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Posts Tagged ‘NATO

Do Yourselves a Favor – Turn a Blind Eye to Who I Am

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My false feathers - too beautiful to be rejected!

My false feathers - too beautiful to be rejected! (courtesy justrecently.wordpress.com)

As early as in summer 2010, it apparently dawned on several German scientists that then defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had, to say the least, been sluggish when writing his doctoral thesis. A postgraduate had written an essay about inconsistencies in Guttenberg’s work, and offered it to several professors – but neither of them was interested, reports “Die Welt”.

And why should they? If you show similar misdemeanor, umm, sluggisnhess, as a sales clerk, you’ll be fired, and it may take you years before someone will employ you again. If a small bugger tries to fiddle his dissertation and gets caught – I mean, if he works so negligently -, he can kiss all his academic ambitions good-bye, and rightly so. But when you are a defence minister, and some gripers simply don’t allow you to look  the other way anymore, you’ll give the ex-minister a job in a North-American think tank.

If Guttenberg wants to return into politics is a question he hasn’t yet answered, even though he gave a long interview to the chief editor of “Die Zeit”. But you bet that he is working towards that goal.

“Der Spiegel”‘s Jan Fleischhauer is making fun of Guttenberg, and compares him to former protestant bishop Margot Kässmann. Guttenberg’s “apologies” sound pretty much like Kässmann’s, he believes, and the religious effect makes such apologies so powerful, Fleischhauer adds with more than just a shot of irony. “How can you not forgive them?”

One problem that Fleischhauer doesn’t touch upon though is that a true confession would have to include a detailed description of how the fake, umm, sluggish approach had been conducted. But there are no such details.

There are two things to learn from this: there is one kind of law applicable to upper classes in Germany, and one for the lower. When Helmut Kohl flatly refused to name the gentlemen who had provided his political party with illegal donations, he wasn’t even taken into coercive detention.

Guttenberg’s “apology” to the German public amounts to this: “I’m so sorry, but my life will be destroyed, if you aren’t prepared to forget what I have done. After all, I must become federal chancellor. There is no other way!”

If that’s the chancellor the German people really want, they will get exactly the government they deserve. If his lack of character and substance isn’t obvious enough, any man will be good enough to lead this country.

The current government, led by Angela Merkel, might still be way above what should be good enough for this country.


The Will of the People is no Policy

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“Anatolian Eagle”, a military exercise scheduled for last week between Israel, the US, NATO as an organisation, Turkey and Italy, was cancelled a week ago. The schedule faltered when Turkey’s government disinvited Israel’s military, and was then cancelled altogether because of American disappointment with Ankara’s rejection of Israel’s participation.

At the beginning, Ankara’s motivation was unclear. Technical problems were given as reasons, then delays and malfunctions in Israeli military supplies of ten Heron drones, until prime minister Erdogan released the cat from the bag: “in accordance with the will of the people”, no Israeli fighter pilots would be allowed on Turkish soil. And Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu added that in times where there were no efforts for peace, Turkey couldn’t afford to be regarded as Israel’s military partner.

Martyrs, Everywhere - Aleppo's Armenian Quarter

Martyrs, Everywhere - Aleppo's Armenian Quarter

To base ones policy on “the will of the people” is populism, and there is reason to believe that Ankara’s main motivation is that it wants to become more influential in the Middle East, and arguably in Central Asia, too. You got to make them love you, and some Israel-bashing should work fine to this end.

But opportunism in politics usually only leads to short-term benefits. Syria might profit from Turkey’s new policy – if it really is one -, but Syria’s Armenians will watch Ankara’s moral plateau boots with astonishment, if not with disgust. If the 2009 Gaza War is a reason to lock Israel out of the traditional alliance, the Armenian genocide – and Ankara’s denial of it – would be reason enough to cancel any cooperation with Ankara, military or otherwise.

Besides, if Turkey ceases to mediate between Syria and Israel – and Israel has reasons now to reject further Turkish efforts in this field – it is hard to see how Turkey could play a positive role for Syria.

OK – Israel’s policies on Palestine aren’t smarter than Turkey’s on Israel and the Middle East. The settlements in the West Bank don’t serve Israel’s security at all. One can argue about, and possibly buy the need for the Gaza war, but the government’s refusal to rein in on the West Bank settlers is opportunistic. And its opportunism costs, not only in Israel’s relations with Turkey.

But Ankara’s big words against Israel’s army are unsavoury. No angry statement about Hamas and its rocket attacks on Israel, which actually triggered the ensuing Israeli “war crimes”. The Ummah is a cartel of perfect silence, when it comes to “holy wars” and their crimes.

