Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Into the Maelstrom of “non-coalition” – Why Germany wants (not) to fight now
A bit more than two weeks ago, the German Parliament has approved, by a big majority, to deploy army troops and fighter jets for reconnaissance flights to Syria, to fight alongside French troops against ISIS. Out of its in total 598 members, the mandate was endorsed by 445 votes, with 146 voting against the mandate and 7 abstaining from the vote. After weeks of controversial discussions and still shocked by the terrorist attacks of Paris last November, the German government under its Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided to join the international alliance in its fight against ISIS in Syria. Though it is not the first military mission for Germany – already being committed in missions in Afghanistan, Mali and in the Balkans, it is in fact Merkel’s first war.
Yes, the terminology used was – and even is – actually “war”; a word that was avoided for years and for which different synonyms have been used, just not to admit that Germany was involves in “war-like” out of area missions. Unlike Germany’s most prominent out of area mission in Afghanistan running since 2002, Germany does not go to Syria out of its own motivation – and it frankly even did not so with Afghanistan. Enormous international pressure and the paralysed impression that it cannot remain at the side line for much longer forced Germany to join the alliance against ISIS. But if you ask about the purpose of Germany’s “involuntary” commitment, then even political leadership fails to give satisfactory answers.
A huge Risk, Yet another hasty Action
This year, Europe has witnessed some hasty actions by Germany – something that is usually uncommon regarding its hitherto reluctant and waiting behaviourism, specifically related to foreign and security policy. While Merkel’s quick “We can do it” policy in the view of the refugee crisis was a humanitarian necessity, disregarding the enormous social and political challenges it was unaware of at that time, the decision to send troops to Syria has to be regarded as a pressured “out of alternative” call for arms. The deployment of troops will involve six Tornado fighter jets, the frigate “Augsburg” to guard and escort the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle”, which is patrolling in the Eastern Mediterranean, and from where French jet fighters are dispatched for bomb raids on ISIS deep inside Syria.
In a recent poll conducted by the polling institute “infratest dimap”, around 58 % of the interviewees supported a military mission against IS, while 37 % oppose a military commitment – disregarding the outcome of such a mission would lead to presumably more terrorist attacks, as stated in another poll by infratest dimap that 63 % of the interviewees fear that the risk of terrorism will increase if the Bundeswehr is being deployed to Syria.
Though there seems to be a public support for the government decision to join the anti-ISIS alliance, it is questionable if the German leadership is fully aware of the consequences linked to this commitment, which is not the only one Germany is undertaking. It seems like the aftermath of Paris in November had more or less forced Germany to enter a military adventure which – taking a look back to 2003 Iraq War – the former Schröder-Administration had avoided.
As a side note: this kind of “silent approval” was also seen in the immediate prequel to World War 1, before it turned into awar euphoria.
Overstretching the own Capabilities and Abilities
As for now, Germany has deployed in total 2,696 soldiers throughout 13 different areas of mission, with Afghanistan being the biggest one with 923 soldiers present. Regarding the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the German Secretary of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen, has recently announced to maintain the troops there.
Deploying soldiers and planes to Syria not only brings the German military capacities to its limits, it will in the mid-term also lead to a security challenge that Germany will not be able to handle that easily and which will in the end lead to massive security concerns for the present soldiers and also for the own security in the own country. It is questionable if and how Germany will be able to run several parallel running missions at the same time and – as far as the US is concerned, disregarding its own “non-direct commitment” – the deployment of Tornado fighter jets is apparently not enough. Washington demands an expansion of Germany’s military commitment, which Germany has instantly rejected – for the time being.
With ISIS controlling wide parts of Syria and Iraq, and just very recently gaining control of oil fields in Libya, the international alliance with all its direct and indirect commitments is gradually turning into a very loose global war coalition – with multiple actors in essence following one target, but without common strategy.
Lost in Words, Lost without a Clue
It is questionable if the current anti-ISIS coalition will eventually come up with a common strategy to fight ISIS efficiently and in a way that can sustainably bring peace and stability back to Syria. Presumably overwhelmed by the strength of ISIS and its brutality as shown in video clips, the only thing all actors can agree on is that ISIS has to be defeated – though the methods and strategies differ partly completely. For Russia for instance, stability can only be brought alongside with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whereas the West rejects any cooperation or alliance with Assad to fight ISIS. Still being blinded by the long-gone Arab Spring hype, the West believes that the only solution to regain stability in Syria and to defeat ISIS is to have Assad removed from government and to sustainably support the rebel groups and in particular Free Syrian Army (FSA) the Peshmerga and Kurdish fighters. Their strategy: support these groups to defeat Assad and to fight ISIS, without own direct broad involvement.
Unfortunately, it does not provide an efficient strategy to fight ISIS at all.
Ever since the beginning of military operations against ISIS, every bombing of ISIS positions has led to an increase of strength for ISIS. ISIS’s strength is in fact the international community’s inability – or unwillingness – to cooperate against the common adversary. Just very recently, Russia has offered to the US to draft a common list with all radical Islamist groups involved in the Syrian conflict so that the alliance has a common framework of who is a true adversary and who is not.
It is not to be expected to come up with a common strategy, as both main anti-ISIS actors in the Syrian conflict – the USA and Russia, follow their own geostrategic interests in the region and specifically the US – essentially having caused ISIS to rise as a result of its own misguided Iraq war – is expected to remain widely idle in the conflict and limited to air strikes until the Presidential elections are done; by November next year.
Terror leads to Bombings, Bombings lead to Terror
Currently, even though the alliance against ISIS is growing and Saudi Arabia has announced a Sunni-Alliance against ISIS, the lacking common strategy and the hasty actions taken my Germany will undoubtedly lead to more violence through terrorist attacks. Up to now, Germany was spared from terrorist attacks, even though some attacks could have been prevented in the early stages. The recent decision to deploy troops and fighter jets to Syria, however, will definitely put Germany on the list of eligible targets for ISIS. The question is not if there will be terrorist attacks in Germany, as it is only a matter of time.
From the beginning of the so called “War against Terrorism” every terrorist attack was answered with military strikes against terrorist havens, wherever they were located; which in response led to more bombings. The spiral of violence is increasing and a visible end of violence in the Middle East is not visible. The “War against Terrorism” is turning into a constant war, a normal state of life in which the people have to live with the sensation of threat and danger. What the people of Brussels had to go through in the first days and weeks after the Paris bombings was just a first image of what will happen to European society if war and violence start to dominate daily life.
The Orwellian eternal war, as pictured in “1984” has become reality, so did the “eternal war”. Just today, Germany has launched its first Tornado missions into this eternal war.