect strategy? Good idea. Let's withdraw all allied forces from Southern Afghanistan while we work it out. Shouldn't take more than a year or three. In the meantime the Taliban holds a lynching party for all our (ex) allies in the area - but why should we care? Let's just circle the wagon (and borders) and let the chips fall where they may. Mostly in Europe, that is. Yes Joerg, you Germans will 'blame us' - as you have threatened before to do. In what respect does that differ from the present? You blame the US now, you will blame the US then. You blame the US always, even when we did not start it. But - there is one big difference. You will no longer be able to pretend that the War on Terror is something which you can ignore - something fought by evil Yankees far away which Germany need not fight in. You don't like that 'solution'? Why not take your collective Germanic heads out of your backsides and see the world as it for once?

Markus on :

This is why America is unpopular, Don: Americans assume their government does right and the world has to support them rather than asking questions. Americans are so arrogant that they consider it unnecessary to explain their policy to their allies. Allies are poodles, who just have to follow the US leadership, because America is the leader of the world. God's own country and the home of the brave.

Don S on :

No Markus. What this episode reminds me of was the relationship with Japan circa 1990 or so. A|t the time Akita Morita, who was the chairman of Sony and an ambitious politician wrote a book titled 'The Japan which can say No'. The issues was trade policy, not a military alliance, but the conditions leading to the event resembled those currently in place quite closely. Japan percieved itslef in economic ascendency and the security threats from North Korea and China were much less obvious. Germany is in a similar position psychologically. The pressure from the USSR and Warsaw Pact is off. Germany no longer needs the US or NATO to survive - at least for now. But there is one major difference, I think. Mr. Morita's book was about a Japan with the option to say no. Sometimes Japan did say no, sometimes not. Mostly there was discussion and compromise. If a similar book were written for Germany today I think the title would be subtly different: 'The Germany which can ONLY say No.'. Because basically that is what we have been seeing for a long while now. It has gotten tiresome and old. Try saying 'yes' a few times, and on matters which are not relatively trivial. Or say the Big No and bust the alliance. Your deal....

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