The war on terror: from Afghanistan to Iraq – A new German

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 143-162)

“We can’t let the lie win the day, the lie which proclaims that the ter- rorists are fighting for the oppressed people of the world. Bin Laden is no Robin Hood.”340 (Peter Struck)

On the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in New York and Washington, German Chancellor Schröder made a governmental statement at the Bundestag regarding the attacks. Schröder said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve expressed the deep sympathy of the Ger- man people towards the American President. I’ve promised him our uncondi- tional – I stress: unconditional – solidarity.”341 The Bundestag discussed the

situation in a long plenary session on 19 September 2001.342 Schröder de-

scribed how the Americans had freed the Germans from the Nazi yoke and that Germany was eternally grateful for the US for enabling German integra- tion into the West and finally making German re-unification possible. But Schröder said also that German gratefulness, albeit an important and weighty category would not suffice as the sole basis for the ‘existential deci- sions’ that would perhaps have to be made. He made clear that the decisions would be made solely in terms of securing the future viability of Germany in a free world. Yet he referred to UN Resolution 1368 which made a new in- terpretation of the existing international law which could, according to Schröder, now enable firm actions, potentially also military ones, against in- ternational terrorism. Schröder said also that Germany fully supported the UNSC stance as well as the reinterpretation made by the NATO Council, namely, that a terrorist attack against a NATO-member state was in accord- ance with the interpretation of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty as an attack against all NATO partners. Schröder argued that the US had the right to pursue the perpetrators and masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks includ- ing states which provided shelter for terrorist activities. This re- interpretation of the international law exemplified in UN resolution 1368 and the German ‘unconditional responsibility’ he had promised, would also have to be understood in this spirit. Schröder confirmed that Germany was ready for military action if necessary and required but would not venture into any

340 Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/192 (11.10.2001), p.18689. 341 Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/186, (12.9.2001).

kind of adventures. The Chancellor also noted that a fixation solely on mili- tary means was the wrong way to go and that Germany wanted an extensive concept for fighting terrorism, which had to be founded on the grounds of political, cultural and economic co-operation.343

The tone of the plenary session was consensual in the sense that the oppo- sition parties mostly agreed with Schröder’s notion of ‘unlimited solidarity’. Yet there were some differences in how this was interpreted. Politicians on the right were more eager to interpret this as de facto military assistance to the US, whereas those on the left stressed the need for a collective anti- terrorist alliance, which should exhaust economic, political and cultural means and not only military ones. The whole Bundestag, however, had a joint understanding that 9/11 had changed the world and created the need to es- tablish a new kind of security policy as a solid strategic fundament for tack- ling the upcoming challenges of the 21st Century. Many MPs also stressed the

fact that the fight against terrorism was not about the clash of cultures but about a battle of civilization against barbarism. A common understanding emerged within the Bundestag (with the exception of the PDS) that now was the time for Germany to stand by the US, no matter what. Some MPs, such as Angela Merkel (CDU) raised the question of Germany’s future role – whether Germany was capable of becoming a political power besides being an eco- nomic one. The underlying idea behind a new concept of security, which emerged in the discussion, was based on the interplay between civilian and military means in a bipartisan understanding. This occurred even though the need to reassess the Bundeswehr capacities and tasks and to review the freshly introduced budget in terms of defence spending was raised by the opposition.344

The Bundestag discussed the Operation Enduring Freedom and Germa- ny’s role in it three weeks later.345 Chancellor Schröder’s rhetoric had re-

mained much the same. He deemed the American response to the terrorist strikes as ‘necessary’ and ‘justified’. According to Schröder, Germany had to show the kind of solidarity, which did not only pay lip service but was appro- priate to Germany’s responsibility at the international stage. The US and Germany were not fighting a war against another state but against a criminal Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Schröder pointed to the necessity of German solidarity in the actual situation – a necessity which had not only historical and contemporary reasons, but which was also important considering Ger- many’s future position in international politics. Importantly, he stressed that the time of cheque-book diplomacy was over and that it was time for Ger- mans to take international responsibility. According to Schröder, this unmis-

343 Ibid., pp. 18301-5. 344 Ibid., p. 18315; p. 18325.

takably meant the deployment of military force in the defence of freedom and human rights in order to create stability and security.346

Schröder’s speech can also be interpreted as being aimed at shifting the focus in the debate concerning the future orientation of German strategic culture: he argued that the readiness to provide security also via military means was an important confession to Germany’s alliances and partnerships. But not only that – Schröder also said that in order to come to terms with Germany’s greater responsibility for international security, Germany had to develop a new self-understanding in its foreign and security policy. He also argued that accepting international responsibility and simultaneously avoid- ing every immediate risk could not be the guiding principle of these policies. However, Schröder acknowledged the fears in the German citizenry towards anti-terrorist military actions and noted that German civil society was more skeptical than ever towards the deployment of military means against terror- ism. Schröder saw this skepticism as ‘a progress in terms of civilization’, even though it sometimes made it more difficult to argue in favour of the use of military means as a necessity.347

