Germany acknowledges ‘warlike situation’ in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by its Nazi legacy, Germany swore never again to wage war. In the last of a three-part series, DW examines the country’s decision to deploy its military in Afghanistan, and the ‘warlike conditions’ there.

A political shockwave reverberated across the Atlantic Ocean after Islamic terrorists razed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In keeping with Germany’s responsibility as a NATO member, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared unlimited solidarity with a wounded America.

Schroeder’s declaration carried sweeping military consequences for Germany. Only three years after his left-of-center coalition had participated in NATO’s air war against Serbia, he deployed soldiers for an ambitious stabilization mission in war-torn Afghanistan.

Germany’s stabilization mission looked increasingly like a counterinsurgency as its soldiers faced a resurgent Taliban. And in September 2009, tensions came to a head when a German colonel ordered an airstrike against two Taliban-hijacked fuel tankers. The strike killed 142 people, laying bare the realities of the Afghan conflict for the German public.

After years of whitewashing the conflict in Afghanistan, Berlin has been forced to acknowledge that its soldiers are fighting and dying under “warlike conditions.” Germany can never again claim that it will never wage war.

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The Balkan Dilemma: Germany returns to military action

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by the genocidal legacy of National Socialism, Germany swore never again to wage war. In part two of a three-part series, DW examines how the country returned to military action in the Balkans.

War returned to Germany’s doorstep when Yugoslavia imploded in ethnic violence. During the winter of 1994, German officials agonized over whether to participate in a NATO-led military intervention aimed at containing the war.

Although the nation’s highest court had declared such interventions constitutional, Germany remained deeply reluctant to use military force for any reason other than defense. But enormous political and moral pressure pushed the Kohl government and the opposition toward a shaky consensus in favor of military action against Serbia.

This consensus faced its trial-by-fire when the Social Democrats and Greens took the reins of power in 1998. In a twist of fate, the traditionally antiwar parties ordered Germany’s first offensive military strike since World War II.

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Germany’s struggle with military power in a changing world

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by the genocidal legacy of National Socialism, Germany swore never again to wage war. In part one of a three-part series, DW examines how Germans overcame historic taboos about deploying their military abroad.

In memory of the atrocities committed under the Third Reich, democratic West Germany foreswore war as an instrument of its foreign policy. Its military served a single purpose: To help defend the NATO allies in Western Europe and North America from a Soviet attack.

But when the Berlin Wall fell, the world changed, as did Germany’s role within it. The government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl had just finalized German reunification when a series of conflicts erupted in the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia and Somalia.

As the international community intervened to contain these conflicts, Germans faced a historically uncomfortable question: Should a reunited and fully sovereign Germany become a military power capable of using force on the world stage?

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Russia juggles its developing partnerships with the West and China

(By Deutsche Welle)Russia has reset its relationship with the US and the EU while consolidating its partnership with China. In order to secure its national interests, Moscow must manage a tricky balancing act between the West and the East.

Flush with cash from booming oil and gas exports, Moscow unilaterally pursued Russian national interests during Vladimir Putin’s tenure as president. In the process, Russia’s relationship with the West deteriorated to a historic low point.

But then the economic crisis hit. Energy prices collapsed and Russia’s rapid growth ground to a halt.

After Dmitry Medvedev assumed the presidency in 2008, Moscow sought to jump start the slumping Russian economy through so-called “modernization alliances” with the US and the EU. Yet at the same time, the oil-rich country began consolidating its “strategic partnership” with an oil-hungry China. Russia wanted to pursue its national interests in economic modernization and growth and knew that it needed both the West and China in these endeavors.

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Obama to give development a larger role in US foreign policy

(By Deutsche Welle) President Obama has declared development assistance vital to US national security interests. Some humanitarian organizations believe the president’s policy will end a growing trend toward the militarization of aid.

For the first time in American history, a US administration has issued a global development policy.

President Obama declared during his recent speech before the UN Millennium Goals Summit that development is not strictly an end in itself. Instead, it is a component of a wider national security strategy that defends US interests abroad.

“My national security strategy recognizes development not only as a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative,” Obama said before the UN General Assembly.

In an era when the Defense Department is playing an increased role in development, some humanitarian organizations believe the President’s new policy will reverse the growing trend toward the militarization of aid.

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Africa’s neocolonial era ending as US and France seek new partnerships

(By Deutsche Welle) For generations, Africa’s fate lay in the hands of self-interested foreign powers. Today, the US and France promise a fresh approach to the continent that puts Africans in charge of their own security and development.

During the post-World War II period, the world’s major powers championed African independence in word, but undermined it in deed. As the Cold War broadened, the two superpowers manipulated the continent’s liberation movements for their own political ends.

Meanwhile, former imperial powers such as France pushed a hidden agenda that turned newly independent colonies into de-facto protectorates. Although African independence existed on paper, in reality the continent’s fate was still decided in foreign capitals.

The consequences of this neocolonialism are far reaching. In a continent politically engineered by foreigners, national borders often are not worth the map they are drawn on. Many African states, designed in the mind of a European, cannot maintain legitimacy before competing indigenous interests. Some have become failed states in which government authority often does not reach beyond the capital city.

This instability has bred transnational crime and terrorism that jeopardize global security. The US and France have responded by initiating a strategy that seeks to stabilize the continent by strengthening African institutions instead of undermining them. In the 21st century, African unity – not division – serves the interests of world powers.

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Great powers playing politics with Kosovo and Georgia

(By Deutsche Welle) A UN court ruled Kosovo’s claim of independence as legal, intensifying a global debate about sovereignty and self-determination. But the conflict in Georgia reveals great powers – not courts – decide the fate of nations.

The international controversy over the fate of de-facto states has intensified this summer. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which settles disputes between nations, ruled in July that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia is legal. On Thursday the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Serbia to enter into direct talks with Kosovo.

The ICJ’s ruling came as top Russian and American officials were visiting the splintered country of Georgia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out in support of Georgia’s territorial sovereignty and condemned Russia’s military presence in the region as an occupation.

Weeks later, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev promised to increase financial aid to the tiny republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which secured de-facto independence from Georgia with Russian military assistance two years ago.

Although Abkhazia and South Ossetia have championed the ICJ court decision as confirmation of their aspirations for independence, the truth of the matter is that a balanced decision from an esteemed court means very little in an arbitrary world.

Nation-states remain trapped in what English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “a war of all against all” where great powers call the shots. And in this disorder, the sword remains mightier than the pen.

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