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June 03, 2010


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Something which should perhaps be remembered here is also the significance of the _First_ World War in the development of the German pacifism.

Or, rather; the combined experiences of both World Wars. But, in any case, the experience of the First World War was essential for the initial emergence of the German pacifism, and it was an important precursor in itself. Just to name the most obvious examples from the field of culture, everyone remembers Remarque, Renn, Käthe Kollwitz and Otto Dix. Dix in particular is an interesting example, because back in 1925 his anti-war artwork was attacked by Adenauer, but in 1945 he was rehabilitated by Adenauer.

Also, my understanding is that in the post-war era, there was an additional reason for the pacifist tendencies as well as for the desire to seek rapprochement and détente between the East and the West. The realization that any hypothetical European War between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact would also be a de facto German Civil War, between BRD and DDR.


J. J.

It's suddenly very quiet here. However, here's an article which may have some relevance, assuming that the discussion suddenly revives.


J. J.

I'd be happy to see it revive. We need a good discussion of Germany's role in Europe and the world, especially considering the recent hash that Chancellor Merkel (admittedly following public opinion) has managed to make out of the eurocrisis.

So ... is Doug right when he says, "The Germans of [2035] will almost certainly still be pacifistic and inclined to hand-wringing over most forms of military action"?

In my opinion, he's not. Or, well, he may be right when it comes to a substantial segment of the German opinion. But his reasoning is, in my opinion, wrong, and what's more, I think that he seems to be making something of a blanket statement when he's making a reference to Germany and the German public opinion as a whole.

Since the questions of authority, presence and contacts with Germany were invoked in that previous thread, I should perhaps add that I'm not a stranger to the country in question. I was in Germany also in 1993, when this was an issue for the first time. The deployment of the Bundeswehr in Somalia was reported in television on daily basis. The fact that the courts had ruled that there were no constitutional obstacles for deploying German armed forces abroad was a significant turning-point in itself.

After that, the shedding of those emotional constraints has continued at a steady pace. Yes, there was a debate over Kosovo, but the cold, hard fact was that the Luftwaffe was still attacking the Serb air defences. Yes, the ongoing operations in Afghanistan have taken place in the more quiet parts of the country and on limited terms, and they have aroused criticism, but the German troops have seen action and taken casualties. Because of this, there was actually a petition to re-introduce the Iron Cross as a decoration for bravery three years ago. This failed, of course - my impression is that those reasons which Doug has mentioned actually tend to have far more impact on matters of symbolism - but Merkel responded by adding a new grade to the Badge of Honour, known as Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr für Tapferkeit, Bundeswehr's Cross of Honour for Gallantry [1].

Considering that the situation has reached a point where the German troops are already participating in peacekeeping and combat operations on foreign ground, and even a new kind of military symbolism, free from the burdens of the past, has emerged, I really can't understand what could possibly happen in 2010-2035 to slow down or change this trend.

The provision in the Basic Law - which, by the way, should perhaps be translated as a ban on "war of aggression", something which has been deemed illegal also by a United Nations resolution - are not really relevant when we're talking of "most forms of military action". Again, in this time and age, occasional combat missions have become an integral part even in peace-keeping duties, and needless to say, when such operations are sanctioned by the UN, they're not wars of aggression.

Of course, as I already mentioned above, it's probably a safe bet that _part_ of the German public opinion, probably even a very substantial part, will be "pacifistic and inclined to hand-wringing over most forms of military action" still in 2035. But this has really nothing to do with the legacy of the Second World War, or the Article 26 in the Basic Law. Basically, it'll be simply a testimony that by the year 2035, the German opinion will be divided over the question of military involvement, just like it would be divided in any European country.

To put it in other terms, my prediction is that when it comes to these matters, Germany will not be much different from the other West European countries by that time. German "pacifism" has been a phenomenon which has existed in the same context as Swedish "neutrality", and is likely to gradually recede much in a same manner. Some vestiges may remain.

I'm not sure how those divisions of opinion which I mentioned would play out within the political party system. I probably won't have to remind which parties were in charge when the German decision to get involved in the Kosovo conflict was made.