The Chancellor noted that for him personally, the well-justified restraint that existed within German society was always more welcome than any form of ‘Hooray-patriotism’. He pointed to the links between terrorism and the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the peaceful resolution of which needed highest political priority in the current situation. Schröder concluded that the German concept of security was extensive and had already been introduced, and partly also implemented during the conflicts in the Balkans: it consisted not only of material security and social security, but also of legal security. The concept also entailed the ability to put up a fight understood in this context – hence the concept also had a special European quality to it.348 However,

there is no denying that while declaring unlimited solidarity with the US, Schröder remained skeptical concerning the ultimate motives of American politics. Nonetheless, the precariousness of the situation also made it easier to pick up the subject of German international responsibility in the field of military deployments in the domestic political arena.

The argument put forward by the CDU/CSU was that 9/11 had conse- quences but it would be wrong to say that everything had changed as a result. What remained were the values and the respect for human dignity and above all the chance to stand up for them and for freedom and justice stronger than ever before. Germans had to play a leading role in the fight for human rights and against terrorism in the 21st Century. This could be achieved by

finally making Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) a reality and by making the EU a central pole in the Weltinnenpolitik (understood as a new concept of ‘world domestic policy’).AlliancesthatwerebasedonshDUHG

346 Ibid., pp. 18680-4. 347 Ibid.

YDOXHV ZHUH important but the end of the Cold War had not led to value neutrality but was the result of advocating human rights and the values of freedom and democracy. The argument was that the common interests in the fight against terrorism could not lead to an immediate acceptance of Russia into NATO, for instance. The Union acknowledged that the use of military means was indispensable in the fight against terrorism but that it could not be the solution in the long term. 9/11 had blurred the boundaries of internal and external security in the sense that the terrorists had acted from the midst of open societies which posed a new kind of threat. That is why there should be no segregation between internal and external security – “there is only the threat”, as Merkel posited. The threats had changed and that they required new thinking and above all resolute and coherent action: “The mission for Germany in the 21st Century will be to act consistently,

considerately and consequently without compromise.”349

Social Democrats argued that the whole extent of the fight against terror- ism had become more precise since 9/11. A complex and multi-layered strat- egy against terrorism was deemed necessary – a strategy which had to be based on political, economic, financial, cultural and military elements and development aid. As Peter Struck put it: “We need an intellectual-political examination of the kind of thinking, which questions every value based on freedom and democracy. We can’t let the lie win the day, the lie which pro- claims that the terrorists are fighting for the oppressed people of the world. Bin Laden is no Robin Hood.”350

The Greens argued in a similar vein that the answer to terrorism had to be extensive. Military aspects of that answer were currently in spotlight, but a focus on economic and political issues was also needed. In addition, a stronger cultural dialogue was indispensable in the conflict-ridden world. According to Foreign Minister Fischer, the task was no less than devising a draft for a peace policy in the 21st Century. In contrast to the Cold War days

this policy meant establishing an ‘international politics of order’ pitted against international terrorism. This meant creating a world order which did not allow zones without or a complete loss of political order, as was the case in many parts of the world. This point was important not only in the sense of the dangers, which could arise within these zones without order, but even more importantly, in the sense of attempting to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population within these zones. If there was anything about the crea- tion of the new world order everyone could be critical about it was the fact of living in the illusion of a peaceful world. Multilateralism would determine much of the international politics of the 21st Century and that was also an

important consequence of 9/11. Among the objectives of Islamic terrorism was to destroy the state of Israel and that was something the Germans could never allow to happen because of Germany’s historical responsibility towards

349 Ibid., SS18684-8. 350 Ibid., SS18688-90.

Jews and Israelis. Germany would resolutely condemn every act of such ter- rorism against Israel irrespective of its origins – whether instigated by Bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or whomever. Germany was committed to securing the existential right of Israel and its right to secure borders and peace. As a ‘friend of the Israeli people’ Germany was just as committed to the peace process in the Middle East – a process which acknowledged the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. These rights included autonomy and the possible option of a state of their own, but with the caveat of the exis- tential right of Israel as well as taking into account Israeli security interests. Moreover, the central axis of the international politics was moving and Rus- sia would also emerge more strongly on the world stage. This was in the in- terests of Europe but Europe would have to be united in its policies towards Russia unless it wanted to make a severe strategic mistake. A united Europe was one of the powerful poles of the 21st Century, not Great-Britain, France

or Germany individually.351

The PDS argued in defence of its position that it had not resorted to radi- cal pacifism. The PDS was arguably not a pacifistic party even though paci- fists and their principal objection of armed violence were highly appreciated among the party’s ranks: “There are more things between heaven and earth than just pure pacifism and unbound solidarity between the NATO mem- bers.”352

