Ready to take on the job? - written exclusively for WSN

Posted in UN , Other | 12-Jun-04 | Author: Carsten Michels

Germany and its aim to get a permanent seat in the UN-Security-Council

BONN/GERMANY: When German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder returned from the recent EU-Latin America summit in Mexico, he was happy to tell journalists that he did not hear any voices opposing a permanent seat for Germany at the United Nations Security Council. Alongside with China, this coalition, even without major players such as Russia and the United States, could play an important role when it comes to reforms in the UN, whose structure still reflects the international status quo after World War II.

From the German perspective, you will easily find a number of convincing reasons to join the probably most exclusive international club. As the third largest national economy, a major financial contributor to the UN and a major player in stabilising crisis regions, a permanent seat could be regarded as the logical consequence of Germany’s risen responsibility and widened scope of action in an increasingly unstable post-Cold War world. Mr. Schröder would certainly agree to this, but is he really aware of the political and military consequences? Is Germany prepared to take on even more international responsibility?

It needs to be stressed that there is still a lot of work to be done at home, until Germany is ready to play a bigger political and military role in the world. Firstly, the Bundeswehr (the German army) needs to be put on a stable and long-term financial, political and legal basis with a serious planning perspective. Can we demand a bigger international role while cutting defence spending with all its consequences for personnel-motivation and material equipment? Is it acceptable to still lack a definite and solid legal framework for sending troops abroad? Is mass-conscription still the appropriate answer to the new operational challenges that soldiers must face?

The civilians also need to be familiarised with the consequences that military engagements abroad can carry. The Madrid bombings revealed that terrorists do not necessarily attack only a country’s troops deployed abroad, but can also attack its citizens at home, no matter what their political opinion towards the military engagement is. Thereby, terrorists can alter the internal political landscape by playing with the people’s fear of death. To avoid or at least contain such developments, politicians in general need to convince their voters of the necessity of the military engagement and enlighten them about its possible repercussions. Only a military mission backed by the population at home can succeed in the long run. Only a country, whose majority stands behind their politicians, can deal with even worse terrorist actions in the homeland and be immune to coercion. As Germany is engaged in anti-terrorist activities, the political elite still needs to prepare the public for a possible attack in order to preserve political stability and avoid emotional short-term decisions. For Germany, with its short but strong peaceful tradition, that means a clear dialogue, some open words. Mr. Schröder still lacks such actions but hopes for a 100% success in preventing bombings in Germany.

Furthermore, it is wrong and misleading when Schröder a priori refuses to send troops to Iraq, no matter how the situation in military and political terms will develop over the next months. Schröder is again playing with the peaceful attitude of his voters, as he did in the 2002 general elections campaign, when he opposed the deployment of German soldiers in Iraq without Germany being asked for it. That was one major reason for his re-election. By doing so, he undermined Germany’s credibility as future major player. One could even argue that he abuses his voters’ fears for his own political career.

To put it frankly: It is questionable if Germany is prepared to become an even more important player on the international stage by joining the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. There are still a lot of serious problems that need to be resolved at home. An unpopular but necessary job lies ahead. You might say that the other UN Security Council permanent members are not prepared as well and you might be right. But someone else’s fault must be no argument to do the same. Only a well prepared Germany can gain international credibility and contribute effectively to the success of the United Nations.