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An army for defence

Bundeswehr recruits taking their vow
Bundeswehr recruits taking their vow. Photo: DDP

The German army, the Bundeswehr, was then still conceived as a strictly defensive force.

The debate in Germany over the slaughter in Bosnia immediately collided with the postwar "German questions." Until the 1990s no thought whatsoever had been given to deploying troops in combat missions abroad. Not only did Germany's constitution prohibit Bundeswehr participation in non-defensive military operations, but there was not a respected voice in the country who argued that German armed forces be sent to foreign conflict zones. Even in the wake of unification, the postwar consensus held firm: German troops, even under NATO or U.N command, would not participate in missions abroad "out of [NATO's] area."

But through the early 1990s this consensus eroded and an impassioned national debate ensued about the role of the Federal Republic and its armed forces in world affairs. In the aftermath of the 1990-91 Gulf War, several Bundeswehr minesweepers trolled the Persian Gulf, while thirty German pilots flying Bundeswehr helicopters aided the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq. The Greens accused the government of abating Washington's imperialist agenda, violating the Basic Law, and closing its eyes to Germany's debt to history. The Greens, left-wing Social Democrats, and the reform communist PDS cited the same rationale with which they would later veto German involvement in Balkan missions: such operations, even humanitarian in nature, put Germany on a slippery slope to military adventurism.

[pp. 233-234]

Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic. 2007. [Oxford University Press]

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