Germany Considers Expanding Role Of The Military In Security

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Wall Street Journal
June 11, 2008
Pg. 8
By Marcus Walker in Berlin and John D. McKinnon in Brdo, Slovenia
As President Bush talks security with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Germany is in the throes of a debate whether to overhaul its approach to foreign and security policy.
Mr. Bush arrived in Berlin Tuesday evening for dinner and talks with America's biggest European ally on pressing economic concerns such as energy security, as well as cooperation on tackling insurgents in Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear-fuel program.
Mr. Bush and officials of the European Union signed a declaration at a summit in Slovenia on Tuesday that threatened Iran with sanctions against its banks unless the country suspends its program of uranium enrichment.
For weeks, however, Germany's coalition government has been struggling with an effort by conservative politicians, encouraged by Chancellor Merkel, to drop some of its post-World War II inhibitions about robust security measures, including the use of military force abroad and at home.
Among ideas floated in a paper by Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union last month: Germany's parliament should cede greater discretion over troop deployments to the executive branch; a new "national security council," based in the chancellor's office, should coordinate security ministries, much as the NSC does in the White House; and the government should be allowed to use the army at home to deal with major terrorist threats, such as hijacked planes or a radioactive "dirty bomb."
Chancellor Merkel and her supporters face strong opposition. Their left-leaning partners in the governing coalition, constitutional judges and much of the public want to defend the country's strict limits on what its armed forces are allowed to do.
The debate's outcome has implications for the U.S. Washington has been pressing Germany and other European nations to share more of the burden of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in particular, and of global security in general. Although Germany already has 3,400 troops focused on police work and reconstruction in Afghanistan, and the government is considering sending around 1,000 more, these can be deployed only in Afghanistan's relatively peaceful north. Most combat operations, in the troubled south, are left to overstretched forces from other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, such as the U.S., as well as the U.K., Canada and the Netherlands.
On Wednesday, President Bush is also expected to ask Chancellor Merkel to support tougher economic sanctions against Iran. Mr. Bush's broad aim in his farewell tour through Europe is to secure his legacy on security policy, particularly regarding the Iranian threat, which is likely to continue as a major focus for his successor.
At U.S. urging, Tuesday's summit declaration confirmed that the U.S. and EU "are ready to supplement [existing] sanctions" against Iran over its suspected nuclear-weapon ambitions. The U.S. and EU also pledged to continue to "take steps to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism."
The declaration underscored continuing concerns about Iran's regional policies, including support for organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. "We spent a lot of time on Iran," Mr. Bush said at the post-summit press conference. "Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace."
Germany, however, has long been more reluctant than the U.S., France or the U.K. to back tougher sanctions against Iran, arguing that Russia and China need to participate to make sanctions effective. Germany exported $4.9 billion of goods to Iran last year, more than any other EU country, although German companies have been reducing their dealings with Iran under pressure from the government in Berlin.
Afghanistan presents a still thornier problem for Chancellor Merkel. While NATO allies are clamoring for Germany to help out more against the Taliban, around two-thirds of German voters think their army shouldn't even be in Afghanistan, according to opinion surveys. Under Germany's constitution, which the U.S. helped draft after World War II to make it harder for Germany to launch another war against its neighbors, shifting troops to southern Afghanistan would require approval from the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.
Conservative legislators and ministers want to toughen the country's approach to national security. Chancellor Merkel's spokesman said in May that she supported the "general direction" of the recent paper by the Christian Democratic Union on security. The paper's author, conservative legislator Andreas Schockenhoff, says it is time that Germany moved on from its postwar inhibitions about force.
The left-leaning Social Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Merkel's coalition government, reject proposed breaks with German postwar traditions.
Almut Schoenfeld contributed to this article.