Peacekeeping: German Storm Troopers Shunned at Home


May 8, 2006: Germans are split over the increasing use of their troops for peacekeeping missions. Some believe it is the right thing to do, other believe that it risks getting Germany mixed up in some very sordid business.

Ever since Germany's defeat in World War II, the military has lost the stature and respect it enjoyed for centuries. The military was tolerated during the Cold War, because most Germans did not want to live under communist rule. About a third did anyway, in East Germany, and word go out how unpleasant that was. But once the Cold War ended, the defense budget, and the size of the armed forces was drastically cut. Even conscription was, after two centuries, on its way out.

While Germans may be put off by militarism, they do feel good about bringing peace and security to parts of the world sorely lacking it. But this combination of altruism and anti-militarism has created a strange political and media atmosphere in Germany. Politicians worry about German soldiers getting into battles with child soldiers. There is also the fear that soldiers will get terrible diseases while serving in Africa. German troops are the lead element in the Congo UN force, and that part of the world is home to such terrors as Ebola fever, and more prosaic afflictions as malaria. The German media frets over the unpleasant side effects of some of the drugs the troops would be taking to protect them from tropical diseases.

Germans are also nervous about the success of their troops in combat situations. The activities of German commandoes in Afghanistan has largely been kept quiet. This is fairly standard for commando units, but in Germany, this situation is received with a great deal of relief. The German commandoes did an outstanding job in Afghanistan, and the stories are shared among the other commando units operating there. But good luck finding out about it in the German media.

Regular German troops in Afghanistan have performed well, but the German media would rather discuss poor living conditions and attacks on German soldiers by Taliban terrorists. Oops, let's rephrase that, the German media doesn't like to think of the Taliban as terrorists. Actually, not all the German media agrees with this Political Correctness approach, but much of the media does.

The only troops going overseas are volunteers. Conscripts only serve nine months these days, and few would be sufficiently well trained to send on peacekeeping missions.




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