Home/Daniel Larison/How Guilting Germany Into a More Aggressive Foreign Policy Backfires

How Guilting Germany Into a More Aggressive Foreign Policy Backfires

James Joyner comments on recentreports about the poor condition of Germany’s military:

If Germany is serious about being part of a global police force, then it’s going to have to meet the NATO minimum of 2% GDP for defense. Thus far, it’s not looking like there’s the will to do that. In which case, perhaps they should go back to their previous announced foreign policy.

The trouble that most Germans never agreed to the new role that their country has been given. Some of the newer members of the German government have been trying to pursue a more ambitious foreign policy without having first won the support of the German public, because there is still a large majority in Germany that doesn’t support the more aggressive and interventionist role that some of their politicians want to foist on them. There isn’t any popular support for increased military spending or a more activist role abroad, but some in Germany’s political class–egged on by other Westerners and some Germans that have tried to guilt Germanyinto beingmoreaggressive–have opted to put the cart before the horse anyway. This has produced some embarrassments, as Der Spiegel reported last week:

After her arrival in Erbil, [Defense Minister] von der Leyen proceeded to the palace of the Kurdish regional government’s president. Her visit was to be concurrent with the delivery of German weapons, intended to aid the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State jihadists. Unfortunately, the machine guns and bazookas got stuck in Germany and the trainers in Bulgaria because of a dearth of available aircraft. One had been grounded because of a massive fuel leak. What could have been a shining moment for the minister instead turned into an embarrassing failure underscoring the miserable state of many of the Bundeswehr’s most important weapons systems.

The desire to be seen as contributing to the ISIS war outstripped the German military’s ability to deliver as planned, which calls into question the wisdom of Germany’s attempt to become a more activist power overnight. Politically, there is no popular demand for the role for which a few German politicians have volunteered the country. Most Germans were quite content with Germany’s refusal to participate in most of the wars of the last thirteen years, and Merkel’s foreign policy has been sensibly limited by what the German public would accept. The latest attempts to demonstrate Germany’s willingness to be more meddlesome overseas have just reminded everyone that there is no sustainable backing for that policy at home.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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