The Bundestag debated the actual German participation in the Operation Enduring Freedom on 8 November and 16 November 2001.353 Chancellor

Schröder argued that Germany had to do more than just show solidarity be- cause the terrorist attacks on 9/11 constituted not only a case against the American way of life but also against the German Basic Law and the values upon which it was built. Schröder said that Germany would meet the Ameri- can requests and send 3,900 troops to be deployed as part of Enduring Free- dom, consisting of reconnaissance, ground and naval units. Schröder stressed that the German deployment was not about participating in the ac- tual bombing or fighting on the ground and that German participation in En- during Freedom should be understood as proof that Germany had grown ready to bear more responsibility internationally. According to the rather confusing formulation of the Chancellor, the German deployment was not about implementing a foreign political strategy; it was about implementing Germany’s own interests and protecting its values. Schröder also made clear that terrorism could not be won solely by using military means, which were an indispensable but only one part of a strategy for international security and peace.354

351 Ibid., SS18690-92. 352 Ibid., SS16895-6.

353 Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/198, (8.11.2001); Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll

14/202, (16.11.2001).

The Chancellor concluded by noting that Germany had participated in military deployments with the international community whenever these de- ployments had been deemed as necessary, objectively possible and justifia- ble, like in the Balkans. He stressed that the decisions to participate militarily had always been accompanied with sustained political, economic and hu- manitarian engagement and that this was also the basis in the German fight against terrorism. The Chancellor argued that the decision to deploy the Bundeswehr in the fight against terrorism was definitely ‘a turning point’ be- cause it was the first time that the international situation and terrorism forced Germans to deploy the armed forces in a military operation outside the Alliance territory.355 . Schröder had to be meticulous in navigating be-

tween the pledges made to the US and the domestic political terrain. Ulti- mately, he was forced to tie his policy on Afghanistan to a vote of confidence in November 2001, because of growing concerns among the governing par- ties, especially the Greens, regarding US actions in Afghanistan. Schröder won the vote but only narrowly – with the opposition parties CDU/CSU and FDP voting against it, even though they had principally supported the US policy on Afghanistan from the start.356 However, at the SPD party confer-

ence in Nuremberg a few days after the debate, Schröder was re-elected as party chair with a record majority of more than 88% of the delegates.357

Social Democrats argued that the question about German military de- ployment was more important than just dispatching soldiers. Germany’s reli- ability was at stake and that if Germany would say no to Enduring Freedom, it would have to sheer itself off from the international anti-terrorism coali- tion, which in turn would lead to isolation.358 The war in Afghanistan was

neither a traditional war between states nor a war of aggression but an at- tempt to destroy terrorist networks and prevent attacks such as that of 9/11 altogether.359 The argument was that it had always been an essential re-

quirement for both the SPD and the Greens that international law be upheld in the military operations as well as sanctioned by the UN. The problematic legal status of the Kosovo mission made its own mark on the discussion and certainly did not make a decision one way or the other any easier, as long as the international law was not evolving. As long as that was the case, the SPD argued, the UNSC should remain the authority on the issue. Germany was right to show solidarity to the Americans, which did not have to mean an un- conditional support of US military strategy: “A culture of doubt has to have

355 Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/202, pp. 19856-8.

356 ,Schröder besteht die Machtprobe‘, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17.10.2010. Available at:


357 ,Schröder mit über 88% gewähltµ, Schwäbische Zeitung, 20.11.2011. Available at:


358 Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/202, pp.19862-5. 359 Ibid., pp.19871-3.

some room, and this has to pertain to the discussion on the military deploy- ment as well.”360

The Greens had not shaken their deep skepticism towards all things mili- tary, but the sentiment within the party was that a clear majority would vote for Bundeswehr deployment in Afghanistan. The Greens referred to Chancel- lor Schröder’s clarification regarding the Bundeswehr mandate, namely, that Germany would neither deploy combat troops on the ground nor participate in the bombing campaign against Taliban.361 Foreign Minister Fischer re-

ferred to German history and argued that even though war had brought im- mense suffering and destruction to Germany, it was because of the domestic oppression and the dictatorship that had trampled human rights which made the outbreak of World War II possible in the first place. That is why the pre- sent-day Germany had the responsibility to act not only based on the lesson ‘never again war’ but to oppose violence wherever it threatened the most basic elements of peaceful coexistence. Fischer acknowledged that war was despicable and that he understood the emotions considering the unavoidable civilian casualties that accompanied every war. Yet he reminded everyone that it wasn’t America who had attacked but America was the one which was under attack and argued that even though it was dreadful, there was some- thing such as ‘pacifistic real-political consequence’. Hence, the consequence was to act militarily, even though the background of the Greens stemmed from the lesson ‘never again war’. If Germans had something to criticize about themselves, then it was the fact that during the last decade, Germany

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 143-162)