Constanze Stelzenmüller is a senior trans-Atlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. Over at Der Spiegel, she puts together a plan of action to bring about what I have been in favor of for years; Germany needs to take her place at the table of mature nations. She belong there - but can't seem to stop sucking her thumb.
Read the whole thing - here are a few of the points where she the just nails the challenge.
(German) ... security policy ... substitutes "a tactical policy dictated by caveats instead of a strategic logic dictated by goals." All too often, decision-making and accountability are shunted out of the policymaking sphere and dumped on the military leadership. This is politics fleeing from itself-the very opposite of responsibility. And it inevitably leads to excessive burdens being placed on military commanders.
Hence my first recommendation: Shaping security policy is the sovereign duty of the political leadership. It requires conceptual vigor, a willingness to lead, a sense of responsibility and courage.
Multilateralism, meanwhile, is a method, not a strategy. Nor is it enough to derive a raison d'état from a conviction of moral superiority based on Germany's recognition of its responsibility for two world wars and the Holocaust. That is narcissism, not strategy. Such hubris (not to say moral megalomania) alienates even Germany's most forgiving friends and produces distorted views of reality. How else could a German government attempt to establish its claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council not on bank transfers or troop deployments but on the fact that it said no to the Iraq war? The persistent denial of the dangers facing German troops in northern Afghanistan, founded on the conviction that Germany is on the side of the angels (due, among other things, to its refusal to support the Iraq war) is just one more instance of these distorted perceptions.
... policy notions that Germany sets store by, such as the "comprehensive approach," will never be taken seriously if our combat troops are not. Still, the question of our value as an ally is by no means just a military one. Obviously, it is a problem for our allies when we are unable or unwilling (or both) to supply military clout to joint operations. And when we do decide to contribute military force, we place it under geographical and legal caveats which substantially restrict its efficacy. Lastly, the handicaps we so compulsively impose on ourselves make us politically vulnerable to the demands our allies make.
Still, the core problem of our value as an ally is one of political will. Among NATO members the Germans are seen as passive, reactive, and inclined to block or put a brake on things: in short, the Germans are the new French.
As a major civilian power Germany has a lot of experience to offer. And yet it exhibits an odd inability to act on lessons learned. In 1995, Berlin first promised police and judges for Rwanda, then for Bosnia, later for Kosovo, and then again for Afghanistan; Today, Germany has a Center for International Peace Operations (ZiF) which prepares civilian professionals for international peace operations, and an "action plan" for civilian crisis prevention. Nevertheless, in all these operations including the current one in Afghanistan, Germany struggles to fulfil the promises made to its allies and partners; And each time we have blamed these shortcomings on our federal structures. (Police or other civilian personnel are mainly provided by the German Länder; And when they fail to do so, the federal government's powers of persuasion or coercion are practically nonexistent.) Why are we not specifically training police for international deployments or administrators and trainers for nation-building projects? And if we can't, why do we keep promising them?
All this is harmless compared to the problems facing the Bundeswehr. The military transformation initiated 10 years ago is now in a state of paralysis. Out of 253,000 soldiers only four battalions are ready for combat operations. The military leadership is holding on to compulsory military service because they see it as the cheapest way to attract qualified personnel; In reality it is merely tying up valuable resources. Rigid rules of engagement, inadequate equipment, and above all a public debate that denies operational realities: All this has created a deep sense of frustration in the armed forces, whose achievements have been extraordinary and who deserve better.Constanze, you need a tour as German Defense Minister.