The NYT columnist, who was Berlin bureau chief from 1998 to 2001 and is currently in Afghanistan, thinks it is "Time for the Bundesmacht" (HT: David and Don):
Remember the Wehrmacht? It was a formidable fighting force. The modern German army, the Bundeswehr, is also very effective. Thing is, it is reluctant to fight or even place itself in danger.Well, reluctance to fight is good. It prevents us from getting into quagmires and causing huge death tolls. Though, this German reluctance is causing a lack of solidarity with NATO allies.
NATO is at war here. That, however, is a fact Europeans are reluctant to accept, just as the link between slaughter in Madrid, London or Amsterdam and the Afghan-Pakistani terror nexus seems unconvincing to many Europeans floating on an Iraq-comforted wave of moral smugness.
Three points on the above quote:
(1) What terrorist attack took place in Amstersdam?
(2) Yes, I am skeptical about a link between Afghanistan and terrorism in Europe. A NATO success in Afghanistan will not reduce the terrorist threat in Europe significantly. Europeans worry about home-grown terrorism and about Pakistan, where Al Qaeda leaders have found a safe haven, which IMHO calls into question the Afghanistan mission. Sure, Cohen mentions Pakistan as well in the above quote, but he is calling for German troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, not Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Now, that would be something! He could join Barack Obama in getting serious on Pakistan...
(3) "Iraq-comforted wave of moral smugness" is a cool phrase, but I think many Americans tend to exaggerate the spread of this sentiment, while I might underestimate the smugness of my fellow citizens. Everybody is biased...
Cohen's op-ed has another cool phrase, which is from Julian Lindley-French, a military expert at the Netherlands Defense Academy:
A lot of the German troops are little more than heavily armed traffic cops.
So the Bundeswehr is not as effective as Cohen claimed in the beginning of his op-ed? Hm... Cohen received 114 comments and counting on his blog regarding this op-ed. Wow.