When it comes to Doug's comment that Germany has a "strong self-image of itself as a nation that is peaceful and law-abiding"... well, yeah. But then again, don't we all?

As a partly related matter, how the present debate over the shift to the professional army will end, and what kind of an effect it will have, is anyone's guess.


J. J.

[1] Strangely enough, four years ago, the Finnish army also awarded the very first Liberty Crosses ever since 1944, to three officers who distinguished themselves in Maimana. One sergeant also received a Medal of Liberty. According to the rules of the Order, the decoration in question can be awarded only in wartime. Afghanistan seems to be taking everyone back to the past.

First, thank you for the correction on Kosovo. One hates to be wrong, but sometimes it happens. I could niggle and talk about restrictions on the use of German air power, but -- well, that would be niggling. I was wrong.

As for "It's suddenly very quiet here": I already said, and I quote, "I think we're at a point of diminishing returns. Continue over a beer sometime, perhaps."

This could mean any number of things.

-- Doug sees no point in continuing this particular discussion in this medium at this time

-- Doug is about to leave for a three-week trip to Uganda, and is distracted

-- Doug has four small children, and school is out this week, meaning full-time no-break parenting from 7 am to 8:30 pm, sharply limiting Doug's availability for what would probably be a long-drawn-out discussion

-- Claudia (Mrs. Doug) has been flat on her back with some child-vectored lung infection for the last few days, distracting Doug even more

-- A wet month of May followed by a week of dry sunshine has caused the pollen count in northern Bavaria to soar to unheard-of levels, leaving Doug cranky and stupid on massive doses of antihistamines

-- Doug has been watching a "Penguins of Madagascar" marathon with the three boys (Neil Patrick Harris IS Dr. Blowhole!)

-- Doug thinks that, after 10+ years of mostly good-natured online debate and discussion, he knows Noel and Jussi well enough to be able to guess how the discussion will go, and while that's not completely uninteresting, it's either less important than the sick wife and allergies and the Uganda thing, and/or less interesting than the voice of Neil Patrick Harris playing an evil dolphin on a Segway; either way, he just doesn't want to get sucked in

-- Doug has been cleaning the garden shed and doing other important but much-delayed chores that have become possible with the belated onset of good weather

-- Doug is playing Martin Luther in an online championship game of "Here I Stand", is just a snail's whisker away from victory, and this consumes all his attention.

Pick any, all or none. The point is, if I say "I think we're at diminishing returns. Let's talk about this over a beer sometime," that's a a polite but fairly broad hint that -- whatever the reason! -- I'm done. Repost my comments and try to start a new discussion around them; that's fine. Correct my mistakes -- that's fine too. But I fear you will have to carry on without me for a little while.

Doug M.

Relax, man. When it comes to the comment about the quiet moment, that's because there was also a number of other people, such as Bernard, involved in that previous thread. Randy McDonald even wrote an entry about this in his Livejournal. Judging by the map, more than a few people in Germany also seem to be reading this blog, and I was kind of expecting that some of them might comment, especially on the effects of the First World War and peacekeeping.

Personally, I'm taking care of the garden as well, overseeing the publication of one book, trying to look for an apartment from Tampere once again, watching "Shōgun" from DVD and doing all sorts of, hm, other stuff. On an unrelated note, in case you're wondering why I haven't yet managed to send you that box of vodka which I promised; the Polish post showed its respect towards the "Fragile"-stamps by completely smashing the one crate which I sent to Finland, and I didn't want to take the same risk with your shipment when I was in Warsaw. But you'll get it, eventually.

Back to the topic, would it be perhaps accurate to suggest that post-war German pacifism is receding in the same fashion as post-war Austrian neutrality? The analogy is that Austrian neutrality was also firmly established in the State Treaty of 1955, but by now, speculation with NATO membership has become a more or less normal part of daily politics.

To be honest, I don't follow Austrian politics that much, but I suppose that in their case, the burdens of the past might have even more relevance. As I understand it, the possibility of Austrian membership in the Atlantic Alliance was first raised by a certain controversial and now-deceased politician.


J. J.

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