Written by taide

October 18, 2009 at 6:54 pm

German Intelligence infiltrates Taliban

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German military pistols are being sold on the black market in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Voice of Germany quotes Hamburg’s Northern German Broadcasting Service (NDR). In 2006, the German Defense Ministry shipped 10,000 old Walther-P1 pistols to the Afghan Interior Ministry to equip Afghan police and army. However, both the German government and the responsible US-led security team in Afghanistan reportedly failed to properly monitor the guns’ whereabouts, according to the report.

German Walther P-1 pistol (light version): Mind your head

German Walther P-1 pistol (light version): Mind your head

Typically German media coverage. They are always so negative. Instead of being proud of this achievement, they are worrying about… yes, about what? The Talibans’ chins and eyes?

If you have ever tried to fire a P-1 pistol at a cardboard standup (or whatever kind of target), this version is a lousy knock-off of the real thing, the Wehrmacht’s Walther P-38. In the Bundeswehr, the German federal army, we all hated the P-1, and I believe that most or all conscript-passed-the-P-1-test reports are as faked as the gun itself.

Anyway, some politicians are making a big fuss of the shipment (which was apparently made before asking the federal parliament’s approval):

Green Party spokesman Winfried Nachtwei accused the grand coalition government, which was in power when the guns were shipped, of a “grossly negligent course of action,” and called for the matter to be investigated in the interest of German security forces and civilian experts sent to Afghanistan.
“It would be truly absurd if soldiers were threatened by weapons irresponsibly delivered by Germany,” Nachtwei said.

I suppose the lad didn’t serve, and has never met the P-1 himself. If anyone in Afghanistan should be afraid of the P-1, it’s their illegal users.

I believe the Bundesnachrichtendienst was behind these sales.

Written by taide

October 12, 2009 at 8:02 pm

German Warriors

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My great-grandfather was buried on Verden’s forest cemetary (Verdener Waldfriedhof). His grave is still there, and it is a nice one, because through all the past nine decades, my family people didn’t have to pay a single Pfennig or Eurocent in fees – it’s a hero’s grave.

He was a Private, but he was in such a hurry to take Paris that the German artillery didn’t keep step with him and his comrades. Many of them died in friendly fire, and on the spot. Great-Grandpa was less lucky. He pegged out several month later, in the Annastift in Hanover, minus most of his back.

When he was dead at last, they decorated him with the Iron Cross.

Then there was the second world war.

German society is post-heroic. Heroes too, are only victims in German eyes. The Bundeswehr is a citizen army, and  the federal parliament’s army. It still knows no heroes, and every embarrassing try to change that has been doomed to fail. Medals and cenotaphs give most of us the creeps, rather than causing respect.

Germany succeeded in building an army with uniformed citizens. The old military caste – fortunately – doesn’t matter in the army any more. Families with military traditions like they exist in Britain, France, or America, and which send officers into the army don’t exist in Germany any more.

But this also means that the soldiers won’t earn much respect here when sacrificing their lives for the nation, and its allies.

Some surveys suggest that about three quarters of Americans believe in circumstances which justify war. In Germany, 25 per cent may believe that. 170 years ago, Carl von Clausewitz coined the saying that war is merely a continuation of politics with the inclusion of different means (“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik unter der Einbeziehung anderer  Mittel”). Most Germans don’t agree with this any longer, and they want no such extension of our foreign policy.

During the past eight years, German politics avoided the word “war” like the plague (which it obviously is), our politicians enacted a reconstruction operetta in Afghanistan which seemed to benefit everyone and to hurt noone, and they risked no candid communication with their constituencies about combat operations. Now the public (which never seemed to care much until now) is finding out that we are at war (the German defence secretary keeps cursing everyone who dares to use this dirty word), and obviously, few people are inclined to take our duties within NATO as serious as they should – those who accept the need for force of arms are the minority in this country.

Dishonourable? Maybe. But anyone who wants to criticise Germany’s sometimes convenient pacifism should also remember how hard it was to finish German militarism in the first place, and how many of their grandfathers died in the struggle. Having ones cake and eating it is yet another challenge. We are learning. But it will take time, and some more decent politicians. What the Social Democrats’ Peter Struck said about Afghanistan last month could be a beginning.

“Dreesch, darr rait on fair mekunam!”

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Sichten und Vernichten – sort of the equivalent to search and destroy – was a slogan in our training at the antitank squad, more than twenty years ago. It has since been replaced by some nicer wording.

Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the German Bundeswehr (i. e. military forces) top-ranking soldier, is quoted by German paper Die Tageszeitung (taz) that he can’t relieve the soldiers from the grey area where they have to do their own calculations. In either case, the loss of civil casualties had to be strictly avoided.

The Tageszeitung sharpens the statement:

A group of turban-headed people with Kalashnikovs may constitute an attack – or some typical Afghans on their way to herd some goats.

The debate is about what many see as a ban for German soldiers to aggressively protect themselves or their fellow soldiers. Every German soldier wears a pocket card of six pages stating this. Now, this line has been scrapped: “Use of lethal force is forbidden as long as no attack has happened or is immanent.” Some more edits are planned to simplify the soldiers’ lives. The federal parliament’s defence committee wasn’t informed about these changes.

If I was more than twenty years younger and faced the choice between military and the popular alternative civilian service once again, I’d obviously choose to walk a parson’s dog or to deliver meals on wheels for elderly ladies. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to test over a combat distance of 500 metres if the lads on the motorbikes are goatherds with big dildos strapped on their backs, or some friendly Taliban who want to blast me and my fellow soldiers to hell. And no, I wouldn’t care either if there’s a tank on its way, or a shooter on a motorcycle.

All in all, our trainers’ instructions twenty years back looks more realistic to me – and more decent. It is the command which is responsible for the soldiers – and it doesn’t matter that the political leadership still wants to sell the war in Afghanistan as an Oxfam campaign.

By the way: before you fire on an Afghan, no matter if he’s next to you or a mortar-shelling distance away, don’t forget to give the following notice: “Dreesch, darr rait on fair mekunam!” This – probably – means that you will soon open fire.

Very soon, but not necessarily in time.

Written by taide

July 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Obama’s best Revenge: go to Berlin

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Barack Obama visits Germany, but skips Berlin. A roundmail about the president’s itinerary, sent around by the White House, didn’t even mention Germany: it was from Cairo right away to France.

Former concentration camp Buchenwald and U.S. Landstuhl Military Hospital are Obama’s destinations here – not Berlin, although he might have got the Brandenburg Gate this time.

Sarkozy, on the other hand, has engendered the desired attention. Obama will stay one extra night. Well… when you have the choice between nightlife in Berlin, or Paris…

Washington considers chancellor Merkel unwieldy, hesitant, impolite, and therefore unwise. Unwieldy because her refusal to let Obama have the Brandenburg Gate as a background for his speech in Berlin last summer. Impolite and unwise, because she declined an audience at the White House in April, because she didn’t need the plane trip and would see Obama in London at the G20 summit anyway.

On economic matters, she is considered rather uninformed, especially since her conduct at the beginning of the global financial crisis, when she underestimated its magnitude and thought of it as a mostly American problem. The European stimulus action was pushed mostly with French support. Ever since, Germany has been sidelined when important economic decisions are taken, in places such as the IMF. Merkel keeps silent about it.

When Opel’s future was negotiated, the U.S. administration sent a representative with a White House intern’s  decision-making power. In the end, Merkel had to give Obama a phonecall to get decisions.

Stephen Szabo, the Transatlantic Academy’s director: “Currently, France is hip. The impression here is that the Germans are rather useless.”

Meantime, the IMF’s head is French, France is back in Nato’s military structures, it has a military base at the Persian Gulf, and isn’t only active in Africa, and while Merkel demanded the closure of Guantanamo, her interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declines to admit any of the camp’s detainees into Germany.

The new U.S. administration feels that Germany tries to dodge its military duties within NATO. Merkel had made it clear long before Obama’s inauguration that noone should expect more military contributions from Germany. The country’s 4,100 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan seem to guard their military camps in the first place, while soldiers from other allies have to do most of the fighting – and of the dieing.

The new administration apparently wants to show that it doesn’t need Germany, and Merkel wants to avoid an open confrontation.

Obama’s war without words may feel good for him. It may even help to get Germany to work.

But he could have done better. He could have delivered another big speech in Berlin. And he could have hammered an important news home to the German public: that their country, just as America itself, is at war. He had made some hints last July, in Berlin. But he needs to become more explicit. Once he will have made the German public understand that Germany is at war, too, he will really have hurt Merkel. Because so far, this big war is the grand coalition’s dirty little secret.

And while the American president tours the federal state of Saxony, Germans will happily stay in their state of denial.

Written by taide

June 5, 2009 at 9:04 am