October 25, 2007

Europe's Pacifism

Abu Muqawama spent yesterday afternoon in the library, reading Barry Posen's explanation of the way in which inter-war France did its best to pawn its national responsibility to defend its borders off onto others. By the time the French realized their efforts to build coalitions had failed, they had neither the time nor the political will to muster power internally.

Roger Cohen reports today from Afghanistan that European states are still trying to pawn their responsibilities to muster power and fight off onto others -- but the reasons for doing so are complicated, especially in the case of Germany. Cohen doesn't really address that complexity, but his entire op-ed is still worth reading.

Remember the Wehrmacht? It was a formidable fighting force. The modern German army, the Bundeswehr, is also very effective. Thing is, it is reluctant to fight or even place itself in danger.

Given history, that may seem just fine. The United States helped frame the institutions of today’s Germany precisely to guarantee peace over war. But in Afghanistan, where 3,200 Germans serve in a hard-pressed NATO force, a touch of “Bundesmacht” would be welcome.


“In Afghanistan, NATO solidarity collapses at the point of danger,” said Julian Lindley-French, a military expert at the Netherlands Defense Academy. “There’s no point planning robust operations worldwide if the burden is not shared. A lot of the German troops are little more than heavily armed traffic cops.”

Canada, with about 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, has seen 71 killed. That is about three times the German losses and seven times the Italian. Britain has more than 80 dead, and the United States almost 450. These are eloquent numbers.