Towards a Normalisation of German Security and Defence Policy: German Participation in International Military Operations

This paper investigates the transition of German foreign policy towards active participation in military operations abroad. It is argued here that exaplanations of German policy change should focus on the processes of deliberation and justification in the national public sphere.

ARENA Working Paper 10/2002 (html)

Marianne Takle

In a speech to the German Parliament on 11 October 2001, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder argued that Germany’s new international responsibilities demanded the use of the military outside its territory. This was in many ways the culmination of a longer-term development by which Germany’s policy on international military operations has changed. During the Gulf War in 1991, debates about the armed forces’ role in international military operations showed traditional German reluctance towards participation. By 1999, Germany took part in NATO’s Kosovo operation, thus setting a unique precedence in its post-war foreign policy and confirming the desire to become, henceforth, an active partner in NATO. This paradigmatic shift in German policy on international military participation can be explained by highlighting various factors, such as (i)change of government, referring to the rise to power of the SPD/Green Party coalition; (ii)generational change, in the German public and among its politicians; (iii) a change of attitude towards Germany's international role in the wake of reunification; (iv) expanding mandates of NATO and the EU, fora where Germany plays a central part.These explanations point at important issues, but seem to ignore one factor: the opinion of the German population. Attitudes to military involvement are based on a diffuse and changeable perception of threat. Each international operation requires a new process of justification, by which policymakers give reasons for the necessity of military means. Such processes are particularly complex in Germany, where external military presence requires parliamentary vote. The aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which the German policy on participation in international military operations since 1990 has been legitimised, focusing on debates in parliament and – more broadly – the public sphere.

Tags: Germany, international relations, legitimacy, public opinion
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM